Contenders don’t trade productive starters, they said. For most of the day on Thursday, a few of baseball’s national scribes derided the Indians for even considering dealing Trevor Bauer. Why would a team deal a starter while in a hunt for a division title? Once the return on the recently completed three team trade was announced, the scope became clear.
The Indians sent one and a half years of Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati. The Reds sent a bona fide outfield prospect in Taylor Trammell to San Diego. The Reds and Padres teamed up to send a cavalcade of players packing for Cleveland. Over five years of Franmil Reyes, a legit power hitter, plus a half a season of Yasiel Puig, and a recently top 100 lefty starter in Logan Allen. On top of that, lower minor infielder Victor Nova and 2016 fourth round pick Scott Moss are also trekking to the Indians organization. Oh, and the Indians saved about a million 2019 dollars in the process.
In order to offer our greatest due diligence, Everyone Hates Cleveland will be writing about each of these trade chips individually.
Let’s say you want to purchase a new grill for your home. The best price point will typically come in the fall because most people are looking to buy on the other end of the calendar. Sellers have incentive to make grills more attainable after peak season than when summer is knocking. This same rationale can hold true for baseball trades and acquisitions, as well.
When asked if they wanted to acquire a 22 year old lefty with pedigree and limited big league exposure, it might be safe to imagine Mike Chernoff and Chris Antonetti shooting each other a quick glance of glee and then stumbling over whose turn it was to say yes.
San Diego Padres’ starting pitching prospect Logan Allen was not all that attainable a year ago. At that time, he was gracing top 100 prospect lists with regularity. Acquiring him then would not have been dissimilar to purchasing your grill in the spring — you may have really needed it and the purchase might provide some value, but the price has a tendency to drop at the next intersection with distress.
Distress might be the best way to describe his 2019. Just a year removed from a Double-A Pitcher of the Year Award, Logan Allen has gotten knocked around like an undersized fighter in AAA and in his short first big league stint. The Indians front office saw his value trending down, and made a play for scooping him up when they deemed it both helpful and cost-effective.
His 25.1 major league innings have featured almost as many walks as strikeouts, leading to a predictably putrid earned run average and accompanying peripherals. His 2018-2019 AAA experience might be even more concerning, despite the freshly juiced ball. He has all of a sudden forgotten how to command the baseball, which has translated to walking nearly four batters per nine over 85.1 innings at the highest minor league level. The results have been a lot of homers and little success.
There is a lot to like here, though. He wasn’t a Top 100 prospect because his name sounds like he should be billed as a top prospect. He has legitimate stuff, with a fastball, curveball, and changeup that potentially profile as acceptable big league offerings.His minor league experience demonstrates that he has the capacity to keep walks down while striking out more than the average arm. When contact is made, he has shown that he can keep the ball on the ground at an acceptable rate, meaning contact management skills might be within his grasp.
For Logan Allen, the changeup will be the headliner. He has highlighted it at a massive 20% clip in his brief big league tenure. It’s especially showy when matched with competent fastball command. The clip below from early this season shows the nasty bite on the pitch paired with a somewhat deceptive release point.
The deception becomes even more evident when watching this simple throw from a pre-start bullpen session last month. He seems to hide the ball for an exceptionally long period of time to prevent immediate identification from opposing hitters. If he can combine this with tunneling gains — meaning shaping his various pitches through the same window up until the hitter’s decision point — Allen might just make it.
Decent fastballs that need located perfectly and plus changeups don’t always cut it at the big league level. A starting pitching hopeful, which is an apt description for the current state of Logan Allen, would likely need a tertiary option to survive. Allen’s curveball is definitely capable of fitting this bill, yet needs refinement.
As with any pitcher, adjustments are a constant theme with Logan Allen. He has discussed such adjustments this year, particularly in relation to the new ball that has graced the big league and AAA levels.
A May Baseball America article revealed a telling quote from the lefty. Discussing the new baseball with lower and less accessible seams, Allen voiced frustration.
“It was my focal point,” Allen said. “My split-changeup last year, I could literally throw it to (the batter’s) chest and drop it to their knees. The big laces helped. Now I have to have a smaller visual point, a little more pinpoint control so I don’t leave the ball up.”
The chief responsibility of the Indians player development team will be to help him commandeer a path forward with the pitch. Optimally, this would mean discovering how to maneuver the new ball to maintain the split-changeup that is his calling card.
While Logan Allen won’t determine the success of the Trevor Bauer trade (that falls on Franmil Reyes’ shoulders), he could turn it into a historical laugher if he figures things out. All in all, the decision to buy at this price point and time seems like a worthwhile gambit for an Indians club that has their own share of success stories on the pitching development frontier. The player development machine churns on.