CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians bulked up for the playoff race by trading temperamental starter Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds in a three-team deal they hope helps them catch the Minnesota Twins.
Cleveland, which trails the AL Central leaders by three games, sent Bauer to the Reds for slugger Yasiel Puig and left-hander Scott Moss. The Indians also acquired outfielder Franmil Reyes, lefty Logan Allen and infield prospect Victor Nova from San Diego. The Padres acquired outfielder Taylor Trammel from the Reds.
Bauer’s exit comes three days after the quirky right-hander angrily threw a ball from the behind mound over the center-field wall in Kansas City. Bauer called the act “childish.” It was a final straw for the Indians, who pulled off the stunning trade to help their playoff push and beyond.
In landing Puig and Reyes, who have 49 combined homers this season, the Indians plugged a power gap in their lineup.
The three teams agreed to the seven-player swap Tuesday night, but medical reports didn’t get approval by Major League Baseball until Wednesday — just hours before the trade deadline.
Dealing Bauer is not without risk for the Indians, who have cut into Minnesota’s lead after trailing by 11½ games in June. Though sometimes difficult, he has undeniable talent and at times Bauer has been the club’s best pitcher this season with Corey Kluber (broken arm) and Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) sidelined. But Kluber and Carrasco are expected back in the weeks ahead, and the Indians have activated Danny Salazar, a 2016 All-Star whose career has been slowed by injuries.
“Over the last several weeks, we explored the trade market in an effort to enhance our competitive position, both by supplementing our major league roster and infusing young talent into the organization,” Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said. “We appreciate Trevor’s contributions to the organization in his time with us and while it’s never easy to part with a player of his caliber, we feel we’ve traded from an area of depth to help bolster our major league club for this year and the foreseeable future.”
An intimidating player in the batter’s box, Puig gives Indians manager Terry Francona a much-needed presence in the middle of his lineup. Reyes, too, has plenty of pop, with 27 homers in 99 games for the Padres this season.
The bold move was applauded by Indians fans, many of whom were soured by the team’s cost-cutting offseason when owner Paul Dolan demanded a slash in payroll, forcing Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff to make some difficult decisions. The Indians did not re-sign All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and traded slugger Edwin Encarnacion, first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yan Gomes.
Puig left Cincinnati swinging — literally.
The muscular outfielder was involved in another benches-clearing brawl Tuesday night between the Reds and Pirates, Ohio River rivals whose long-time feud has heated up this summer.
Puig, who had 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 14 steals in 100 games in his abbreviated season with the Reds, was in the middle of the fracas, which began with Cincinnati reliever Amir Garrett rushing the Pirates’ dugout and throwing punches at anyone in a Pittsburgh uniform. It was similar to the scene in April, when Puig charged a group of Pirates near home plate during a wild melee.
Puig was suspended two games for his actions, and he could be facing another penalty for the latest Reds-Pirates dustup. The Cuban-born outfielder has a career .275 average with 130 homers and 391 RBIs in 812 games. He is eligible for free agency after this season.
The 24-year-old Reyes has a big swing and is full of potential. He batted .255 with 27 homers and 46 RBIs in 99 games with the Padres this season, and he gives Francona a right-handed bat to compliment a lineup loaded with lefties.
Bauer heads down Interstate 71 to Cincinnati, where he’ll join a Reds team with slim playoff hopes but potential. At 49-56, the Reds are in fourth place in the NL Central, 7½ games back of first-place St. Louis. This may not be their year, but Bauer, who angered the Indians last winter with comments about character assassination after he beat them in salary arbitration, will join Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray to form a solid starting nucleus.
The Reds, though, will have to figure out what makes Bauer tick. He was a constant challenge for the Indians, whether it was cutting his finger while repairing a drone before his start in the 2016 AL Championship Series, postgame comments where he was liable to say anything or his comportment on the field.
Red outfielder Jesse Winker wasn’t worried about anything other than Bauer’s big arm.
“Man, I can’t wait. That’s a legit ace, man,” he said following Cincinnati’s 11-4 loss on Tuesday. “We already had a legit pitching staff, it just got more legit. Welcome Trevor Bauer, to the cooler city of Ohio.”
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.