CLEVELAND (AP) Serious about winning the World Series, the Indians batted .500 in making a pair of major trades on Sunday.
Call it an All-Star split doubleheader.
Going all in for October, the AL Central leader acquired All-Star left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees for four minor leaguers.
The deal came less than 12 hours after the Indians had reached agreement on the parameters of a swap with Milwaukee for Brewers All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy. However, that trade was stopped by Lucroy, who refused to waive his no-trade clause and turned down a chance to join a contender.
”There were some circumstances that came up that made me void it, obviously,” Lucroy told reporters in Milwaukee. ”I think when it eventually comes out, everyone will understand why. I’m not going to comment on any specifics.”
Lucroy’s decision would have been a huge blow to the Indians if not for the addition of Miller, who will help Cleveland manager Terry Francona shorten games and gives the Indians a legitimate shot at winning their first World Series title since 1948.
”It certainly should help us a lot,” Francona said. ”I know when we go into New York next week, we don’ have to face Andrew Miller, which will be really nice.”
So will his ability to mix and match Miller with right-hander Bryan Shaw in the late innings before handing the ball to closer Cody Allen.
The Indians sent four minor leaguers, including highly touted outfielder Clint Frazier, to New York for the 31-year-old Miller, who is expected to arrive in Cleveland on Sunday night and could be ready to join the bullpen when the club opens a four-game series against Minnesota.
Although they have one of the game’s best starting staffs, the Indians’ bullpen needed a proven lefty and there is none better than Miller, who possesses a nearly unhittable slider and brings a 6-1 record, 1.39 ERA and postseason experience to Cleveland.
The Indians had been tracking Miller for weeks but were reluctant to part with any of their top prospects, especially Frazier, a 21-year-old who can hit with power and was recently promoted to Triple-A Columbus.
However, with the club leading its division and showing signs of being able to compete in October, Indians owner Paul Dolan and president Chris Antonetti felt the time was right to go all in and see if they can win their first World Series in 68 years.
”We want to try to do what we can to get to the postseason and win a World Series,” Antonetti said. ”That’s why we do what we do, and we felt that this team has done its part.”
For weeks, there have been rumblings about what the Indians might or might not do before the deadline. Fans grumbled, players worried and no one was sure if the club would be buyers or sellers.
”He’s the perfect guy to have and we got him,” Indians closer Cody Allen said before the club’s series finale with Oakland. ”It breathes a lot of life into this clubhouse. We’re in first place with the guys we have, but to get a game-changer like Miller, that lets us know everybody in the front office wants to win as badly as we do right now. We’re not thinking about two years from now, we’re thinking about winning in 2016.”
After the Yankees dealt closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, Miller knew he might be next and was not shocked by the deal. Miller spoke to Francona shortly after the trade was finalized and told him he would do whatever is needed.
”For me now, it’s a chance to go to a team that’s in the thick of it and has big plans for this year,” said Miller, who is signed through 2018 at $9 million annually. ”I’m not going to change one bit, whatever they ask me to do, hopefully do it up to their standards. They’ve got a pretty darn good team. They’ve got some good pieces out in the bullpen. They’ve got a great lineup, rotation.”
In making two significant moves, the Indians are also feeding off a positive vibe in the city started when the Cavaliers, their next-door-neighbors in Gateway Plaza, won the NBA championship last month to end Cleveland’s 52-year title drought.
Francona, who helped the Boston Red Sox win their first Series in 86 years, believes the trade for Miller should quiet those Cleveland fans critical of the team’s hesitancy to aim high.
”Chris and the guys just went and got the very best guy there was,” he said. ”And if you don’t think other teams wanted him, you’re crazy. They went and got the best there is. There’s no better message.”
Miller didn’t come cheap. The Indians had to part with Frazier along with minor league pitchers Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. Frazier was the No. 5 overall pick in 2013. In 94 games this season at Double- and Triple-A, he’s batting .273 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs.
AP freelance writers Steve Herrick in Cleveland and Mark Didtler in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.