The Cleveland Indians' season appears to be at a crossroads as the annual non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
This club, as constituted, isn't a playoff team.
The starting pitching is too inconsistent and the apparent solution to that - the right-hander formerly known as Fausto Carmona - has been the poster child for inconsistency since he won 19 games in 2007. He's now known as Roberto Hernandez, but changing names isn't likely to help a starting rotation that ranks 12th in the American League in ERA.
And speaking of inconsistency, the Indians' lineup isn't exactly terrorizing opposing pitchers. Sure, there are the occasional outbursts, but the Indians have scored three runs or fewer in 10 of 17 games this month.
The Baltimore Orioles beat the Indians 10-2 on Friday night and 3-1 on Saturday night. All three Cleveland runs came on solo home runs. Throw in a 6-0 loss in a series finale at Tampa Bay on Thursday and the Indians have scored three runs in 27 innings.
The Indians are 47-47. Barring a midseason trade or two, this team appears to have just enough to flirt with .500 for the rest of the summer.
Starters Justin Masterson (6-8, 4.29 ERA), Ubaldo Jimenez (8-9, 5.24), Derek Lowe (8-8, 5.04) and Josh Tomlin (5-6, 5.51) haven't put together enough consistent quality starts to spark a hot streak. Zach McAllister (4-2, 3.21) has been a bright spot in the fifth spot.
The back end of the bullpen - with Vinnie Pestano (3-0, 1.56) and Chris Perez (0-2, 3.06, 26 saves in 28 chances) - might be the best in baseball. The trick is getting to the eighth inning with a lead.
The lineup has little pop outside of Shin-Soo Choo (.296, 11 home runs, 37 RBIs, 10 stolen bases), who has had to take over the leadoff spot, Asdrubal Cabrera (.276, 12 HRs, 43 RBIs), Jason Kipnis (.271, 11 HRs, 53 RBIs, 20 SB) and Michael Brantley (.295, 4 HRs, 45 RBIs, 10 SB).
None of them are true middle-of-the-order hitters. And aside from a home run Friday night, Cabrera has been in a miserable slump. Designated hitter Travis Hafner (.228, 8 HRs, 26 RBIs) has struggled since returning from the disabled list.
Traditionally, clubs generate power from corner positions. The Indians have Casey Kotchman (.231, 9 HRs, 36 RBIs) at first base, Jack Hannahan (.247, 4 HRs, 23 RBIs) at third and either Johnny Damon (.234, 4 HRs, 17 RBIs) or Shelley Duncan (.225, 9 HRs, 24 RBIs) in left field and Choo in right field. Only Choo has produced numbers worthy of a corner position player.
So will a move or two be enough to turn an average club into a playoff team?
The Indians can do nothing and have a real shot at .500 or they can try acquire a much-needed right-handed hitter with run-producing skills and a consistent starter.
The Indians benefit from playing in one of the most mediocre divisions in baseball. They've lost three in a row and are still just 3 games out of first place in the AL?Central.
They're still in the race, but time is running out.