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Trade Kluber or Bauer? There's a method to Cleveland's madness

Why would a team considered the prohibitive favorite in its division want to deal one of its top-flight starters? The Indians' strategy is about winning now -- and in the future. Paul Sancya/AP Photo

The Indians' ongoing effort to reduce their payroll in the immediate future has been a subject of great debate, with some wondering why Cleveland's ownership would force major changes to a group that is a prohibitive favorite to win the AL Central in 2019. They ask why the Indians wouldn't look to add to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, rather than trading one of them, which could happen in the days ahead.

But there's more to what the Indians are doing than shedding money; they're driven by more than an effort to manage the bottom line. The Indians are also trying to better position the franchise to remain competitive, in this era of tanking, for the years after Kluber, Bauer and Francisco Lindor are with other clubs.

The Indians executed one of the most significant trades of the winter, a three-team deal with the Rays and Mariners, and through the swap of players and cash, they reduced their 2019 payroll obligations. They traded designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, acquired Carlos Santana, sent Yandy Diaz to the Rays and got a dollop of cash, and these are the headline pieces of the deal.

But the Indians also landed Jake Bauers, who made his major league debut for the Rays last season.