CLEVELAND, Ohio. - The Detroit Tigers were the only team anybody talked about in the American League Central Division last season after they earned their third straight title.
Most forget how close the Cleveland Indians were to silencing those talks.
While the Tigers were swept by the Miami Marlins in the final three-game series of 2013, the Indians were polishing off a 10-game winning streak that not only earned them the top wildcard spot, it also brought them within one game of the division lead.
But this season, a few surprising moves have shone a much different light on the Indians.
On Wednesday Cleveland traded away Justin Masterson, a staple in the Indians' rotation since midway through 2009. In fact, the righty has been the Opening Day starter for the Tribe each of the last three seasons.
Last season the Indians made just one move at the trade deadline, acquiring Mark Rzepczynski to shore up their bullpen. The move came after a busy offseason that brought Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and manager Terry Francona to Cleveland and positioned the organization to make the postseason for the first time since 2007.
Now, with the team just 6.5 games behind the Tigers for first place in the Central, the moves that send Masterson to the Cardinals and Cabrera to the Nationals may come as surprises to fans of AL Central teams.
Masterson and Cabrera may have struggled at times in 2014, but the Indians have made no moves to improve a team that is a game under .500 and hanging onto the playoff race by a thread.
Wednesday and Thursday seemed to signal that this year's AL Central race will be limited to two teams, with Cleveland on the outside.
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