Bad News-Good News: Ozuna, Donaldson and Houston

Alex Hooper

There are two sides to every story. For some, there is a third side: your side.

For every piece of news that breaks around baseball, someone is affected. Teams, players, and fans bear the brunt of every decision made. Generally, ripples made by one move can reach every team in the league. That is where we come in.

‘You gotta see both sides,’ as the online adage goes, and nothing is binary. There is an equal and opposite reaction to everything, with plenty of gray area. With that comes some positive and some negative from the perspective of the Cleveland Indians.

This is Bad News-Good News.

News: Marcell Ozuna signs with the Atlanta Braves

Bad news: The Indians needed Marcell Ozuna. Their outfield has been substandard even since before Michael Brantley’s departure in 2019, but without him, Jordan Luplow led the bunch despite playing fewer than 90 games in a platoon role. No Indians outfielder other than Brantley has posted more than a 2.2 fWAR since Shin-Soo Choo in 2012 (3.2).

In six full seasons, Ozuna has put up fewer than 2.2 fWAR just once, something difficult to manage while being a particularly poor defender in a corner outfield spot.

(Depending on which metric you choose, of course. Defensive Runs Saved ranks Ozuna among the elite defenders in the game, while Outs Above Average puts him in the 3rd percentile last year. Oof.)

The worst news for the Indians is that they could have afforded Ozuna, technically. The 29-year-old penned a 1-year, $18 million deal with the Braves. While $18 million on one player is not something Cleveland does often, the team currently sits just about $20 million below their $119 million payroll from a year ago.

Obviously, the figure Ozuna procured would have put the Indians right back near their opening day payroll a year ago. The team is attempting to cut salary, not stay consistent, so technically they could not afford the player. But they could have.

Good news: The Yasiel Puig market just gained a lot of perspective. Ozuna could have easily commanded a multi-year deal but got a single-year pact just north of what Puig was asking for.

Recently, we estimated what Puig may be worth to the Indians given their budget. Now with Ozuna as a leverage point, teams bidding on Puig are sure to bid much lower than his $15 million asking price and likely for just one year. The 29-year-old has been worth over 2 WAR just once (2.9, 2017) since his breakout season in 2014. He will likely settle for much less.

News: Donaldson signs with Twins

Bad news: Josh Donaldson showed that he can still have a major impact on an offense in 2019, at the plate and in the field. The former AL MVP earned the long-term contract he got, and it just so happens that it will pit him against his former club.

Remember that time? What a time it was.

Donaldson and his 30-40 HR bat joins a lineup that led baseball in round-trippers and ISO power, and also trailed Houston by .001 in slugging. There could very easily be regression coming for some of those Twins bats, but it is perfectly believable that Rocco Baldelli and his analytical approach just brought out the best in a young club.

The Bringer of Rain will stave off most of that regression in 2020 if there is any. Down the line, he could leverage his swing profile to retain power, even if he loses value as a fielder.

Good news: At 34, Donaldson is guaranteed $16 million for the next four seasons through his age 37 season. The slugger has endured some injury trouble in his career, and with aging, the back end of that contract could be ugly. If Donaldson struggles at the back end of the deal, the Twins would have to buy him out at $8 million at age 38.

The contract is technically a risk, and it could get bad, and expensive, fast. If the Indians manage to keep their contention window open until the end of Donaldson’s contract, things could be limited for their rivals, financially.

News: Astros cheating saga comes to a chaotic end

Bad news: For one, the Indians never had a chance in the 2018 ALDS. The Astros scored more in their closeout Game 3 in Cleveland than they did in the first two games at Minute Maid Park combined, but an early win could have changed the series.

Even worse for Indians fans is that this somewhat taints Brantley’s legacy, as well. Though the scandal predates his arrival to Houston, the longtime Tribe outfielder is now implicated in it. No, the players did not get punished, and no, Brantley was not the face of the scandal, but it reflects poorly on a man who has otherwise been the utmost professional.

Good news: All of the flux in the Astros organization could completely derail their season. Yes, they are still loaded, but much less has caused a team to implode, and baseball does not leave much room for error. If things get bad enough, the AL West could be up for grabs, especially if the Angels’ big splashes finally make a difference.

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