Even After Adding Another Option, the Indians’ Outfield For 2020 Remains Cloudy
When it comes to talking points from the Cleveland Indians’ weekend trade of Corey Kluber, Delino DeShields Jr. ranks pretty low.
Obviously, fans want to process the loss of Kluber, one of the most elite pitchers the franchise has ever seen. After that comes the intrigue Emmanuel Clase brings to a bullpen which definitely needs the firepower he can provide.
However, nobody seems terribly eager to discuss DeShields. Very few are excited about the arrival of the 27-year-old outfielder, and the benefits he brings to Cleveland.
One major reason for this is likely the fact nobody is too sure what benefits he brings to an Indians outfield in dire need of a sure thing. Somehow, Cleveland added another outfielder, yet that area of the roster remains just as questionable as it was before.
This isn’t to knock DeShields. He’s a talented defender who possesses speed on the basepaths, but does leave a lot to be desired offensively.
Likewise, his fit on the team is a bit of a question mark on its own. Cleveland has a handful of outfielders at its disposal heading into 2020, and with DeShields not doing much to stand out, you have to imagine the team isn’t placing him too high on the depth chart.
With that last note in mind, it’d be easy to dismiss any outfield concerns with the Indians. They have a gaping hole at second base, and extra bullpen help is always appreciated. Why waste money on another outfielder if there are already plenty to work with?
However, where second base needs to be addressed because there’s nobody there, outfield needs to be addressed because there are too many suspect options available.
Oscar Mercado’s rookie campaign certainly earned him an everyday starter role, as he was able to provide a consistent spark both offensively and with his defense. Outside of him, though, it’s a list of players who each carry their fair share of uncertainty.
Franmil Reyes is by far the best bat of the bunch, but the fact everyone believes his best fit is at DH should tell you all you need to know about his defensive struggles.
Jordan Luplow was a pleasant surprise last season, but is likely a platoon option until he figures out how to consistently hit against right handed pitching.
Greg Allen has shown flashes of potential, but never frequently enough to earn consistent playing time.
Jake Bauers was woefully erratic in his debut season with the Indians and, per Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, wasn’t exactly receptive to advice from the coaching staff.
Injuries have hindered Bradley Zimmer’s chances of proving himself.
Tyler Naquin has never been able to string together a solid season, and his recovery from ACL surgery casts even more doubt over what he can offer next year.
The Indians also have a potential candidate coming up from the minors in the form of Daniel Johnson.
A key piece in last year’s trade of Yan Gomes, Johnson displayed plenty of potential for Triple-A Columbus in 2019, finishing the season batting .306 with an .867 OPS. It’s not a leap to think he could gain some ground come spring training.
As you can see, though, despite having all these choices to pick from, not one provides much certainty to an outfield which genuinely needs it.
Knowing this, the logical thought would be for Cleveland to explore free agency to see if it can find a more dependable option, especially with $17.5 million just being made available through the Kluber trade.
That said, the hole at second base is top priority at the moment. Once addressed, will there be enough funds available to acquire a legitimate upgrade? Or would it just be money spent on another player whose dependability comes with doubt?
The hope is, with so many options available, at least two of Cleveland’s outfielders will separate themselves from the pack. At the same time, considering the various uncertainty hovering over the entire group, there’s just as much, if not more reason to believe Cleveland heads into Opening Day with little to no answers.
It might not seem like an area of concern when looking at how many options the Indians have available, but their outfield is one of the biggest question marks on the roster. That it remains that way even after adding another player to the mix should hammer this fact home even further.