Is a Move to Strengthen the Outfield Next for the Indians?
The Cleveland Indians' infield looks to be settled with the signing of 2B Cesar Hernandez as a free agent.
Barring a deal involving SS Francisco Lindor, the Tribe will feature four switch-hitters in the infield with Carlos Santana at first, Hernandez and Lindor manning the keystone, and Jose Ramirez at third.
We also know Roberto Perez will be the primary catcher.
However, what about the outfield?
We know Oscar Mercado will go into spring training as the starting centerfielder, and Jordan Luplow will be somewhere out there vs. left-handed pitchers (at least).
And occasionally, Franmil Reyes will play right field.
There seems to be plenty of playing time available in the outfield and designated hitter spots.
Left-handed hitter Corey Dickerson, who had the highest slugging percentage on the market outside of Josh Donaldson, agreed to terms with the Marlins yesterday. We thought Dickerson would have been a good fit in Cleveland, at the very least forming a lethal platoon with Luplow.
The veteran has an 866 OPS vs. righties (.533 slugging) for his career. Last season, he had a 942 OPS against RHP.
A logical move would be to bring Yasiel Puig back as a free agent. The 29-year-old had an 800 OPS (.377 on base) after coming over from Cincinnati at the trade deadline, and overall has a career OPS of 823.
Other options, probably more costly though, would be Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna.
Both right-handed hitters, Castellanos will play at 28 years old next season, and has had OPS over 800 in each of the last four seasons. Defensively, his best spot is probably DH, he is not known for his defense.
Ozuna has declined defensively as well since his days in Miami, but he has a career OPS of 784, but he has had just two seasons with a season over 800, last year right at that figure, and his career season of 2017, when he hit .312 with 37 HR and 124 RBI.
We look outside the organization because quite frankly, the internal options aren't very appealing.
Tyler Naquin would be a solid platoon piece in the OF, but he will likely miss half the season with a torn ACL.
That leaves a combination of Delino DeShields, Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, and Bradley Zimmer to cover what amounts to one and a half spots in the outfield.
Here are the career OPS for that group:
We would like to see Luplow get a chance at a full time job in '20. His minor league splits don't shout platoon player, and he was so good vs. lefties, he deserves a chance at regular playing time.
The Indians also have 24-year-old left-handed hitter Daniel Johnson, who hit .290 with 19 HR and 77 RBI (868 OPS) and Akron and Columbus last season. He also doesn't have a large platoon split.
But as with the four players listed above, it would be a huge leap of faith for a contending team to give a starting job to someone who hasn't spent a full season at the AAA level.
Remember, last April and May, when the Indians were experimenting at a few spots due to injury and struggled mightily? They can't do that again.
They have money freed up from the Corey Kluber deal, and they need to get an established outfielder, which will lengthen their lineup.
That's what a team that won 90+ games in 2019 should be doing. However, the market the Cleveland Indians are playing in may dry up quick.