The trade deadline didn’t quite go the way the Cleveland Indians wanted. They got the reliever they needed that boost the bullpen from solid to great but whiffed on that key offensive upgrade that would have lifted them to frightening. They did get a villain to hate which could pay off in October now that he -- meaning Jonathan Lucroy -- is on the Texas Rangers, but it’s time to move on and keep this campaign for October going strong.
They still got one other piece. Another, less heralded man is in the wigwam now: outfielder Brandon Guyer from the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s not flashy, it was a blip on the radar as the big names moved about baseball, but this one little acquisition will send shockwaves through the Indians.
That’s a little dramatic, shockwaves would be somehow getting Mike Trout. But even that wouldn’t cause the same number of changes that Guyer would, you’d just send Naquin down to Columbus or cut Almonte and be done with it. The Indians would rule, but there'd be less to talk about. Everyday superstars are boring -- they’re just there all the time, being dominant. No, guys like Guyer make the roster so much more interesting. We already saw the first impact, the departure of Juan Uribe. His glove will be missed, as will that absurd swing, but getting rid of .591 OPS playing three or four days a week is addition by subtraction.
Uribe is gone because Guyer is an outfielder that can play anywhere with varying competency, meaning Jose Ramirez gets to slide back to the infield. Offensively it’s a .200-point OPS bump, but it throws the defense into flux. Playing third for the Indians is easier than most places, what with one of the three or four best shortstops in all of baseball playing next to you, but even with that luxury Uribe was excellent out there. Whether it’s defensive Wins Above Replacement (0.3), Ultimate Zone Rating (6.9 runs saved), Fangraphs’ Defensive Rating (+7.7), any advanced metric shows Uribe to be very good with the glove. Ramirez has been shuttled around the field all year so maybe it’s a reps thing, but in limited time he does have a negative rating at third base.
Obviously, a huge offensive bump is going to do wonders for overall win expectancy, even with question marks abound for the defense. It’s just harder to harm a team’s overall winning with defense than it is with bad offense. That’s why Ramirez is on pace to finish the season worth more than two wins above replacement while Uribe to this point is barely breaking even, even with the good glove. Presence and joviality can get you so far, but in professional sports and in a playoff chase it’s about results. In effect, it’s an upgrade without doing anything.
Then there are the platoons. Oh, the platoons. You know Terry Francona is just psyched to have another tool to fiddle with in the outfield, another button to press. Guyer has spent time all over the field, and only Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall have more time in right field. And Lonnie is left-handed. He’s listed as the second string left fielder, but I have a feeling he’ll see time in right field before long. With the arrival of Guyer, the lineup is going to look very different depending on the handedness of the batter. Something like this:
|Left Field||Center Field||Right Field|
That’s based on the depth chart from Indians.com. Now the impact of this in terms of each player's OPS split against the relevant handed pitcher:
|Left Field||Center Field||Right Field|
None of this is concrete of course since all the numbers are based on this year’s production and Almonte has 16 at-bats against lefties and that OPS is inflated by a .688 slugging percentage. He is not that kind of power hitter. On the flip side of that specifically he does have a .964 OPS over his last 15 games, and .778 over his last calendar year. At the least, right with Jose Ramirez in production. So while he won't hit like Mookie Betts, he can still produce above average offense and add to the winning pile.
It would be silly, too, to think that this is how these players will combine to produce. There will be some drop-off, a bit of lag from not getting regular playing time even if that time is spent flailing at pitches you can't hit. But if your outfield is basically net producing 20 percent better than league average, meaning OPS’s somewhere north of .820, and as long as the defense doesn’t completely fall into the gutter, this is a crazy Frankenstein outfield that can help the Indians really contend. Plus it gives a lot of extra pieces in the event the Tribe gets into a seven game series where they can’t have a designated hitter, whatever that might be.
It would have been nice to fill the hole at catcher since that’s still a sucking hole of offense, but at the least Guyer makes the outfield offense considerably better, and also fixes a hole in the lineup at third base. Just for comparison’s sake, Guyer's OPS against lefties is more than .200 points higher than the man he is replacing in left. So basically, by bringing in Guyer, the outfield overall offense ticks up to rival that of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Admittedly that's cheating a bit since Andrew McCutchen is having a terrible year, but the numbers are the numbers.
One player has made three different positions much better without even playing every day. Tell me that’s not some crafty player shuffling by the Indians, and they didn’t give up much of anything to get Guyer, either. So while everything didn’t go right for the Tribe, it’s hard to count the Trading Deadline anything but a success, albeit a qualified one.