Brandon Guyer was not a trade deadline deal that grabbed a lot of headlines for the Cleveland Indians. While making last-second trades to shore up a playoff-bound team, Chris Antonetti and company sent Nathan Lukes to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for the right-handed batter who had a history of being great against lefties and not so great against right-handed pitchers.
Even those of us that liked the deal saw it more as a small trade meant to plug a small hole, and news of it came just a day after the Tribe dealt away several top prospects for the best left-handed reliever in baseball. To say Guyer was overshadowed is an understatement.
But earlier today, just months after he helped his new team reach the World Series, the Indians signed that platoon bat to a two-year deal worth $4.7 million with a $3 million team option for 2019 — effectively buying out his last two years of arbitration and potentially a year of his free agent eligibility. Like a lot of the moves the Indians have made on their way to building an AL-pennant winning club, it was a smart financial — and baseball — decision.
As noted on Twitter shortly after the deal was announced, very few batters have been better against left-handed pitchers than Guyer. The 30-year-old outfielder ranks ahead of Bryce Harper, Evan Longoria, Jose Abreu, and several other big-time batters in his platoon role. Part of that is buffered by the stellar numbers he put in his half-season with the Tribe — a .333/.438/.469 slash (153 wRC+) in 38 games.
Even before the trade, though, the Indians saw his tendency against lefties. Despite being below-average against right-handers and well above-average against lefties, Guyers former team never held him to much of a strict platoon. In fact, between 2014 and 2015 he was basically split down the middle: 299 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers and 292 against right-handed pitchers, despite having a wRC+ below 100 against the latter.
The Indians saw the great potential in pairing him with Lonnie Chisenhall, a left-handed batter who hits much better against right-handed pitchers. Guyer had just 27 plate appearances against righties in his time with the Tribe last season, compared to 69 against southpaws.
On the Indians, specifically, Guyer’s value comes from that tailor-made platoon. The two-headed monster of Chisenhall and Guyer probably makes it easier for the Indians to pass on further stressing their budget (and hurting their defense) with someone like Jose Bautista or even someone like Rajai Davis, who apparently could have been had for around $6 million. Instead, the Chisenguyer will be owed $6.3 million next season with both of them potentially coming back cheap in 2018 as well — Guyer in year two of his new deal and Chisenhall entering year three of arbitration.
Much like the midseason trade for him, I assume Brandon Guyer’s signing will fly under most radars. But when or if the Indians succeed again next year, don’t be surprised to look at the numbers and see Guyer’s presence as one of the big reasons why. The guy can hit a ball as well as he can take one off the shin.