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A series of fortunate(?) events that led to Bradley Zimmer’s promotion

Week in Transactions: A whole lot of bad, and some good.

Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Indians

May 14

Placed OF Brandon Guyer on the 10-day Disabled List (retro to May 13) with a left wrist injury

Purchased the contract of OF Dan Robertson from Columbus (AAA)

Designated IF Michael Martinez for assignment

Recalled IF Erik Gonzalez from Columbus (AAA)

At this point, there was a need for a reserve outfielder, preferably one that could play center field. Abe Almonte was out of the lineup, but it was thought that he could play through the bicep injury after a couple days of rest. The Indians could have just recalled Erik Gonzalez to cover the infield and made Michael Martinez the backup outfielder, but that would have meant that Martinez would be playing center field a couple times a week, depending on the opposing starting pitcher. And as much as Francona and the front office appreciated Martinez’s off-field contributions, they couldn’t ignore his batting history, so confronted with the idea of a gaping hole in the lineup several time a week (especially with Almonte ailing), they opted for Robertson, who is not a power hitter but at the very least has had some MLB success against left-handed hitters, which will be his role until Jackson returns.

Previously the Indians had tried to either allow Gonzalez regular playing time in the majors or in the minors, but this promotion will mean that he will be playing at most once a week, or at worst be a late-inning pinch runner only. A backup infielder on this team is just not going to play very often. The Indians still see him as a legitimate shortstop, but in this organization he has more value as a trade piece than depth because Francisco Lindor is going to play every day, as will Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez. So it’s not just Lindor that’s a roadblock, it’s everyone else in the infield.

May 16

Placed OF Abraham Almonte on the 10-day Disabled List (bicep strain)

Purchased the contract of OF Bradley Zimmer from Columbus (AAA) - MLB debut

Optioned 3B/OF Yandy Diaz to Columbus (AAA)

Designated RHP Carlos Frias for Assignment

Recalled RHP Shawn Armstrong from Columbus (AAA)

Almonte tried to play through his bicep injury, but he couldn’t. So he was placed on the DL, with a recovery time of at least a month. That meant the Indians needed a starting outfielder for at least the next four weeks, and the only other outfielder on the 40-man roster (Tyler Naquin) was injured. Austin Jackson may be ready to return in a week or so, but I don’t think the Indians had faith in him being able to hit both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. And there just happened to be a left-handed outfielder who had been playing center field every day in Columbus...

Bradley Zimmer, if the Indians had had their druthers, would be making his major-league debut in the late summer (or even in 2018), not now. He does need to continue working on his strikeout rate, which is still higher than you’d like to see, something that would be preferable to happen in the minors. And, if you’re thinking 2-3 years down the line, bringing Zimmer up now (and keeping him here) means that he’ll likely be eligible for arbitration after 2019 as a “Super Two”. But the needs of today is more important than the consequences of the future, and Zimmer fills the outfield needs in a couple ways. He represents a defensive upgrade over the current alignment (Brantley in left, Chisenhall in center, ??? in right), allowing Chisenhall to move back to right field. He in theory represents an offensive upgrade over whatever other options the Indians may have been pondering, perhaps even over Tyler Naquin once he’s healthy.

Yandy Diaz’s fate was sealed after the adventure in Toronto. If he couldn’t play in the outfield, he wasn’t going to get any playing time. He’s roadblocked in the infield for the same reasons Erik Gonzalez is, but unlike Gonzalez, Diaz is limited to play third base right now.

Armstrong was recalled to give the Indians some more arms in a bullpen that has been worked hard in the past couple weeks. I don’t foresee the Indians going back to seven relievers in the near future, even if Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber come back shortly, as the Indians can live with a three-man bench (assuming Jackson replaces Robertson).

May 18

Traded IF Michael Martinez to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations

Keep in mind that Martinez was claimed by the Red Sox last year, but he ended up back with the Indians by year’s end. Should the Indians end up trading Erik Gonzalez as part of a deadline deal and Tampa Bay is out of the race, there’s an excellent possibility that he’ll return to the club for a third stint. You’ve been warned.

Latest 40-man roster

May 19 2017