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There’s something very weird about the Indians and Francisco Mejia

Trying to make sense of the Indians’ handling of their top prospect.

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It seems like just yesterday Francisco Lindor stormed the stage of Major League Baseball and immediately established himself as one of the game’s bright young stars. It seems like a day or two after that, that Yandy Diaz showed a flair for hitting the ball hard, but not well. And it was literally just hours ago that the Indians seemingly put a brick wall between themselves and their top prospect, Francisco Mejia.

The Indians announced late Thursday that had signed Melky Cabrera to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, but realistically, how long will he stay there? If he ends up getting a call to the big leagues to play in right field ahead of Mejia I scream. A lot.

Cabrera was downright awful in his limited time with the Tribe earlier this season. In 58 at-bats he slashed .207/.242/.293 with no home runs. So it wasn’t a surprise when the Indians designated the 33-year-old when lefty masher Brandon Guyer became activated from the disabled list. What use do the Indians have with a veteran taking up a roster spot who can’t hit and whose sole purpose is to provide some kind of mystical veteran magic? They already have Rajai Davis for that.

Fast-forward a month, and suddenly he’s back. And it makes less sense than ever.

For now, Cabrera can be seen as an insurance move. The Indians outfield is so thin it could blow away at the slightest breeze, so it can’t hurt to add someone else to fill out Triple-A, right? That would be all well and good if it didn’t seem to be in the cards that he will eventually be called up to play in right field instead of Mejia.

The Indians, or at least manager Terry Francona, seem weirdly against bringing Mejia up under any circumstance. Tito recently tried to shed light on the reasoning behind the lack of motivation to bring the hot-hitting Mejia back to the majors, but it didn’t clear anything up.

We signed Roberto to a four-year contract. It’s not just your batting average. I mean we’d like all our guys to be hitting .300, that would be great. But you’re talking about running a staff. Doing all the things that Roberto has taken the time to learn.

Let’s not even get into that one. Roberto Perez can have a 20-year contract for all I care — Mejia is more valuable than he is right now. Sorry ‘Berto, love ya. But no.

Tito also added this after the offense had a slow day against the Oakland Athletics last week:

He’s not ready (to play the outfield in the big leagues). I think there was talk about trying to play him some more. Maybe with next year being an option. You know when they go into the winter you can at least have that be an option.

It seems very weird that they would be so dead set against trying out Mejia in right field. And don’t try to tell me that Francona is worried about outfield costing his team runs — this is the same manager than played Carlos Santana in the outfield of the World Series. Tito may be stubborn as a mule in some aspects, but he’s never been afraid of playing anyone out of position.

A recent injury to Lonnie Chisenhall seemed to open the perfect door for Mejia to make his return to the Indians after a brief stint in 2017, and a single game on the bench in 2018. They went with Greg Allen instead, another potentially good young player, but nowhere the pedigree of Mejia’s pure bat skills. And now this Melky Cabrera signing, no matter what it looks like right now is likely another roadblock for Mejia to make it to the majors at any position.

The Indians have a 11.5 game lead in the worst division in baseball, three absolute superstars carrying the offense up front, and a pitching staff that doesn’t even require an offense to win games. If there was ever a time to get your fledgling superstar some major league experience, it’s now. What’s the holdup?

If you’re only interested in the nuts and bolts of the Indians-Mejia situation, feel free to close this post and go about your day. If you’re here for wild conspiracy theories and rampant speculation that will hopefully not be taken as gospel and/or out of context... well, you’ve come to the right place.

To me — and this is purely, 100 percent speculative (again, seriously, be cool about this) — this screams one of two things:

  1. The Indians are going to trade Mejia.
  2. Something about Mejia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The trade makes pretty simple sense. Mejia is raking in Triple-A right now, so why bring him up and risk him struggling and sinking his trade value if he could be the catalyst to some kind of deal? I don’t agree with the idea of trading Mejia for any kind of rental, mind you, but I don’t rule out there is a deal that makes out there somewhere.

Number two is a different, much more scary story. Maybe there’s a clear hole in Mejia’s bat that all of us with nothing more than a couch and subscription to can see. That means other teams can probably see it, too, which doesn’t bode well for his trade value. Or, given Tito’s cagey reluctance to bring him up to the majors, maybe it’s Mejia that doesn’t want to play outfield or anywhere but as a catcher.

Every time it comes up about the Indians moving him to another position, there’s always the qualifier of reassuring Mejia he’s a great catcher, he just won’t fit on the Indians at that position. It stands to reason that maybe he is bound and determined to be a catcher at the major league level despite pleading from Tito and the Indians front office.

Tito’s recent words on Mejia echo that theory:

I understand that. We’re trying to tell him, ‘Hey, we think you’re a good catcher, but if you can do this, you might get to the big leagues quicker. Until a kid is sold on it. ... I’m not sure (if it’s a good idea to push him).

And so do his comments from early May on the same subject.

We wanted to reinforce that this is by no means an indictment on his catching. If anything, we were really pleased with his progression. We just told him ‘Look, we have Perez and Gomes. Do the math.’ He’s such an advanced hitter that if he’s able to play another position, and then there’s an injury or something, he could find himself not only in the big leagues or playing.

From that same group of quotes about Mejia’s apparent reluctance to play in the outfield, Francona seems to imply that it was Mejia, not the Indians, who put a stop on him playing third base.

I don’t know how excited he was to play third base. If you want to be a full-time catcher, we’ll back you 100 percent, but when he laid it out for him there, he was like ‘No, I need to do this.’

As I said earlier, Francona isn’t a manager afraid to make wild roster moves occasionally. He also seems like the kind of guy that would gladly take the damage for a headstrong prospect not wanting to switch positions before he gets real playing time in the majors. It seems pretty strange to mention your players’ motivation to play to a different position at all, so if he’s sending smoke about anything, that leads me to believe there’s fire in them there hills.

Maybe the simple answer is just that he’s not great anywhere on the field, and his bat wouldn’t be a big enough boost to warrant bringing him up. But so far, barring something that we can’t see, all signs point to him being able to at least contribute somewhere. If only everyone could get on the same page as to where.