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Adam Cimber was doomed

A man without a role, he’s shipped out of Cleveland for a pittance

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no such thing as the Adam Cimber Era. If anything, the recently departed Tribe reliever was inextricably tied to Brad Hand when the two came over in the Francisco Mejia deal.

All the same, it’s surprising to see the Indians up and trade a relief pitcher with three more years before he hit free agency. That amount seems a bit low for any Major League Baseball player. If anything, and considering the amount of money in baseball, it sounds like an underpay for some kind of prospect you’ve never heard of in Low-A. That’s an article for another day, though. Really, the Indians couldn’t stand having Cimber on their team for the simple fact that he has no place in modern baseball.

As he is now, Cimber is utterly doomed.

There was something neat about CImber when he came to Cleveland in 2018. First, that release point, about as low as you can get. Technically he released it below his feet because of the mound, and at times actually seemed like it rose as it approached the plate. It brought back memories of Joe Smith, a warrior of a reliever for Cleveland at the turn of the decade but pushed to the nth degree.

Being a righty with such an absurd release point, Cimber naturally made people have to discount the below-average velocities he tended to post. Deception is often the name of the game, and it’s hard to get used to something like that if you’re only seeing it once a game. I liked the idea of Cimber as a ROOGY, for lack of a better term — the specialist who is here only to knock down right-handed pitching.

For his career, righties hit .251/.293/.356 in 412 plate appearances off him. In a division that has Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, and Miguel Sanó on the Twins and basically everyone except Yoan Moncada on the White Sox, to say nothing of Mike Trout or Aaron Judge or any number of other killers across the American League, being able to silence a big-time right-handed batter was vital. But the flip side was a mess. When a lefty got to face him, Cimber coughed up a 298/.394/.560 line. That is decidedly stark and sealed his role as a part-time specialist.

As we saw this year, and as we know going forward — because Rob Manfred hates baseball and wants to speed up the game with idiot ideas — specialists no longer exist. The three-batter minimum was the nail in the coffin for this version of Cimber. Sure, you can roll him out to face a premier slugger — though, is that really a bet you want to make in a high leverage situation, especially when James Karinchak is there and waiting? They could just throw a left-handed pinch-hitter out there and suddenly Ryan O’Hearn looks like Bryce Harper. With the three-batter minimum rule, there’s no way for the Indians and Cimber to navigate that. It seemed like each time he saw a lefty, the result was a loud double in the gap at the very least.

So, it makes some sense to cut bait on Cimber. By most metrics for a reliever, he simply wasn’t all that good. Now that the one thing he has going for him is mitigated by new rules, he’s basically a liability. Maybe if he’d struck out more than 15.2% of batters, or didn’t walk 7.2%, or even just had some kind of super high ground ball rate, there’d be some kind of superlative to keep him around (besides that wonky arm angle, of course). He didn’t though, and so more than anything he became superfluous. You could almost praise the Indians for even getting 100 grand for him.

Maybe he’ll figure it out in Miami. The talk was always if he could learn a change-up that would allow him to have a pitch that faded from lefties, he’d be more effective. Not in terms of strikeout rate perhaps, but at least less hard contact. The Marlins are a forward-thinking type of organization, or at least since they got new ownership in the last decade, so it’s possible they saw something in him. More than likely, they just needed arms for their own ‘pen, and like the Tribe before them they saw Cimber and said, “I can fix him”. If that happens, fantastic. Baseball needs pitchers who throw their way and get guys out with a little bit of funk. It’s just not meant to be for him and Cleveland.

So, you could look at this as a cash-poor owner looking to get a little extra cash, though it seems a bit silly. Really, it’s just that he wasn’t good enough, and there’s no more room for a guy that throws mid-80s and can’t get a quarter of batters out. It was fun to have an oddity in the bullpen, but more than anything, this is a relief for Cleveland to get rid of Cimber.