The Cleveland Indians are officially parting ways with outfielder Tyler Naquin as they have declined to tender him a contract ahead of tonight’s deadline.
Indians non-tender Tyler Naquin.— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) December 2, 2020
Naquin, along with Delino DeShields, Austin Hedges, Francisco Lindor, Nick Wittgren, and Phil Maton are all up for arbitration in 2021, which means the Indians have until 8pm tonight to tender them a contract and agree to go forward with the process. Wittgren is the only one to be tendered so far, but more are expected to follow (including Francisco Lindor).
Spotrac estimated that Naquin would make around $2 million in arbitration, a figure the Indians just were not comfortable with for a player entering his age-30 season who is strictly a platoon bat with a huge hole in his swing.
In five seasons with the Indians, Naquin was worth 3.2 fWAR and slashed .274/.323/.443 with 31 home runs. The majority of those numbers came in his 116-game rookie season, however, when he amassed more than half his wins above replacement and hit 14 homers on the way to being the American League’s Rookie of the Year runner-up.
Despite the lackluster numbers, Naquin has grown a following among Tribe fans, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not because of his accumulated stats, but because of a select few moments where he looked a star, on and off the field. The entirety of his rookie campaign was one, of course, but namely the inside-the-park home run that he hit against the Blue Jays in August 2016 that gave the Indians a 3-2 walk-off win. Although it was not in the playoffs, the image of a disheveled Naquin being mobbed his teammates and raising the horns of his home state will always be remembered right alongside every magical moment of the 2016 playoff run.
Unfortunately he was never able to catch that fire again for any length of time.
When on his game, Naquin could go on white-hot streaks — but those would come crashing down with week- or even month-long droughts that made him into an average player in a good year.
His time in Cleveland isn’t necessarily over, either. With the free agent market as depressed as it is, there’s a chance Naquin could sign somewhere on a minor-league deal. Maybe it’s Cleveland, maybe not. He has time to decide.