The Cleveland Indians are two days away from playing their first real game in almost 10 months, and they will do so without the services of Jake Bauers, James Hoyt, and Jefry Rodriguez. All three have been assigned to the Tribe’s secondary camp at Lake County where they will stay warmed up and ready as part of the team’s 60-man roster when and if more players are needed in a pinch.
Hoyt and Rodriguez will surely be back at some point as the Indians shuffle burned out relievers back and forth in such a weird season. But Jake Bauers’ demotion at least begins to clear up the messy outfield situation, if only a little bit, and it’s unknown when we’ll see him get consistent playing time again.
Bauers, acquired last offseason from the Tampa Bay Rays along with Carlos Santana, was sought after as an athletic outfield option and potential extra first baseman with a good eye at the plate — but he did not found any kind of spark in Cleveland over 117 games in 2019. He slashed just .226/.312/.371 with 12 home runs and a 10.6% walk rate. It all added up to a disappointing 78 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR.
Not to bang the point home too hard or anything, but among batters with at least 400 plate appearances last season, Bauers had the 18th worst wRC+ in the league. I’m just saying — it didn’t go great. Even still, he had a shot at playing somewhere in the outfield this season, or at least backing up Carlos Santana at first or potentially DHing if his play in the field couldn’t outpace the low bar set by his bat.
Bauers’ demotion may not have been entirely his own doing, though. Bradley Zimmer taking summer camp by storm and blasting off against his teammates opened a lot of eyes, and there’s potential for him to rekindle some of the talent that made him an exciting prospect when he debuted in 2017 before injuries and a lack of plate discipline derailed everything. With a reworked swing and the same lanky, deceptively fast legs that he’s always had, it makes sense now to give him a shot even at the expense of Bauers.
Outside of Zimmer, there is still Domgino Santana, Franmil Reyes, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, and Greg Allen vying for outfield spots — as well as Delino DeShields Jr. when he fully recovers from a COVID-19 diagnosis right when summer camp began a few weeks ago.