Even before the departure of Michael Brantley the Cleveland Indians outfield situation was far from enviable. Now that Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and Rajai Davis have new homes the team still has some work to do.
Indians returning outfielders
The Cleveland Indians will have Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen returning next season. There is also the uncertain status of Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer is rehabbing from shoulder surgery which originally had a recovery timeline of 8-12 months. It appears that any sort of production from Zimmer this season could be a bonus.
Martin can provide modest production when in the lineup, nothing that cannot be duplicated from others currently on the roster. Naquin experienced an offensive surge before slumping and ultimately suffering a season-ending injury. Allen is essentially a fourth outfielder who is in a starting role. This group of outfielders does not provide much, if any power and should not be expected to do so in the future.
New additions to the Indians outfield
Some consider newly acquired Jake Bauers to be an outfielder, but the reality is that he is a first baseman. While he may play the outfield this season it is not where his future is. Last season in Tampa Bay Bauers played 76 games at first and 20 games in the outfield. A time share with Carlos Santana at first base may be in the cards for Bauers.
Jordan Luplow was acquired from Pittsburgh and could easily slide into the starting lineup. Luplow struggled during his brief time in the majors, however he has shown ability at the plate in the minors. With more time at the Major League level next season Luplow could improve and provide Cleveland with a steady bat in the outfield.
Oscar Mercado is another new face in Cleveland. Mercado has modest power and has shown the ability to drive in runs. Mercado is a candidate to start in AAA this season and with a call up later this season. However given the Indians lack of depth in the outfield that could change if Mercado has a good showing in Spring Training.
More outfield help could come
It is a long offseason and the Indians have not spent on the free agent market. Some free agent possibilities were discussed in a previous article. Of course there is also the possibility that a trade brings in more help. The Indians and Dodgers are still discussing trades involving Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. A trade of either pitcher should net Cleveland an outfielder who could start from day one, but that is if a trade were to occur. A scenario that appears less likely as each day passes. The roster is far from final and new faces should make their way to Cleveland before Spring Training.