Indians offseason outlook: Outfield

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The Cleveland Indians have two key outfielders hitting the free agent market this offseason. With the large crop of left handed hitting outfielder already on the roster the Indians will be looking to add a starting caliber right handed hitting outfielder. It is rumored that Jay Bruce is looking for close to $90 million on the free agent market making it unlikely that he will return. Let’s take a look at the current outfield situation and the top free agents that are available.

Indians free agents

– Jay Bruce (.254 – 36 – 101)

After being acquired from the Mets in August Jay Bruce hit .248 with 7 homers and 26 RBI in 43 games. He became a sparkplug to the lineup hitting behind cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Bruce also played a solid right field defensively and became and instant favorite in the locker room. He is reportedly looking for a 5 year – $80/$90 million dollar deal. He is unlikely to return to the Indians.

– Austin Jackson (.318 – 7 – 35)

Austin Jackson had a career reviving season in 2017 with Cleveland. He forced manager Tito Francona to keep him in the lineup down the stretch due to his strong production. His strong season also included the defensive play of the year on August 2nd at Fenway Park when he went over the wall to rob Hanley Ramirez of a homerun. It is anticipated that Jackson will seek a everyday job along with a more lucrative contract.

Current roster

– Michael Brantley (.299 – 9 – 52)

Michael Brantley returned to the Indians after missing just about all of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. He had a very strong first half of the season making the all-star team but suffered an ankle injury in August that pretty much ended his season. The Indians decided to pickup his $12 million dollar option for 2018. They expect him to be healthy for the start of the 2018 season. He should be the regular left fielder if healthy. There is a slim chance Brantley could play some first base.

– Bradley Zimmer (.241 – 8 – 39)

Bradley Zimmer had an up and down rookie season but showed flashes of what could be in the near future. Though he struggled at the plate before getting injured Zimmer was spectacular defensively in center field making highlight catches look routine. Zimmer will be the Indians starting center fielder in 2018.

– Jason Kipnis (.232 – 12 – 35)

Jason Kipnis will enter 2018 as a man without a definite position. After starting the season at second base Kipnis came back from an injury in the second half and played centerfield the balance of the season and postseason. With Zimmer back Kipnis could possibly move to left field if Brantley is not healthy or ends up playing first base.

– Abraham Almonte (.233 – 3 – 14)

Abraham Almonte will compete for a backup outfield spot once again in 2018. He has proven to be a serviceable player both offensively and defensively.

– Brandon Guyer (.236 – 2- 20)

Brandon Guyer’s had an injury plagued and inconsistent 2017 season for the Indians. He will also compete for a backup outfield spot as he is a solid defensive outfielder who kills left handed pitchers at the plate.

Top available free agents

– J.D. Martinez (.303 – 45 – 104) – Arizona

J.D. Martinez is the top free agent available after blasting 45 homers combined with Detroit and Arizona. He is seeking a contract in the neighborhood of 7 years – $210 million which will put him out of the Indians price range.

– Lorenzo Cain (.300 – 15 – 49) – Kansas City

Lorenzo Cain had a solid season with the Royals in 2017 and should net himself a nice contract as a result. Being that Cain is a centerfielder makes him a long shot with the Indians as they are committed to Bradley Zimmer.

– Carlos Gonzalez (.262 – 14 -57) – Colorado

Gonzalez has spent almost his entire career in Colorado. He is coming off of a down season in 2017. Even though he is a left handed hitter Gonzalez could be a cheaper bounce back option for the Indians to replace Jay Bruce.

– Carlos Gomez (.255 – 17 – 51)

Gomez is a prime candidate for the Indians being a right handed power hitter who can play right field. There have been some attitude issues with Gomez in the past but he seems to have calmed down a bit of late.

 

The Indians will most likely add another outfielder to their crop whether it be via trade or free agency. Greg Allen (.229 – 1 – 6) who showed some nice flashes the last month of the 2017 season could be another option at some point in 2018. He will most likely begin the season at AAA Columbus.

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