The Indians, jilted in their effort to improve their offense behind the plate, went back to the trade trough for a smaller deal. They’ve added 30-year-old right-handed Brandon Guyer to their outfield, at the cost of two lower-level prospects in outfielder Nathan Lukes and right-hander Jhonleider Salinas, as Jordan Bastian is reporting.
Though Guyer is no Lucroy, he does fit a need on the Indians team — he can hit lefties well. So far, he’s been 42% better than league average against lefties. The Indians can skew lefty-heavy and have been 6% better than league average against righties so far this year, and 4% worse than average against lefties.
In the outfield, Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall are lefties hitting the ball well, and though Naquin is starting against pitchers of both hands, Chisenhall has traditionally been platooned. Since right-hander Rajai Davis has been a bit better than a strict platoon player — he’s been league average against righties the last two years, at least, and provides base running and defensive value in the corner outfield — he might remain a full-time starter until Michael Brantley comes back. The team could easily platoon Chisenhall with Guyer.
Jose Ramirez is increasingly needed at third base with Juan Uribe’s poor play at the plate, so he’s not in the outfield mix post-Guyer, but there’s one more place the newcomer could help. Switch-hitting designated hitter Carlos Santana has really been struggling against lefties this year (64 wRC+) despite being fine against them for his career (128 wRC+).
Between right field and designated hitter, Guyer can at least step into the box against lefties and improve that poor team split against southpaws.
Stepping into the box is the key word here — nobody has been hit more by lefty pitchers in the last three years than Guyer. That’s how he’s turned a middling walk rate into a plus on-base percentage, and by all accounts, it’s a skill. Getting hit by pitches has the same year-to-year correlation (.641) as weighted on base average, and a better one than on-base percentage.
Guyer’s not a great defender, but he can help in most facets of the game, and will be a strong asset for the team when they’re facing a left-hander. Given that they gave up two prospects that weren’t on anyone’s top 100 lists and are far away from the majors, this trade made too much sense for the American League Central leaders to pass up.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.