CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Unlike their trade activity over the weekend, the Cleveland Indians opted to go with the better fit over the big name prior to Monday’s MLB trade deadline, acquiring outfielder Brandon Guyer from the Tampa Bay Rays for prospects.
Guyer, who has logged time at all three outfield spots this season, is slashing .241/.347/.406 (111 wRC+) with seven homers, 18 RBI, 27 runs scored and two stolen bases in 63 games this season.
“Brandon fits our team really well, as a right-handed-hitting outfielder,” Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said. “He can play all three spots. He’s been really effective against left-handed pitching. He’s a great baserunner, a good defender, a great teammate. He’s a really gritty player that plays the game the right way. So, we feel like he’ll complement our group really well.”
The right-handed hitter has slayed left-handed pitching in 2016, slashing .338/.482/.585 (196 wRC+) against southpaws this season. He also owns a career .846 OPS against lefties over five big league seasons.
Cleveland desperately needed to add an outfielder capable of producing against lefties. Since returning from his 80-game suspension, Abraham Almonte has received a great deal of playing time against southpaws, but the switch-hitter has been far better against righties in his career.
Juan Uribe has also struggled for most of the season, so Guyer’s presence will also enable manager Terry Francona to use Jose Ramirez at third base. Uribe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Cleveland’s additions.
“It was becoming increasingly hard to play him because he was having a tough time,” manager Terry Francona said of the veteran infielder. “And when he wasn’t playing, it’s not like he’s a guy that can really help off the bench a ton. So again, it wasn’t a fun thing to do because of how fond we are of him, but I think baseball-wise, it was the right thing to do.”
The acquisition of Guyer could also help provide some insurance for Michael Brantley’s attempted return and will not take at-bats away from Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, who have both produced magnificently against right-handed pitching this season.
Unlike some of the bigger names on the market, guys like Carlos Beltran or Jay Bruce, the trade for Guyer did not come at significant prospect cost. To acquire the 30-year-old right-handed hitter, the Indians packaged outfield prospect Nathan Lukes and pitching prospect Jhonleider Salinas to the Rays.
Lukes, 22, is slashing .299/.369/.444 with five homers this season at High-A Lynchburg, and Salinas, 20, has posted a 2.70 ERA in 30 innings with the Tribe’s rookie squad in Arizona.
On Sunday, the Indians acquired one of the best relievers on the market, landing lefty Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees for a package of four players involving one of their top prospects, outfielder Clint Frazier.
Cleveland also attempted to acquire catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, but the 30-year-old backstop exercised his partial no-trade clause and vetoed the deal.
Despite the nullified trade — Lucroy was eventually dealt to the Texas Rangers prior to the deadline — Cleveland was still able to fix two of their largest areas of the need: The bullpen and the need for a right-handed bat capable of playing against left-handed pitching.
“I think we feel really good about the team that we have right now,” Antonetti said. “And it’s not just about the deadline. It’s about the group of guys that are in the clubhouse that put us in this position. I think they deserve a lot of the credit for helping shape our approach to the deadline, which was to try to be aggressive and find players that complemented the group that was already here.
“We went into the deadline with a set of goals and we think we largely were able to accomplish those. You’re never satisfied. We talk about it all the time. We’re always looking for ways to be better, but we do feel good about what we were able to accomplish.”