May 31, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Josh Outman (88) prepares to deliver a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 7-5 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Acquiring Josh Outman was a Smart Decision
Yesterday afternoon, the Indians traded outfielder Drew Stubbs to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for a little known left-handed reliever named Josh Outman. Admittedly, the deal lacks any sense of real excitement. If anything, most fans are probably a bit confused about why the Indians would trade away a potential starting outfielder for a reliever that posted average numbers, at best.
However, the fact of the matter is that Outman probably has more value to the Indians at this current point in time than Drew Stubbs. That is why the Indians were willing to make the deal and seemingly give up on Stubbs a mere one year after acquiring him.
Think about this from a logical standpoint. With the current state of the Indians outfield, how was Terry Francona going to find innings for Drew Stubbs? With Michael Bourn and Michael Brantely were solidly entrenched in their positions in center and left respectively. Ryan Raburn emerged in a big way last season to steal playing time away from Stubbs. David Murphy was just signed to a two-year deal and looks to be the perfect complement to Raburn. From that standpoint, Stubbs was the odd man out and needed to be dealt.
For those out there wondering why the Indians couldn’t have gotten more for Stubbs, that comes down to Stubbs’ track record. It is more than apparent after four full seasons at the big league level that he is nothing more than a part-time player valued for his defense and speed. He simply strikes out too much and doesn’t get on base with enough frequency to warrant a full-time job. In small doses, Stubbs can look good and possibly even great, but when over exposed his flaws become too obvious to ignore.
May 25, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher Josh Outman (88) pitching during the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT
Meanwhile, Josh Outman provides the Indians with a valuable service, one that you can never have too much of. In the simplest of terms, he throws the ball hard and he throws it with his left arm. As we’ve seen time and time again, you can never have too much pitching.
Outman is a four pitch pitcher sporting a fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. His fastball has regularly sat in the lower 90’s, somewhere around 92-93 MPH. Like most lefties, he has come to rely heavily on his slider in combination with his fastball. It’s this slider that has been his most effective pitch, by far, at the big league level. And, despite the fact that he had spent the past two years in the launch pad that is Coors Field, Outman was able to improve upon his xFIP over the past three seasons, going from 4.77 to 4.05 to 3.62. In addition, going from Coors Field to Progressive Field should help improve the .340 BABIP he experienced in 2013.
With Marc Rzepeczynski on track to be the Indians match-up left hander, Outman should fit in nicely in the role occupied by last season by Rich Hill. If you recall, Terry Francona regularly called upon Hill to face multiple hitters and not just lefties out of the bullpen. With Hill all but gone thanks to free agency, Outman will look to become that stop-gap in the sixth or seventh inning and serve as a bridge to the back-end of the bullpen. Throw in the fact that Outman still has additional years of team control and he becomes that much more valuable to the Indians over the long run.
So while it is easy to jump all over the Indians for trading away another “valuable” position player for a no-name reliever, you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. You have to understand that the Indians didn’t need Drew Stubbs. What they needed was more pitching and with Josh Outman they got just that. Vertical depth is often not thought of as a necessity, but the flexibility it provides is invaluable to a team over the course of 162 games.