Are Indians too Crowded in the Outfield?


Jun 26, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cleveland Indians outfielders Michael Brantley (left) Michael Bourn (center) and Drew Stubbs (right) celebrate after a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Indians defeated the Orioles 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Focus on Outfield Is Raising Questions

How many outfielders are too many outfielders? Well, we might soon find out if the Indians continue forward with their current plan of action.

After signing veteran center fielder Nyjer Morgan on Wednesday, the already crowded Cleveland outfield officially went from cramped to crammed. As it stands right now, the Indians will go into camp with a laundry list of possible outfield options. Some are already expected to be on the opening day roster from day one. Those players being Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, and David Murphy. It is with the remaining candidates for one of the last few spots on the roster that things begin to get interesting.

Along with Morgan, the Indians can also consider Matt Carson and Jeff Francoeur among players with big league experience. If they decide to be daring, they could also consider Tyler Naquin, Levon Washington, and Jesus Aguilar (albeit he would require a positional change) from their pool of available, but not entirely ready, minor league talent. Oh, and then there are the players on the active roster who can also play outfield such as Nick Swisher, Mike Aviles, and even Jason Kipnis. In other words, they have a lot of outfielders.

So what do we make of all of this and more importantly, why do the Indians continue to focus on outfield depth when the starting rotation and bullpen are in a state of flux. After the losses of several key member of the bullpen, Scott Kazmir, and the eventual departure of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Tribe has done very little in terms of bringing in qualified candidates to fill those vacant spots. And while additions such as Josh Outman and Colt Hynes will certainly help the bullpen and Shaun Marcum could prove to be a sneaky good signing for the rotation, there are still questions as to what the staff will ultimately look like.

Sep 9, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) delivers in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, there is still a lot of time between now and the start of spring training for things to happen. If we are to believe the reports from the national media, a lot of this has to do with the limbo-like status of Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. His status as the best “available” pitcher has seemingly frozen the pitching market. Once he finally is signed by a team the rest of the dominoes should begin to fall including the likes of Jimenez, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and even Bronson Arroyo. Maybe then we’ll see the Indians make a run at another starting pitcher to compete for the fifth and final spot.

As for all of the outfielders, perhaps there is a chance that the Indians are positioning themselves to make another move via trade. We have heard many people suggest that the Indians pursue a deal involving Michael Bourn. At the age of 31-years-old with a skill set that will not age well, it may be advantageous to get out from the remaining three years of his contract while he still has some value. Could the signing of Nyjer Morgan be an indication of this way of thinking? Yes, Morgan is two years older, but he has a very similar skill set and comes at a significantly cheaper price tag. If he performs well this spring, could that be the catalyst to see Bourn moved out of town? It seems unlikely, but if you’re willing to think outside of the box, it makes sense.

However, this plays out, the fact remains perfectly clear. The Indians have focused a large amount of this offseason on shoring up an outfield that didn’t necessarily need shoring up. Will that come back to bite them? Or, will the remaining weeks and days leading up to spring training prove this to be a simple aberration of a frozen market waiting on the next Japanese import. For our sake, let’s hope it’s nothing more than the latter.