Mike Aviles and the Importance of Super Utility


Sep 21, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Mike Aviles (4) points to the dugout against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Reliability of Mike Aviles Proves Invaluable in 2014

Things happen over the course of 162 games. Like the immortal Lou Brown once stated to the insufferable Rachel Phelps, “Over 162 games and even tough guys get strains… Sore arms… Muscle pulls…” That’s why depth is so important to a baseball team and for the second straight season that depth proved invaluable in the form of Mike Aviles.

A lot is asked of Aviles. He’s far from the highest paid player on the Indians 25-man roster and that, in theory, makes him expendable. Knowing this, Aviles has taken every request, and position change, and every challenge in stride. And usually with a smile across his face. He has a certain aplomb about himself that comes from being a 33-year-old veteran who understands his role and the reality that the needs of the team often come ahead of the needs of one’s own self.

Case in point, over the past two seasons Aviles has filled in at a myriad of positions. Despite the fact that he has spent most of his career as a middle infielder, Aviles’ time with the Indians has also seen him spend time at third base, and all three outfield positions. He hasn’t caught or pitched yet, but one would think that if Terry Francona asked him, he would do it.

Sep 22, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Mike Aviles (4) reacts to a called strike during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not to say the results have been outstanding. For all of his effort, Aviles is still best served in a limited role that limits the amount of times that his weaknesses can be exposed. In 113 games consisting of 374 plate appearances, Aviles put together a rather pedestrian triple slash of .247/.273/.343 with 5 home runs and 39 runs batted in.

Those aren’t exactly the most impressive numbers. They aren’t going to turn any heads or wonder whether or not Aviles deserves a more expanded role in 2015. But, they are consistent. Just look at his 2013 numbers. In 124 games and 394 plate appearances, Aviles hit .252/.282/.368 with 9 home runs and 46 RBI. That puts his two year totals at .250/.277/.356 with 14 homers and 85 RBI. In all that comes to a lackluster 79 OPS+

Those are decent numbers for a reserve player and what you would expect from someone lacking consistent playing time. Had those numbers been over the course of 150+ games and 600+ plate appearance, it would be a problem. The type of problem that would need to be remedied immediately.

But again, when it comes to Mike Aviles, his value has less to do with his performance on the field and more to do with the way he approaches the game on a day to day basis. It’s the approach that has made him so valuable. Knowing that he can turn to Aviles in any situation and get maximum effort without any sulking has helped establish trust with Terry Francona. After the past two seasons in Cleveland and the year and a half proceeding them in Boston, Aviles has become one of Francona’s guys.

His reward? The Indians have exercised Aviles’ $3.5-million option for the 2A015 season.

So for the third straight year we will see a steady dose of Mike Aviles all round the diamond for the Indians. And with the Elvis Araujo: Cleveland Indians Days of Future Past” href=”https://believelandball.com/2014/11/17/elvis-araujo-cleveland-indians-days-future-past/” target=”_blank”>all but confirmed departure of Jason Giambi, it is expected that Aviles will take on an even larger role as leader within the clubhouse. Despite what most sabermatricians would have you believe, clubhouse chemistry is an important factor in the success of any ball club and is why the Indians to continue to value Aviles.

Of course, given the current state of the roster there is always the chance the Indians use Aviles as a trade chip. With Jason Kipnis established as the every day second baseman and Francisco Lindor lurking in the shadows as the every day shortstop it’s unlikely he will receive an increased role in 2015. Not only that but the emergence of Jose Ramirez might only serve to further lessen his opportunities.

Could the Indians then flip him to a team looking for a stop gap at the shortstop position? Might another team in the playoff hunt come June or July use a veteran with a strong clubhouse presence to put them over the edege? It’s a possibility. With a team friendly contract and a lack of a long term future with the Tribe, Aviles is expendable from that perspective. Receive a lotto ticket or two in return and the idea becomes all that much more appealing. Is it likely to happen?  Not any time soon, but the option is available should the Indians believe it to be worth the possible return.

So say what you want about Mike Aviles and his performance. The fact remains that the Indians could and would do much worse if they attempted to replace him on the roster with someone else. And with his role defined as the ultimate super utility/clubhouse chemistry guy, they see no need to replace him. It just goes to show that sometimes one’s willingness to do whatever is asked can be more valuable in the long run.

Mike Aviles… super utility and super teammate.