Cleveland Indians Brandon Moss Ready To Put Oakland, Injury Behind Him

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The last time Brandon Moss was on a baseball field, he slugged two home runs for the Oakland A’s in their Wild Card Game loss to the Kansas City Royals. Less than a week before that game, the first baseman and outfielder had announced that he would undergo off-season hip surgery to repair a torn labrum that had been hindering him throughout the second half of the season.

When the Indians traded for Moss this winter, it was a move that seemed to solve the Tribe’s need for a power bat. In exchange, the Indians only lost Joe Wendle – a minor-league infielder with overall potential, but no one particular skill that stood out. Combined with the Tribe’s lack of room in the middle of the diamond, and questions surrounding the return of Nick Swisher, it made sense to deal the prospect for the power-hitting Moss. However, the Indians need him to make a full recovery from his injury for the trade to be as impressive as it seems.

While 2014 was Moss’s most notable season in terms of league-wide recognition – he made the All-Star squad and took home Player of the Week honors in mid-May – 2013 was his true breakout year. After a strong partial season in 2012, Moss slugged 30 homers in 2013, which equaled about one in every 15 at-bats. He had the 10th highest Win Probability Added in the AL, with a 2.8 WPA, in addition to being on the leaderboards in slugging percentage (.522) and OPS (.859).

If Moss bounces back, the trade will be a steal for the Indians. Even if he begins the season on the disabled list – and with the Indians’ typically-cautious approach to returns from surgery, it’s possible that he will – the addition of 20-30 home runs would make the Indians lineup significantly more intimidating. The team has already made statements that make it clear that they have no intention of rushing anyone, and they have contingency plans in the event that Moss or Swisher are unable to start the year on the active roster.

However, there’s always the possibility that Moss’s injury will continue to limit his effectiveness at the plate even once he returns. In 147 games last season, Moss hit .234/.334/.438 with 25 home runs, but he dropped off almost entirely in the second half due to his hip issues. If he is once again plagued by that issue, the Indians may need to lean more heavily on Swisher and David Murphy, both of whom had injury problems last season. Ryan Raburn is another option, but he regressed so far in 2014 that it seems unlikely that he’ll see frequent playing time this year regardless of Moss’s performance.

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The good news is that Moss certainly isn’t the first player to have this type of injury, so there are plenty of examples that should give Tribe fans hope for a positive outcome. Phillies’ second baseman Chase Utley and Royals’ outfielder Alex Gordon had similar procedures, and both made excellent recoveries. Alex Rodriguez and Mets’ first baseman Carlos Delgado also had surgeries to repair labrum tears, but did not have the same success. One of the major differences in the two outcomes is that Gordon and Utley were both under 30, while Rodriguez and Delgado were rapidly approaching their 40s.

Moss, who is 31 this season, should have a much more optimistic outlook than the older players, even if he does need a little extra time to recover. In 2012, Baseball Prospectus did an in-depth look at hip labrum tears and the increasing amount of MLB players who need them, which is worth reading for anyone interested in learning more about the procedure or the anatomy behind the injury.

Once spring training starts, it will be easier to tell how soon the Indians can expect a healthy Moss to add some power to their lineup. His bat certainly has the potential to make a major impact for the Tribe this season.

Next: Prospect Ruiz Receives 80-Game Suspension

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