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Cleveland Indians: Exploring the impact of Zimmer’s injury

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Bradley Zimmer #4 of the Cleveland Indians doubles in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 5, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Bradley Zimmer #4 of the Cleveland Indians doubles in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 5, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians will lose Bradley Zimmer for a over a month as his disappointing season continues to spiral.

Bradley Zimmer will miss four to six weeks of game action due to soreness in his right shoulder. This news comes in on the coattails of his demotion to Triple-A earlier in the month, piling on to what has been a tough 2018 for the Cleveland Indians outfielder.

Zimmer’s deactivation isn’t alarming all by itself; he should have plenty of time to work his way back onto the Major League roster by the end of summer. The timing of it, however, creates a set of circumstances for the Indians front office as we inch closer towards the trade deadline.

Here is a quick look at some of the potential ramifications of Zimmer’s shutdown.

A trade for a center fielder

The outfield has been an area of need for the Tribe for what seems like forever. On top of that, Zimmer admittedly has not solidified himself as a mainstay in center. The Indians were likely to acquire another outfielder or two regardless of Zimmer’s availability. His deactivation just reinforces that need.

Outside of Michael Brantley, Cleveland gets sporadic offensive production from an outfield corps of platoon players. Brantley has recorded 254 at-bats; no one else in the stable has reached 150. That’s due in part to the fact that Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin have all spent time on the DL, but having two of three outfield positions constantly up for grabs is somewhat disconcerting.

The Indians need somebody to stake their claim to at least one of those two positions and stabilize the outfield, and the answer may need to be found in a trade.

Adam Jones?

Adam Jones;who was discussed as a potential trade target here last month, remains an interesting option. The Indians could very well be calling the Orioles regarding their wealth of bullpen arms, so they might as well include Jones in the conversation.

The Baltimore veteran is crushing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .321/.333/.393 slash line with virtually no drop-off against righties (.280/.309/.478). In fact, nine of his 10 home runs have come against right-handed pitchers. Adding Jones would give the Indians an everyday center fielder who can bat fifth or sixth in the order and offer consistent production, regardless of the opposing pitcher’s handedness.

Zimmer’s visit to the disabled list, combined with his ineffectiveness at the plate must force the Indians front office a question. Is he going to be their guy when it matters most in 2018?

With the ultimate goal of a World Series championship in mind, management cannot afford to get that question wrong. And they most certainly cannot hold fast the pattern of piecing together two-thirds of the outfield on a daily basis.

His injury just makes it easier to justify giving up assets for a player who can help the team when the leaves begin changing colors.

Zimmer’s trade value

Zimmer’s ceiling is high enough that teams around the league may be willing to overlook his offensive struggles to this point in his young career. He continues to impress on defense and he runs like the wind. If he could simply find a way to cut down on his strikeout numbers or get on base more often, he’d be a serviceable everyday player in many lineups, including Cleveland’s.

That said, his 2018 opportunities have yielded a lowly .281 on-base percentage with 44 strikeouts and just seven walks in 114 plate appearances, and that is unfortunately the way his numbers will stay until near or after the trade deadline. Now, there is no reason to believe the Indians have been eager to move a player they are counting on to develop into an everyday center fielder, but for the right price, Zimmer could have been available.

Certainly Zimmer would not be the focal point of any package the Indians might deal to another team in late July, but he might’ve been a part of the negotiating process. There is no telling what kind of haul the Reds might demand in return for Raisiel Iglesias. If the aforementioned Jones were to head to Cleveland, the Orioles might want a young, controllable outfielder to come back.

The Tribe would undoubtedly like to hold on to top prospects like Triston McKenzie and Francisco Mejia if possible, and would likely be willing to explore most other avenues in trade discussions. Losing a young player like Zimmer–regardless of whether or not he should be considered a trade chip–thins the list of assets the Indians have to choose from when putting together trade offers.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it is unlikely that any team serving up a significant player is going to covet an injured outfielder who has yet to prove he can contribute consistently throughout the grind of a Major League season.

Next: Who will be the Tribe's next big call-up?

In a way, though, perhaps Zimmer’s somewhat untimely DL-stint can pay dividends down the road. It drives home the point that the Indians must acquire another everyday outfielder this summer, and maybe they do so by picking up a pending free agent. Meanwhile, the team feels no need to rush Zimmer back to Cleveland, and he can be allowed to recover and improve at the Triple-A level while a rental player mans the outfield for the bulk of the second half and playoffs.

The 2018 trade deadline was already going to be an interesting one for Indians fans, but with Zimmer out, it may have gotten even more intriguing.