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Cleveland Indians decision on Brandon Guyer option the right one

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

Despite concerns in the outfield for next season, the Cleveland Indians made the correct decision in declining Brandon Guyer’s 2019 option.

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians made the first couple of decisions of what will undoubtedly be many this offseason when they made decisions on the team options for Carlos Carrasco and Brandon Guyer.

To no one’s surprise the Indians exercised their option on Carrasco ($9 million for an ace like Cookie is a steal); however, to the surprise of some, the Tribe declined the option on outfielder Brandon Guyer.

While the option was for only $3 million, the Tribe decided it wasn’t worth it and instead will be giving him a $250,000 buyout, making Guyer a free agent and I have to say, it was the right move.

Why it was the right decision

It may come as a mild surprise to some that I absolutely agree with the Tribe’s decision to pass on Guyer. After all, I’m a big fan and love what he brings with the bat against left-handed pitching.

But at the end of the day, Guyer has just not lived up to expectations the last two seasons. After a huge debut in 2016 with the club after being acquired at the trade deadline, he’s been essentially a replacement level player the last two seasons.

Again, those numbers don’t fully paint how valuable Guyer can be to a team like the Indians. He did put up a very good 120 wRC+ and .800-plus OPS against left-handed pitching this past season.

He can be a very effective platoon bat and has even been relatively league average with the club in the outfield (which is light years ahead of what else the Tribe threw out there in the corner outfield spots for most of the year).

But for as good as he was against lefties, he was equally bad against right-handed pitching. He posted some pretty massive splits, which drove down his overall batting line. Ultimately, the Indians just don’t have the payroll or roster flexibility (right now) to carry his salary and roster spot.

According to FanGraphs, he was worth just $700,000 the last two years combined and $1.3 million in 2018 (was a negative value player in 2017). Hard for a small market like Cleveland to commit $3 million to a guy who hasn’t shown he was worth it in a couple of years.

This decision doesn’t mean he is gone for good

Perhaps the biggest thing to take away from yesterday’s decision is that it does not close the door on Guyer potentially coming back to the Tribe in 2019. Yes, his option was declined and yes, he’s a free agent, but he’s free to sign with anyone, including the Indians.

Given the numbers I mentioned above, or rather lack of numbers, it’s not a stretch to think that Guyer could have a hard time finding a team this winter. There are lots of big names out there so a guy like Guyer could fall through the cracks.

The Indians aren’t the only team that has payroll constraints and definitely aren’t the only team to use numbers like WAR to judge how much a player is worth in free agency. Never say never, but I’d be surprised if many teams are lining up to give Guyer a guaranteed deal in 2019, much less a deal for $3 million or more. He seems primed to get a deal similar to Austin Jackson in 2017 or Rajai Davis in 2018 – a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp.

The Indians will certainly entertain (love?) the idea of bringing Guyer back on a deal like that. They will add at least one outfielder on a minor league deal this winter and perhaps multiple ones (Melky Cabrera was another they got this past year like that).

And even if Guyer is looking at a major league deal, it’d probably be for a lower base than his option but with incentives. Injuries have been a problem and any team would likely want to protect against those. The Tribe could be willing to give him something like a $1 million base with up to $2 million in incentives.

Honestly what the Tribe did with Guyer yesterday is what they should have done with Michael Brantley last fall. While Brantley obviously had a huge rebound year and easily earned all of his $12 million option, he never was going to get that on the open market.

The Indians hurt themselves financially picking up the option. They appear to have wised up this year and didn’t make a similar mistake with Guyer.

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So what are your thoughts, do you agree with the Tribe’s decision to decline Guyer’s option? Or did you think $3 million was a fair price for a platoon player? Let us know in the comments below.