The Cleveland Indians desperately need a better year from Jake Bauers in 2020 after trading a talented player to acquire him.
If that day ever comes.
Bauers came to Cleveland last December in the big three-team trade that saw Diaz go to Tampa Bay, Carlos Santana come back home, and Edwin Encarnacion go to Seattle. He was supposed to step in and end up being an everyday outfielder. Instead, he struggled and ended up getting demoted.
The young outfielder appeared in 117 games with a rough slash line of .226/.312/.371 and a WAR of -0.6. He also struck out 115 times in 372 at-bats. That was after striking out 104 times in only 323 at-bats a year prior with the Rays.
Meanwhile, Diaz became a key player for the Rays when he was healthy. He only appeared in 79 games, which was actually a career-high after he was not used in Cleveland for some reason I still don’t understand. He also hit 14 home runs after building a reputation for not being able to lift the ball. It’s crazy what a little bit of proper coaching can do.
But Diaz is gone and the Indians are invested in Bauers. He came to town as a top prospect and him playing extended time in Columbus next year could be considered a failure. The only way that isn’t true is if the Indians re-sign someone like Yasiel Puig and another free-agent outfielder. Bauers being pushed out is one thing. Him being needed and just not being good enough is bad news for the team.
Fans will only get more frustrated if Diaz continues to succeed at a time when the Indians could have used him. Though no one should be mad at Yandy himself. He is a gem.
Right now the Indians have seven outfielders on the 40-man roster. One of those is Tyler Naquin, who is likely to miss most of the year with his injury recovery. Another is Franmil Reyes, who may end up as the DH for most of the year.
That leaves Bauers, Greg Allen, Bradley Zimmer, Oscar Mercado, and Jordan Luplow. Mercado is the only sure starter of that bunch. Luplow is going to end up in a platoon role, because Francona, and Bauers should end up starting the year as the left-fielder, perhaps in a platoon of his own.
The Indians absolutely cannot afford to have a repeat of 2019 where the bottom of the lineup is filled with guys who just aren’t getting it done. It kills the offense. Bauers was part of that problem last year and I am curious to see how long a leash he has if he gets off to a slow start.
2020 could be the last year the team has Francisco Lindor and the goal has to be a World Series title. Bauers was acquired to help now and we can consider 2019 a development year. 2020 has to be different.