Cleveland Indians need help versus right-handed pitching

Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Indians
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Outfielders

Perhaps the most obvious statement in baseball is that the Cleveland Indians need help offensively in the outfield. Jordan Luplow destroys left-handed pitching and Josh Naylor had a great last week to the season, but outside of that it’s very ugly. The Indians could clearly use a star player out there, no question; however, simply adding a platoon bat, one that can hit right-handed pitching in similar fashion to how Luplow does lefties would go a long way. Here’s a look at a few of the realistic options the Tribe could get and their numbers against right-handed pitching the last three seasons.

Joc Pederson – .246 AVG, .335 OBP, .543 SLG, .878 OPS, .365 wOBA, 131 wRC+

Pederson has been my number one free agent target all winter. He’s a perfect fit in Cleveland given his age, position (can play all three outfield spots and first base), and ability to hit right-handed pitching so well. Yes, that batting average is lower than most fans would like but that 131 wRC+ is a mere four points behind Jose Ramirez. Pederson may be too expensive for Cleveland, but he has a 42 wRC+ against left-handed pitching over the last three seasons. He’s a platoon player and that may give the Indians a chance to sign him.

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Eddie Rosario – .279 AVG, .315 OBP, .520 SLG, .834 OPS, .345 wOBA, 117 wRC+

Rosario was non-tendered by the Twins earlier this offseason as they didn’t feel he was worth a salary approaching $10 million. It seemed like a weird move given his ability to hit, but it could be the Tribe’s gain. Rosario isn’t horrible against lefties (90 wRC+) so maybe he still plays every day but he’d be the Tribe’s second best bat against righties behind Ramirez by a decent margin.

Matt Joyce – .256 AVG, .367 OBP, .392 SLG, .759 OPS, .334 wOBA, 110 wRC+

Joyce is far from the best player on this list and he’s one of the oldest. But he also may be the cheapest. He was with the Tribe in spring training a couple years ago and the team inexplicitly cut him. He’s been nothing but solid the last two years against right-handed pitching. His 15.1% walk rate would be huge and he’s a guy that wouldn’t block a young guy and can move to the bench if needed.

Andrew Benintendi – .280 AVG, .361 OBP, .449 SLG, .810 OPS, .348 wOBA, 114 wRC+

Benintendi isn’t a free agent, but I’m including him since there’s been wide speculation that he could be moved by the Red Sox soon. He has two years of control left and is still quite young. 2020 was horrible but at worst he looks like he could make an ideal platoon with Luplow in either left or right field. The potential is there as he has shown flashes of greatness and has a 95 wRC+ against southpaws (so not worthless there). A few teams appear interested, but none could use him more than the Tribe.

Shin-Soo Choo – .279 AVG, .392 OBP, .488 SLG, .880 OPS, .376 wOBA, 129 wRC+

Choo of course had several great years with the Indians early in his career. Things didn’t go so well in Texas after signing that huge deal, but one thing he’s still done is hit right-handed pitching. Age is an issue, and he may have finally hit the wall in 2020, but that .376 wOBA is the same as Ramirez’s and the .392 OBP would be by far the best on the club. Calling him an outfielder is a bit of a stretch so Reyes would have to move out there more, but the bat could be a huge boost.

Others like Kole Calhoun (103 wRC+ vs RHP), Jackie Bradley Jr (103), and Yasiel Puig (119 wRC+) could be options. However you got Calhoun who isn’t the most enticing and Puig seems like a longshot given how the team didn’t bring him back after 2019 (and he sat out 2020). Bradley feels like a good fit but the bat hasn’t always been there. I’d of course love a guy like Michael Brantley but again, trying to be realistic here.