Can someone tell me what I’m missing here? The Cleveland Indians have been running out a group of outfielders that consists of:
- Michael Brantley: 1.4 fWAR, strictly a LF, has not been good defensively, great bat, not going anywhere, not great against LHP
- Lonnie Chisenhall: 0.8 fWAR, often injured, strictly a RF, hasn’t been bad on defense
- Tyler Naquin: 0.4 fWAR, not good when he leaves RF, awful against LHP
- Rajai Davis: 0.4 fWAR, still does his thing in the outfield, can’t hit LHP all of a sudden, not a great offensive option overall
- Greg Allen: -0.6 fWAR, some how bad in the field, worse at the plate, not an option for a playoff team
- Brandon Guyer: -0.4 fWAR, bad on defense, bad on offense, also not an option for a playoff team
That’s uhh, 2 fWAR between the, uh, six of them. Yikes. Only one of those guys handles LHP at all and he’s a LHH (Chisenhall). There are a number of LHP that the Indians could potentially face in the playoffs. Let’s go through a few:
- James Paxton
- Sean Manaea
- Dallas Keuchel
- CC Sabathia
- Chris Sale
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s one LHP for every potential team Cleveland could face in the playoffs. Whit Merrifield currently has a 182 wRC+ vs. LHP this season, which would lead the Cleveland Indians OF by a wide margin. He’s also rated very well in CF this season, posting a 17.8 UZR/150 in 110 innings. For better reference, Lorenzo Cain currently owns a 16.3 UZR/150 in CF and we all know how good he is.
Look, Whit Merrifield has been worth more in terms of fWAR by himself (3.2 fWAR) than the entire Cleveland Indians outfield has as a unit (2 fWAR). He hits lefties exceptionally well, better than every regular in Cleveland’s lineup other than Jose Ramirez. Even Edwin Encarnacion has struggled against LHP this season. Whit Merrifield would instantly become Cleveland’s best outfielder, and their 2nd best offensive player against LHP.
Another component of this involves Whit Merrifield’s current contract status. The Cleveland Indians are not a huge market. They can’t afford to dish out lots of big contracts and trading for rentals shouldn’t be their M-O. Whit Merrifield isn’t even eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 season. He’s an incredibly affordable option for any contender looking to keep their window open longer than three months.
Oh, by the way, Cleveland doesn’t exactly have a 2B option either. Enter Whit Merrifield.
So, obviously we haven’t seen any national rumors about Merrifield to Cleveland. I called in on MLB Network Radio’s show a few weeks ago and asked them what they thought, they didn’t give it much thought either.
What’s the problem? Why does this seem so obvious yet no one has even mentioned it?
I honestly couldn’t tell ya. Maybe Kansas City doesn’t want to trade Whit Merrifield into its own division (dumb). Maybe Cleveland simply doesn’t want to pay the price that Merrifield may require (reasonable). There’s also the chance that Cleveland doesn’t want to block one of their top prospects, Bradley Zimmer, from a spot in CF next season. My only issue with that is, Whit Merrifield is a primary 2B. If Zimmer takes over in CF in 2019, move Whit to 2B.
The Indians window appears to be to closing. Maybe not rapidly, but it’s certainly not as open as it’s been in the past. I am of the opinion that they ought to be doing everything in their power to help this 2018 team win before the White Sox and their loaded farm system start competing for the AL Central in a year or two. Whit Merrifield not only helps Cleveland make a World Series push in 2018, but can help keep this World Series window open for another year or three as well.
There’s obviously something I’m missing, but this makes too much sense to me.