Tribe Needs a Bat, But Not That Kind of Bat
By Craig Gifford
Offensively, the Cleveland Indians are a bit challenged.
When it comes to the key offensive statistics, the Tribe stands in the middle of the pack or lower among the 30 Major League Baseball teams. They are 14th in runs scored (300), 17th in batting average (.253) and 22nd in home runs (59).
At the moment, the only players that inspire much confidence among the fan base when they enter the batter’s box are Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Shin-Soo Choo. Lonnie Chisenhall is getting to that level. Other guys on the team, like Carlos Santana and Johnny Damon, have struggled uncharacteristically at the dish.
With that said, the Indians probably need some more offensive firepower if they are to seriously contend in the AL Central Division all season or compete in the postseason, should they get there. In recent weeks, fans of the team have been vociferous about their club needing another bat. That is all well and good. They should go after another bat.
What the Indians should not do is pick up someone from the free agent pile. They tried that with Damon and he has struggled, though he has picked things up a notch in the last week. Right now, there are two big names – or formerly big names – to be had on the market. Outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and former Indian Manny Ramirez were both cut loose from minor league contracts last week. Ramirez could not crack the Oakland A’s roster and Guerrero could not reach the big leagues with Toronto. Both were great once, both are probably done. Both drew the attention of the fans earlier this week.
Here’s to hoping the two did not draw much attention from Cleveland’s upper management. Yes, the Indians are in need of offensive help. No, it should not come in the form of an aging, one-time superstar.
Ramirez and Guerrero were both great once. Ramirez has not been truly great since 2008 when he socked 37 home runs and 121 RBI between Boston and the Dodgers. It has been downhill from there, culminating in a brief, five-game stint with Tampa in 2011. That ended when Ramirez was handed a 100-game suspension for his second substance violation. He retired, only to make a comeback this spring with Oakland. After 17 games in AAA-Sacramento, he was cut loose with no homers and a solid .302 batting average.
Guerrero’s story is different, yet he too is on the downward spiral. Vlad had a very good season as recently as 2010, going long 29 times, for 115 RBI. He batted .300 that season in Texas. This after it looked like he was on the way out in 2009. Even last season in Baltimore, Guerrero appeared to have a little left in the tank. He batted a respectable .290 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI. The 37-year-old could not find work in the spring. Toronto decided to take a look at him. In eight AAA games, he also did not go long once, batting .303.
The power seems to be out for the two aging sluggers. Neither would appear to be even a decent bet to be able to help at the top level of the game at this point. The scrap heap is not the place for the Tribe to go searching for the players it needs. Ramirez might be a nice story for his homecoming and even draw more fans to the ballpark for nostalgic purposes. Guerrero does not even have that.
Cleveland would be far better served to take one last, long look at a guy like Matt LaPorta, who had very similar numbers to Guerrero in 2011. LaPorta had 11 homers and 53 RBI in 352 at bats compared to Guerrero’s numbers in 562 at bats.
The hope would be the Indians could work a trade for someone like Josh Willingham of the Twins or the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano. Both are playing well and neither is past their prime. That is what the Indians need.
They need someone who can carry an offense for a stretch of games. They need someone with pop in the bat. Guerrero and Ramirez were great once and may be in the Hall of Fame some day. They should not wear a Cleveland Indians uniform this season.