Indians Designate Leonys Martin for Assignment
Bob Toth | On 22, Jun 2019
The Indians resolved some of the lack of playing time in the outfield on Saturday as the team designated Leonys Martin for assignment.
The initial basis for the roster move for the Indians was to create room on both the 25- and 40-man rosters for another starting pitcher with Mike Clevinger missing his turn in the rotation with a sprained left ankle. Aaron Civale, a 24-year right-hander pitching for Triple-A Columbus, was tabbed for the start but needed to be added to the roster. The Indians had to make the tough decision to remove yet another player from the mix in the clubhouse and this time it was the veteran Martin.
The removal of Martin from the roster may have been a surprise to some, as he was one of the deadline acquisitions of a year ago and he was expected to help stabilize an outfield that was seeing significant changes from 2018 to 2019. Despite making a full recovery from a life-threatening bacterial infection last season that ended his season after just six games with the Indians, Martin struggled to get the bat going consistently this season and some recent questionable efforts with hustle, even after a straight steal of home last weekend in Detroit, may have helped punch his ticket out of town.
With the emergence of rookie Oscar Mercado, a 24-year-old posting a .303/.357/.479 slash over 31 games to open his big league career, playing time has been getting increasingly limited for the surplus of outfielders on the roster. Jake Bauers has seen the bulk of his playing time in left field and Tyler Naquin and Jordan Luplow have occupied the right field corner, which has left Mercado without a regular home despite being the most productive of their hitters at present. The team also has Bradley Zimmer on the injured list and both Greg Allen and prospect Daniel Johnson waiting in the minors for spots to open up.
The 31-year-old Martin had put together several lengthy slumps at the plate this season, posting a .199/.276/.343 slash in 65 games as the team’s primary center fielder. He had hit homers at a relatively unexpected clip, parking nine souvenirs over outfield walls (just six short of his career high of 15 set in 143 games with Seattle in 2016), but some steadily high strikeout rates (78 in 264 plate appearances) had kept him off of the bases and from making a difference with his speed, which was once one of his stronger attributes. Even when on the base paths, he had been underproductive, stealing just four bases in nine attempts.
There were 22 different games this season that Martin did not reach via hit or walk, so his production when occurring was coming in bulk. After spending the first month and change hitting at the top of the lineup, a deep slump at the end of April led to his move down the lineup card. After hitting a high-water mark of .276 at game 17 on April 16, he was down to .202 on May 7 in the team’s 34th game. While he perked back up more than 30 points by May 26 (game 52), the last three and a half weeks have spelled another deep slump. In that 18-game stretch, he was 6-for-60 (.100) with a double, three homers, five walks, and 21 strikeouts.
Even had Martin been more productive to start the year, he was not a long term option for the Indians. On a $3 million contract for this season, he was a free agent after the year. The youth movement in Cleveland has seen several other expendable older players relieved of their time in an Indians uniform, including Brad Miller, Hanley Ramirez, and Carlos Gonzalez. Had Martin been putting up better numbers, the team may have sought to trade him by the deadline anyways to make room for the young crop of players that the team has been trying to take a consistent look at.
Civale got a late start to his season but has been on fire since, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in seven starts between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He has made just two starts for Columbus prior to being called up to replace Clevinger. He was a third round pick by the Indians in the 2016 draft out of Northeastern.
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