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Donald’s Up and Down Act Should End at Up, With Cleveland

Donald’s Up and Down Act Should End at Up, With Cleveland

| On 02, Nov 2012

After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. Today, we examine a player who is out of minor league options, meaning they must be on the 25-man roster.

For the last three years with the Indians, Jason Donald has been a yo-yo. He has bounced between Triple-A Buffalo and Cleveland on numerous occasions. Next year, the up and down act will end, one way or the other.

Donald is now out of options and the Tribe cannot send him to the minors any more, without exposing him to waivers. For all the reasons that would be risky, Cleveland should figure on hanging onto the super utility player rather than letting him walk away. Donald is good enough that another team would surely grab him if given the chance.

Granted, 2012 was down year for Donald at the plate. However, he battled injuries all season. The .202 batting average was hopefully a mirage. He hit a good .318 in 2011 and was at .253 in his rookie year of 2010. There is obvious talent.

A throw in for the 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, Donald is most known for his versatility. Notably, he can take the field almost anywhere on the diamond. This past season, alone, in 43 games, Donald played all three outfield spots, shortstop, second base and third base. He did not make an error in the outfield. Middle infield, where Donald is most naturally suited, he was a little better at short. He committed one error in 10 games and one error in eight games at second. He was shaky at third, with four errors in 12 games.

There are not may players in the game who can take the field almost anywhere the way Donald can and be fairly effective in each spot. It’s a valuable commodity and would make him a wanted guy if put on the waiver wire. So many teams are looking for utility players who can play anywhere and not hurt them at the plate. This past season, notwithstanding, Donald fits that bill. Being able to play so many spots gives a team flexibility. Instead of a utility outfielder and utility infielder taking up two spots, you can condence the utility role into one and have another bullpen spot if desired or an extra bat on the bench.

The Indians would be wise to keep Donald and have in the majors. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis both faded in the second half of this past season. He can spell both of them and give them a chance to rest during the year to not hit a wall later. Donald can be insurance at third if Lonnie Chisenhall does not prove ready to take the everyday job at the hot corner. Outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley have both had injuries in the past. Donald would be nice to have on hand in case either of them go down.

Along with having a guy on hand who can fill in for almost anyone, the Indians do not really have many other options to take the utility infield spot. Cord Phelps has not proven to be ready for the majors. He has done well in the minor leagues, but very little in the big leagues. Donald is a better option than Juan Diaz. Jack Hannahan probably will not be back in 2012. Even so, Donald at 28 years old has greater upside than the 33-year-old Hannahan.

Cleveland should plan to bring Donald into spring training as the utility infielder/outfielder. The job should be his, unless he has a completely horrendous Cactus League campaign. Barring something hideous in March, Donald should be sitting the bench and taking periodic spots in the field in Progressive Field come April.

Poto: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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