Brandon Guyer might not have been the name on the Tampa Bay Rays that you were watching in the hours prior to the non-waivers trade deadline on Monday afternoon, but his addition to the Indians roster should give manager Terry Francona a little bit of flexibility to his current mixture of outfielders.
Steve Pearce, a Rays infielder whose name had been linked to the Indians on multiple occasions in the days leading to the deadline was instead traded back to Baltimore, a team he has played with multiple times over the course of his career.
Guyer has spent time in all three outfield spots this season with the Rays, giving him plenty of versatility and providing Francona with plenty of ways to juggle his roster once again. The acquisition will allow the Indians to move Jose Ramirez to the hot corner instead of getting him at bats filling the vacancy created by Michael Brantley’s extended and on-going absence from left field. The addition of Guyer made third baseman Juan Uribe expendable, as he was designated for assignment on Monday to make room on the roster for All-Star reliever Andrew Miller.
The Indians were already overloaded in the outfield, when considering Francona has been looking for playing time for Ramirez, Rajai Davis, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, and even Erik Gonzalez. With Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana manning the first base and designated hitter positions on a nightly basis, Francona would be ill-advised to try to take their bats out of the lineup in order to insert one of the plethora of outfielders on the lineup card as the team’s DH.
The Indians will essentially look to replace Uribe’s .206 average, seven doubles, nine homers, and 25 RBI with Guyer’s bat.
Guyer should help immediately because he is right-handed and his splits give credence to the thought of him as a successful platoon mate in the outfield picture. Of all of the players that Francona has been rotating through the outfield spots on the lineup card, only Davis is strictly a right-handed hitter. Naquin and Chisenhall are both left-handed, while Ramirez and Almonte are switch-hitters. Gonzalez bats right-handed, but he has just one hit and one walk in nine plate appearances in limited action as the team’s utility guy.
Looking beyond the short term future, Almonte is not eligible for postseason play due to his suspension during spring training and subsequent 80-game ban to start the season, so Guyer would presumably help the pending playoff roster in October as well.
Now, against a left-handed starter, Francona could conceivably play Guyer, Davis, and Almonte/Gonzalez across the outfield with Ramirez still in the lineup at third base, removing all of the left-handed bats in the lineup with the exception of Jason Kipnis, who is generally on the card regardless of the pitching probable’s arm of dominance. If/When Brantley returns to the lineup, Guyer could get increased time in right, platooning with Chisenhall since Brantley has not been restricted in the lineup by the opposing pitcher’s arm of choice.
The 30-year-old Guyer entered the pro game when he was selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft out of Virginia by the Chicago Cubs. They later dealt him to Tampa Bay in the same trade that sent Chris Archer to the Rays. Guyer emerged in a handful of games in 2011 and 2012 before seeing more regular playing time in 2014. He appeared in 128 games in 2015, hitting .265 with eight homers, 21 doubles, and 28 RBI.
This season, he has hit .241 with a .347 on-base percentage and a .406 slugging mark, supplying 12 doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 18 RBI to the Rays lineup. He has also been hit by 23 pitches this season, most in the Majors and just one short of his career high set last season, when he led the American League.
As the Rays outfield was hurt by injuries to Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Mikie Mahtook, and Desmond Jennings in the first half of the season, Tampa needed to use Guyer more frequently and did not play him to the splits, which likely caused his overall numbers some damage. In addition, Guyer himself missed almost all of June while recovering from a hamstring injury.
He had 148 at bats against right-handed pitching, putting together a .196/.277/.324 slash line with eight doubles, a triple, three homers, and nine RBI. Against left-handers in 64 at bats, he slashed .344/.488/.594 with four doubles, four homers, and nine RBI.
Utilized in a platoon role against southpaws, the Indians and Francona could play to his strengths while helping an area of weakness on the Tribe roster.
In regards to his outfield experience, he worked the majority of the time as a left fielder in his career, appearing in 153 games there with 116 starts (1,059 innings). He has a .988 fielding percentage in left, including a .951 mark this season (two errors).
He has played right field the second most frequently in his career, but not this season (just 12 games and 80 innings there in 2016). In 65 games over four seasons in right field, he has yet to commit an error there in 383 1/3 innings of work.
As a center fielder, he has a career .979 fielding percentage, appearing in 52 games (36 starts) and 340 innings. He has seen more time in center this season than normal, playing there 18 times (14 starts).
He may not be the flashiest of names or a stellar defender, but Guyer grants the Indians additional flexibility in the event that Brantley remains out longer than hoped. His strong numbers against lefties would be a huge plus off of the Cleveland bench in the event that Brantley returns to the lineup and stays healthy, and he acts as a good insurance plan in the event that Brantley does not come back the same. At the cost of a new High-A outfielder (Nathan Lukes) and an Arizona League pitcher (Jhonleider Salinas), it was a low cost, low risk move by a team needing a little something extra from the right side of the plate.
Photo: AP Photo/Steve Nesius