When the Indians traded for Andrew Miller, fans knew the team would be aggressive until the deadline passed. With a trade for Jonathan Lucroy reportedly agreed to the same day, the Indians were likely to be done wheeling and dealing. However, after Lucroy nixed the proposed trade, Tribe fans expected the front office to make another major move to compensate for the loss.
What they did not expect was outfielder Brandon Guyer, a player known more for being hit by baseballs than for hitting them. Guyer was not on anyone’s potential trade lists. There was speculation the Tribe would try to acquire his teammate on the Tampa Bay Rays, Steve Pearce. No one had heard anything about Guyer. When he was traded for two non-prospect minor leaguers, it came as a great surprise.
However, it made sense. Guyer can play all three outfield positions. He also hits lefties extremely well. With Rajai Davis the only true right-handed bat in the outfield, the Tribe needed another lefty killer to give Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall more time off. The hole could be especially glaring come October, as switch-hitting regular Abraham Almonte is ineligible for post-season play due to his PED suspension.
The under-the-radar move has worked out well so far. Guyer has posted a .326/.436/.457 slash line in 19 games for the Tribe. He’s played left field in all of his 15 starts and all but one of his appearances, allowing Almonte to move to right field to give Chisenhall days off. In 46 at bats, Guyer has slugged one home run and three doubles while driving in eight.
Guyer was brought on to do one thing – hit lefties – and he’s done it very well with the Tribe. Incredibly, he’s posted an OPS of almost 1.000 against southpaws (.924) after the trade. In fact, Guyer has the sixth-highest OPS against lefties in the AL among hitters with at least 50 at bats. His 1.028 mark against southpaws is equivalent to what David Ortiz has produced overall. Terry Francona can confidently pencil Guyer’s name into the lineup whenever a lefty takes the hill. And when the right-handed reliever eventually comes in? Well, that’s when you pinch-hit Naquin (.954 OPS vs. RHP) or Chisenhall (.817).
The platoon works like a charm.
The other skill that Guyer possesses is getting hit by pitches. He is baseball’s hit by pitch king. Among all hitters since 1921 with at least 500 plate appearances, Guyer has the highest career HBP%. While with the Tribe, Guyer has already been hit five times, tying him for the team lead with Davis. That’s right – he’s played in less than 20 games and already leads the team in HBP. It’s just insane how often he gets hit by pitches.
To add on to all that, Guyer has arguably been one of the Tribe’s best defenders in the outfield. He ranks third on the team in defensive runs saved, trailing both Chisenhall and Almonte by a run. He also hasn’t committed an error in 116 total innings, something no other regular can claim. Small sample size alarms are ringing loudly, of course. But Guyer was never described as a great outfielder in his career, only average or slightly above. That’s all the team asks of platoon players on the defensive side of the ball.
A minor and unexpected acquisition at the deadline, Guyer has been a solid part of the Tribe’s outfield rotation. To say he has been the steal of the deadline would be an overstatement. To say the front office knew exactly what they were doing when they acquired him would be accurate. They identified a flaw in the team and solved it with a minor trade. Now, Guyer can help them on the run to the postseason. Isn’t that what the deadline is about?
Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero