When the party starts again at Progressive Field in 2017, the Cleveland Indians will have their human piñata back in uniform and ready for action.
The team announced on Wednesday that it had come to terms on a two-year contract extension for the 2017 and 2018 seasons with outfielder Brandon Guyer with a club option for 2019. The contract buys out his final two years of arbitration eligibility at $2 million for the 2017 season and $2.75 million for 2018. The team option for the 2019 season could earn Guyer another $3 million, but if not picked up, would result in a $250,000 buyout. There are also additional incentives over the final two years of the pact.
The Indians have a long history of avoiding arbitration hearings with its players and this offseason will prove no different. With Guyer’s contract terms settled, the Tribe has now come to agreements with all eight of its arbitration-eligible players for the 2017 season. Cleveland finalized financials with pitchers Trevor Bauer and Dan Otero last Thursday and followed by doing the same with relievers Cody Allen, Zach McAllister, and Bryan Shaw, starting pitcher Danny Salazar, and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall on Friday, the final day figures had to be exchanged with eligible players.
The Indians have now gone to arbitration hearings with players just one year since 1991, when the club won a pair of cases in 2014 (with reliever Vinnie Pestano and pitcher Josh Tomlin).
Guyer, who turns 31 on January 28, went from an under-the-radar trade deadline acquisition to a significant member of manager Terry Francona‘s outfield platoons. His strong situational hitting from the right side of the plate was a key selling point for the club, which was in need of some right-handed help off of the bench and some depth in the outfield.
The versatile three-position outfielder worked in left and right field for Francona in 38 games for the Tribe in 2016 after being acquired on August 1 from the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league outfielder Nathan Lukes and pitcher Jhonleider Salinas. A magnet for baseballs, Guyer led the club with eight hit by pitches in his two months with Clevleand and was hit in total a Major League leading 31 times in his 101 games over the course of the season. It marked the second consecutive season that he was at the top of the American League when serving as a pin cushion and gave him sole ownership of the second-most hit by pitches ever by a member of an AL team (Don Baylor had 35 for Boston in 1986).
Guyer did his job against left-handers, as he was one of the top hitters against southpaws in the AL last season, slashing a combined .336/.464/.557 against them between Cleveland and Tampa Bay in 2016. While he hit .328 with a .435 on-base percentage and .517 slugging in his 69 plate appearance stretch for the Indians, he was also effective against right-handed pitching in 27 plate appearances, putting up a .348/.444/.348 line on his eight singles.
He hit .340 at Progressive Field and stepped up his production as a whole as he became more acclimated to his new club, hitting .300 in August before batting .387 in September. The production carried into the postseason, as he hit .333 over ten games, including a three-hit game in the ALDS against Boston. He hit .300 in the World Series against the Chicago Cubs, the club that drafted him in the fifth round in 2007 and traded him to Tampa in 2011, getting two singles and a double, drawing four walks, suffering two more hit by pitches, driving in two runs, and scoring four times in 16 plate appearances while working in all seven games.
He is expected to return to the right field corner to platoon with the left-handed hitting Chisenhall, but could spot Michael Brantley in left field to give the returning veteran some time off. With some extensive work in center field over the course of his career, Guyer could also see some time for the Indians in spring training and on into the regular season in center field, where the club currently has Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte as its top two center field options, with outliers Yandy Diaz and Bradley Zimmer waiting in the wings at Triple-A Columbus if and when needed throughout the year.
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