For the third time this season, the Indians have cut bait with a veteran brought in during the spring to help out the thin offense.
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was designated for assignment prior to Wednesday’s game between Cleveland and the Oakland Athletics to make room for catcher Eric Haase. The 26-year-old, already on the 40-man roster, was needed in town after Roberto Perez left Tuesday night’s game with concussion-like symptoms.
While Perez passed the concussion tests, he will still be unable to play for several days, leaving just backup backstop Kevin Plawecki on the roster. In need of some extra insurance in the lineup while Perez is unavailable, Haase was recalled from Triple-A Columbus and Gonzalez was the roster casualty to make it happen.
Gonzalez, 33, had shown better value than expected defensively while playing both corner outfield spots for the Indians, but the bat had not come along as fast as the team may have hoped. With a slew of young outfield options on the roster and others still waiting in the minors at Columbus, the front office opted to take a look at the army of inconsistent younger players battling for playing time. Gonzalez was eating up at bats from others and not giving the lineup enough production where it needed it the most.
In 30 games for the Indians this season since he was brought up from Triple-A, Gonzalez slashed .210/.282/.276 with 22 hits. Just three of those had fallen in for extra bases (one double, two homers) and he had driven in only seven runs. He signed very late in the spring, joining the Indians organization officially on March 19, and needed time at Columbus to get into game shape, but things had not picked up while playing frequently in the middle of the Cleveland lineup.
Gonzalez becomes the third veteran slashed from the roster in the first two full months of the season. Brad Miller was cut loose instead of a drastically slumping Eric Stamets and notably commented about the Indians front office not being interested in keeping the best players on the team. A few days later, Hanley Ramirez was also ejected from the clubhouse, despite being the team’s home run leader at the time, because of the overabundance of outfielders who could not find playing time at designated hitter because of the presence of the 35-year-old vet.
Miller is now playing at the Triple-A level for the New York Yankees, while Ramirez remains unsigned.
The reality of the situation is that, barring a dramatic increase in production from Gonzalez in the coming days, that his roster spot would have been in jeopardy in the near future. Tyler Naquin is nearing his return from the 10-day injured list, and Bradley Zimmer is inching closer to returning to action at the minor league level while working back from several injuries.
The Indians will have seven days to place Gonzalez on waivers, trade him, or give him his release.
Haase will join the Indians roster for the second time in his career. He was a September call-up last season and appeared in nine games (17 plate appearances) while getting a pair of singles and one run batted in while striking out six times.
In his third season of work at Triple-A, Haase was on pace to set a new career-high for homers in a season. In 30 games for the Clippers this season, he has homered eleven times. Nearly half of his hits have fallen in for extra bases while putting up a .245/.341/.564 slash. One of the more frequently mentioned players in the Tribe farm system to benefit from the “launch angle revolution”, Haase has maintained a high strikeout rate, doing so in 40 of his 129 plate appearances on the year.
It is unknown if he will get a starting nod over the next few days until Perez is able to resume catching duties for the Tribe.
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