On Saturday, I mentioned in passing that the Indians optioned Jody Gerut to Buffalo. The biggest issue with Jody, according to the team, is that he doesn’t currently have the mobility to play right field. According to Hal Lebowitz (sorry, no official link, although you can find a fan transcript here), Gerut is saying that he’s in Buffalo because the Indians don’t want him to be arbitration-eligible after the season. As it stands right now, Jody has just over 2 seasons’ worth of major-league service time. Arbitration kicks in automatically for players with three seasons of service time and a percentage of players between two and three years of service time. While Gerut does have a point, I doubt the Indians are keeping him in Buffalo for that reason alone, given the team’s offensive needs.
There are few people who would argue that the Indians don’t have a weak-hitting outfield. Coco Crisp, who is really a center fielder, is playing left field, and Casey Blake, who was formerly a third baseman, is playing right. Grady Sizemore is the only guy who really is a good offensive and defensive fit at his position. The team needs more punch at its corners, especially its corner outfielders. Blake (-2.1 VORP) is the biggest culprit, but Coco Crisp (.415 SLG) in my mind doesn’t provide enough power or on-base ability (.333) to be a legitimate left fielder.
Enter Gerut, and eventually, Juan Gonzalez. Both have at least some track records of offensive production, although in Gerut’s case that track record is based primarily off his 2003 season. Juan Gonzalez, when healthy, is a pretty good hitter. But for Juan, “when healthy” over the past couple of years has meant “almost never.” Gerut is obviously going to be ready sooner than Juan, but Gonzalez could be in Cleveland by the middle of June.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just bringing Gerut or Gonzalez up to Cleveland; someone has to go. Casey Blake was just extended over the offseason (a move that I didn’t like when it happened), Ryan Ludwick is out of options, and given the interest in Michael Restovich, the Indians aren’t getting him through waivers, and Aaron Boone can’t go to the minors without his consent. The Indians have about ten days to mull over what to do, and short of Boone agreeing quietly to go to Buffalo, whatever move they make will have some long-term consequences.
Then there’s Grady Sizemore, who has several options left. Of course he’s given the team no real reason to send him back, but thanks to baseball rules, he’s a likely candidate to lose out in the outfield shuffle. I think that barring a trade, Sizemore will get optioned, Crisp will go to center, Blake to left, and Gerut will return to his accustomed position in right field. And the Indians will still have two corner players hitting under the Mendoza line playing every day.