The Indians have an outfield problem. Again.

Major shakeup may be needed for upgrade

Kyle Lewandowski
November 28, 2018 - 2:27 pm
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) — The Cleveland Indians entered the offseason with a need at virtually every position in the outfield. After Lonnie Chisenhall agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, questions arose as to what the plan will be as the positional need grew into an even bigger problem.

With Michael Brantley's value likely taking him to a new team in 2019, the Indians lose the only staple in their outfield unit from 2018.

After reaching the World Series and falling to the Chicago Cubs in seven games in 2016, the Indians have had to piece together their outfield in an attempt to complement the group they have in the infield and on the mound. They have asked players like Abraham Almonte, Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin to be everyday starters. They brought in the likes of Austin Jackson, Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis on one-year deals while trading for Jay Bruce in 2017 and Leonys Martin last season to try and patch the glaring hole.

The Indians have known for the better part of three seasons now they have an outfield problem and have somehow failed to put themselves in a better position heading into 2019.

The club has six outfielders on its 40-man roster ahead of the rule-5 draft which will take place December 14 as the winter meetings come to an end. Greg Allen, Jordan Luplow, Leonys Martin, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer are the players protected from being selected in the draft.

Allen began to develop nicely after being pushed into a near everyday role last season. Luplow and Mercado are recent acquisitions with limited big league experience. Naquin is coming off an injury plagued season in which he only played 61 games, all before August. Martin is getting healthy and ready for spring training after fighting a life-threatening bacterial infection at the end of last season. Zimmer will not be ready to resume full baseball activities until March at the earliest after arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder back in July.

Questions everywhere.

As always, the organization will be navigating the offseason with limited resources financially to upgrade a position which has needed it ever so much.

Those limitations have brought reports that the Indians have been shopping seemingly all their starting pitching along with Yan Gomes' name being brought up in trade possibilities. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer have all been brought up in reports recently and according to Bob Nightengale of the USA Today, Bauer is the most likely to be moved.

One would assume the Indians are looking to upgrade the outfield with one of those moves. The infield is in good hands with the likes of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Yonder Alonzo and even with Francona's reluctance to play Yandy Diaz at third in the past, Diaz looks to be the front runner to lock down the position as of now, and while he might not posses the power desired at the position, a deserving one at that.

While Chisenhall has had his injury issues the past few seasons, the Indians letting one of their own walk away for less than three million dollars raises concern over how much money they are playing with heading into 2019.

The likes of AJ Pollock, Marwin Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen seem like pipe dreams at this stage. The more likely outcome, outside of a trade seems like a one-year deal to the effect of a Andrew Jackson or Rajai Davis similar to years past.

The Indians are likely to repeat as American League Central division winners for the fourth straight season in 2019 but in order to catch the big guns in the American League an outfield upgrade is needed and the reality of needing to trade one of their all-star starters to do so is starting to set in.

As of now, it looks like the Tribe would roll out some combination of Allen, Luplow, Martin and Naquin to begin 2019, pending the availability of Zimmer to begin the year. That doesn't look like the outfield of a World Series contender, something the Indians absolutely view themselves as heading into the new year.

Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff are well respected throughout the game and they have done enough to keep this team afloat until divisional series exits each of the past two seasons. This offseason is the most pivotal in recent memory for the Indians president and general manager with the possibility of a major shakeup on the horizon and it may be needed.