Cleveland Indians: MLB Right-Handed Bats That Should Interest the Indians

Evan VogelContributor IIIJune 30, 2012

Cleveland Indians: MLB Right-Handed Bats That Should Interest the Indians

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    Just like Jason Kipnis, pictured above, the entire Cleveland Indians roster tends to bat left-handed in their everyday lineup.

    Outside of Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan, Lou Marson and Jose Lopez, the only other right-handed hitters on the Tribe's roster are Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera, both switch-hitters. However, in the comments section recently (and in articles), we forget that the Indians have six left-handed bats (Kipnis, Kotchman, Choo, Hannahan, Chisenhall (heading to DL) and Brantley, as well as the four right-handed bats and two switch-hitters mentioned above.

    The glaring issue is that the Indians are hitting .217/.302/.333 against left-handed pitching; however, the right-handed bats and switch-hitters aren't helping much against lefties in 2012:

    —Asdrubal Cabrera: .299/.384/.483, five doubles, one triple, three home runs, 13 RBI, 7:10 K:BB in 87 at-bats.
    —Carlos Santana: .200/.326/.229, two doubles, no triples or home runs, 10 RBI, 14:14 K:BB in 70 at-bats.
    —Jose Lopez: .255/.265/.468, four doubles, no triples, two home runs, nine RBI, 5:1 K:BB in 47 at-bats.
    —Shelley Duncan: .213/.329/.377, four doubles, no triples, two home runs, seven RBI, 16:11 K:BB in 61 at-bats.
    —Aaron Cunningham: .167/.306/.200, one double, no triples or home runs, one RBI, 6:6 K:BB in 30 at-bats.
    —Lou Marson: .233/.303/.433, four doubles, one triple, no home runs, three RBI, 4:3 K:BB in 30 at-bats.

    Overall, a .237/.330/.375 line, inflated by the fact that Asdrubal Cabrera is a star. The rest of the Indians are not even as good as this line, based on the overall numbers above. They need help to survive. Where are they going to find that help? Via trades, of course.

    The following slides will show some names of players, along with their stats against lefties, that the Indians could trade for to help the Indians get back on track and strengthen their lineup.

Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle Mariners

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    Remember this guy? A three-team trade in December of 2008 had the Indians sending Gutierrez to Seattle and the Mets acquiring J.J. Putz and Jeremy Reed. The Tribe got Luis Valbuena and Joe Smith in the deal.

    Gutierrez is a well-above average center fielder. He also, when healthy, has been a solid contributor against left-handed pitching, even playing half of his games in Seattle.

    Since 2009, Gutierrez is hitting .293/.361/.412 with 22 doubles, 15 home runs, 46 RBI and 76:42 K:BB in 396 at-bats against left-handed pitching. He isn't hurt as often as Grady Sizemore has been, but it is concerning if you were to trade for him.

    Gutierrez is scheduled to make $7 million in 2013 and $7.5 million or a $500,000 buyout for 2014. While it is a lot of money for the small-market Indians, it is an upgrade defensively and a right-handed bat. Gutierrez is also a solid hitter and may produce more power outside of the power-sapping Safeco Field in Seattle.

    Since the Mariners are used to living without Gutierrez and they have Michael Saunders performing well, if the Indians are willing to take on his contract, he may not cost them too much. He is on the disabled list for the next seven days due to a concussion, suffered when he got hit in the face by a pickoff throw.

Cody Ross, Boston Red sox

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    Cody Ross is having a sensational year for the Red Sox, and the Sox have to be thanking whoever they worship (Jobu?) for his health and production, especially with the injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford in 2012.

    Ross is hitting .277/.345/.578 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI in 173 at-bats this season. He missed some time earlier in the year with a broken foot but has been hitting very well since being activated on June 19. However, there is more value than what you see here.

    Ross has hit .284/.351/.577 with 52 doubles, four triples, 52 home runs, 156 RBI and a 148:74 K:BB in 820 career at-bats against left-handed pitching. Very impressive. You have to wonder, why would the Red Sox deal him when they can put him in right when Ellsbury and Crawford return, though?

    It's highly unlikely, as the Red Sox don't have depth in the outfield anyway, but the Indians and their fans can dream. Or...they can wait until Cody Ross hits free agency after the 2012 season and sign him on their own.

Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies

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    This could be another one of those why-would-they-do-that types of slides, but if the Philadelphia Phillies become sellers, Victorino is a free agent after the 2012 season, so they could decide to move the "Flyin' Hawaiian." The Phillies are struggling to stay afloat with the injuries to Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, and the inability of Cliff Lee to win games suddenly.

    Shane Victorino is a career .277/.343/.434 hitter. As another switch-hitter, he provides versatility to the lineup, and he is the prototypical leadoff hitter, allowing Shin-Soo Choo to slide into a production role again.

    Victorino is a much-better hitter as a righty, .299/.373/.515 with 70 doubles, 13 triples, 39 home runs, 121 RBI and a 123:94 K:BB in 987 at-bats against lefties in his career. His .270/.333/.406 against right-handers isn't awful either.

    Victorino would probably be pricey, even as a rental, but he is a bat and a very effective player who could change the whole Indians lineup, just by putting him at the top of the order.

Jonny Gomes, Oakland Athletics

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    A career .279/.376/.500 line against left-handers, with 49 doubles, five triples, 42 home runs, 136 RBI and a 237:113 K:BB in 838 at-bats. Gomes has been on the move in recent years, from the Rays to the Reds, Reds to the Nationals and finally landing in Oakland.

    Gomes will be a free agent after the 2012 season and the A's are out of contention in the AL West. His veteran bat would provide a lot of power and his glove will provide issues in the outfield, but no worse than what Johnny Damon has provided.

    The call-up of Chris Carter and the existence of Seth Smith and Collin Cowgill on the current roster would allow the A's to continue in their never-ending rebuilding and youth movement. It's possible that they could acquire Brandon McCarthy with Gomes in a combination deal, strengthening their rotation and getting the bat that they need at an affordable price.

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Edwin Encarnacion is still just 29 years old, having started his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005 at the age of 22. You could say that he has been a disappointment, but he may be breaking out of that label this season. He always struggled to handle third base, but the Blue Jays finally moved him to DH and first base, clearing his head to become a mashing, powerful hitter.

    Encarnacion is hitting .289/.365/.575 in 2012, having compiled a line of .279/.348/.497 since the start of the 2010 season. He will be highly coveted at the deadline due to his low salary (he was only making $3.5 million this season) and his powerful bat (22 home runs in 280 at-bats this season).

    For the Tribe, Encarnacion's .315/.386/.712 line in 73 at-bats against left-handers in 2012 is the place to look. The Indians have a lot of shortstop prospects in their system, outside of Francisco Lindor, who could be attractive to the Blue Jays, who have Yunel Escobar and a bunch of glove-only prospects in their system.

Chris Denorfia, San Diego Padres

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    Denorfia has been a part-time player for parts of seven seasons now, and he'll be 32 in July. However, he has proven to be that type of player due to his struggles against right-handed pitching (.256/.320/.391).

    Denorfia has been solid against left-handed pitching over his career, posting a .305/.374/.421 line over 390 at-bats. He doesn't provide a lot of pop, but he can get on base and he can play all three outfield positions. Denorfia also has average speed.

    On a terrible San Diego Padres team, Denorfia will come very cheap. Denorfia makes $1.17 million this season and is arbitration-eligible in 2013. He could be a non-tender candidate, but he is still better than Aaron Cunningham on a major league roster.

Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins

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    Willingham's name continues to come up in trade talks, but it is really hard to understand why. The Twins signed Willingham to a three-year, $21 million deal this past December. His $7 million annual salary is very, very reasonable, but the stars are aligned for the Twins to move their left fielder.

    The Twins have one of the worst records in baseball and they have a plethora of outfielders. Even if they did trade Willingham, they could play Ryan Doumit (who they just extended, wonder why?), Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe and Aaron Hicks in Double-A who could move to left.

    Willingham hasn't been a killer of left-handers over his career (.256/.373/.511), so while he isn't hitting for average, his .884 OPS is very solid, as is his 2012 OPS of 1.119 against southpaws.

    You have to wonder if the Twins would trade Willingham within the division, but talk about a perfect match for the Cleveland Indians? I wondered why they didn't go after him harder this past offseason. He can play left and first and is a breathing, effective, right-handed bat.

Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs

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    What's better than acquiring a powerful right-handed bat, who is owed $36 million over the next two years? Acquiring that bat and letting some other guy pay for it. So is the life of Theo Epstein and the new Chicago Cubs group, who are trying to rebuild the Cubs for the 104th straight season, having already given away, and paid to do so, Carlos Zambrano.

    Next up, ridding themselves of Alfonso Soriano, while trying to get something of value for him by picking up a large portion of his absurd contract. Are the Indians going to be the team to take advantage of the Cubbies this time?

    Soriano could be an excellent fit for the Tribe. He can play left field this season and he can DH in 2013 and 2014 if the team lets Travis Hafner go via free agency.

    If the Indians were responsible for $10 million of his remaining contract, it would still be a solid deal, as the prospects won't be as high profile.

    Soriano has a career .864 OPS against left-handers in his career, .818 against right-handers. His 355 career home runs will lead to a milestone bump in attendance when he goes for 400, and he could be traded away if he fails with minimal salary to take on.

Conclusion

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    So, while the market is still volatile and names will begin popping up, it is still very early to predict what will happen as the MLB trade deadline nears. The Cleveland Indians certainly need to do something to help their woeful offense, or attendance and the already emotional fanbase could deteriorate further.

    Who would you like to see the Indians trade for, even if it isn't a position player?

    Brandon McCarthy would be a good fit with his efficient, sinker ways, as mentioned in the piece. Rumblings of Ryan Dempster have been present recently, as well. Whatever happens, some of these names will be free agents this winter, so if the Tribe doesn't make a move in the next month, maybe they'll believe in needing to do something when the season is over.