Cleveland’s left field situation will need as much help as possible
Cleveland made a number of mistakes this past offseason, but the biggest may have been picking up Brantley’s option. When the decision was made to do that, 1B appeared to be the best spot initially for him give his injury tendencies, being someone the Indians can’t rely on regularly and being a liability in general.
How and why Cleveland picked up his option worth $11 million is anyone’s guess. On one hand, what else would the Indians do? After all, they are loyal to the players that have been part of the team for many years; Perhaps too loyal.
On the other hand, choosing to pick it up means that the Indians are banking on Brantley to have a season like he did in 2015 when he hit 15 home runs, drove in 84 runs, and had a slash line of .310/.379/.480./859.
Given Brantley’s injuries, it is a safe bet he is going to need to be replaced temporaily, but who will the replacement? Veteran OF Melvin Upton Jr. is that player.
He was signed on a minor-league deal in December. That’s right, Upton will be used to replace Brantley as needed but not in a full-time role. With that in mind, if Brantley continues to have injury problems — whether that is with his ankle, back, etc., LF will see plenty of platoon work in 2018. Cleveland always seems to find a steal of a deal with their minor-league signings and this year it is Upton’s contract.
While not playing in the big leagues is typically seen as a negative, for Upton it won’t be seen that way mainly because it will be on a part-time basis. The longtime Tampa Bay Ray has played more than 100 games in nearly every year of his career and can still contribute something. Exactly how much will be evident soon enough.
One name to take over permanently (especially if Brantley misses quite a bit of time before June) is OF Greg Allen. Don’t dismiss an outfield with Allen in left, Bradley Zimmer in center, and TBD in right just yet on a regular basis.