Indians Shore Up Outfield Issues with Leonys Martin
It’s no secret that the Indians have been in the market for an outfielder. A series of unfortunate injuries and underwhelming performances gave way to one of the worst performing and least terrifying outfields in the American League. Rumors swirled that they had their eyes set on the Orioles, Adam Jones, the Rangers, Shin-Soo Choo, the Tigers, Nick Castellanos, and as recent as yesterday evening, the Nationals, Bryce Harper. In the end, the Indians settled on Leonys Martin in a deal with the Detroit Tigers. They also acquired right-handed pitcher, Kyle Dowdy.
Martin makes his way to Cleveland in exchange for shortstop prospect, Willi Castro. MLB Prospect watch listed Castro, currently with Double A Akron, as the 8th best prospect within the Indians organization. However, with Francisco Lindor currently manning the position for the foreseeable future along with Erik Gonzalez and number six prospect Yu-Cheng Chang also in the pipeline, Castro was an expendable asset.
As for the acquisition of Martin… Well, he’s a body that can play center field.
This is by no means the big-time move fans were hoping for. Offensively, Leonys Martin is not in the same category as Jones, Choo, Castellanos, or Harper. During his eight-year career, Martin has never delivered on the promise he showed during his teenage years while playing for the Cuban national team. His career slash line of .248/.303/.367 and OPS+ of 83 is underwhelming at best. He doesn’t hit for power and he doesn’t get on base exceptionally well. So far in 2018, Martin has hit .251/.321/.409 with nine homers and 29 RBI. He does have speed and can steal bases, averaging 28 steals per 162 games played. That aside, there is a fair to decent chance he is going to drive fans that already ridicule the team’s offense on a nightly basis crazy.
What Martin lacks offensively, though, he makes up for defensively. He is a legitimate center fielder. He is not Rajai Davis or Tyler Naquin, who are more suited for the corners, but can be serviceable in a pinch. Martin, has almost exclusively played center during his career and during three seasons in Texas put up back to back to back seasons of 14, 16, and 15 defensive runs saved. And while he has not played up to that historic precedent in 2018, he still represents a marginal upgrade from the status quo. For the price the Indians had to pay, the deal makes sense. Martin is arbitration eligible following this season and is set to hit free agency in 2020, so this may not be the rental.
What remains to be seen, however, is how Martin fits into the teams plans for 2018. Will he serves as the team’s every day starting center fielder regardless of who’s pitching, or will Terry Francona implement a lefty/righty platoon along with Davis? Against right-handed pitching, Martin has been better across the board slashing .275/.350/.432 with an OPS+ relative to the RHP split of 115. The evidence would seem to suggest that this is the plan moving forward. It would also suggest that Tyler Naquin’s hip injury is more significant than the team originally let on.
So, Indians fans… what do you think? Are you happy with the move? What do you think is the plan moving forward with Leonys Martin? Do you think the Indians are done or is there another move to be made? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter.