Indians release Carlos Gonzalez after 30-game trial, remind everyone of their complacent offseason


Consider the following two internet facts regarding the Cleveland Indians

  • On Tuesday, veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez batted cleanup for the Indians. 
  • On Wednesday, the Indians designated Gonzalez for assignment. 

All right. Such is the state of the Cleveland outfield. This past offseason, the Indians lost — among others — Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall to free agency, and they replaced them with … no one. They’ve tried to get by with a mix of Gonzalez, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, Jake Bauers, Greg Allen, and — most recently — Oscar Mercado. The result has been a cumulative outfield WAR of -1.9, which ranks 24th in all of baseball. 

This was of course foreseeable. Any team that in 2019 is taking flyers on Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez (also cut loose) as regulars while aspiring to contend is being derelict in their ownership and front office duties. To do this while shedding payroll elsewhere is worse than that. 

The Indians were nonetheless heavy favorites in the AL Central despite their hapless-by-design winter. That’s because of the powerhouse rotation in Cleveland, the presence of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in the lineup, and the weakness of the rest of the division. Well, those assumptions have worked against Cleveland. The rotation has been afflicted by injury and occasional ineffectiveness, Lindor missed time, Ramirez hasn’t hit, and the rival Twins have emerged as AL powerhouses. 

Bad luck for the Tribe, no? To an extent that’s the case, but a team with designs on the World Series — and with their window closing, the Indians should have exactly those designs — has to plan for the unexpected, even multiple layers of the unexpected. Suffice it to say, a team that bid adieu to Brantley and Yan Gomes and Josh Donaldson and Andrew Miller while doing little to replace them is indulging in too much assumption. 

There’s still time for things to get better. The aforementioned Mercado is an interesting prospect with upside and projectability, and he’s ready now. Steady playing time the rest of the way will help matters. The front office may need to do more, though. Leading up to the July 31 trade deadline — preferably long before then — Tribe operators should tap into the farm system to add a needle-moving outfielder. Theoretical possibilities include the rebuild and revitalized Hunter Pence, Yasiel Puig, Domingo Santana, Jorge Soler, and Nick Castellanos. As we move closer to the deadline, names will of course be added to that list. 

Remember the “heavy favorites” part above? Right now, the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) gives Cleveland less than a 15 percent chance of winning the division but roughly a 50 percent chance of making the postseason. In other words, the Indians are right on the line, and a targeted addition could mean a great deal to them. Granted, said targeted addition should’ve been made over the offseason, but here we are. 

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