The Cleveland Indians are certainly a different organization than they were five years ago.
After watching their offense sputter over the last four games, scoring just one run (Austin Jackson’s bloop single that tied the game on Tuesday) that didn’t come on a home run over the last four games, they decided to add some pop to the batting order, acquiring slugging outfielder Jay Bruce from the Mets for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.
And reportedly, the Indians got him because they were willing to pay the remainder of the outfielder’s salary, something the Yankees weren’t willing to do.
With Lonnie Chisenhall still on the disabled list and Michael Brantley going on today with a sprained ankle, the organization couldn’t go with an outfield of Austin Jackson or Brandon Guyer in right, a slumping Bradley Zimmer in center, and Abraham Almonte in left for even a short time.
The 30-year-old Bruce is hitting .256 with 29 home runs and 75 RBI (847 OPS) in 102 games this season.
When Bruce played with the Reds before being moved to the Mets at the trade deadline a year ago, we felt he was a product of playing his home games in Great American Ballpark, a known hitter’s paradise.
With Citi Field being a pitcher’s park, Bruce has been very good on the road this season, with 18 dingers and a 919 OPS.
He is also been dominant at Progressive Field, hitting .384 with a 1.031 OPS in 86 at bats.
And the defensive metrics say he’s been a solid defender in right field this season, a drastic change for the better from when he was in Cincinnati.
He is a high strikeout, low walk guy, having been punched out 102 times this year, with only 39 walks.
Hopefully, Bruce can help the inconsistent Tribe offense, which has scored three runs or less in 47 of their 111 games (42%) this season. That’s not acceptable for a team with post-season aspirations.
The addition of Bruce could allow Terry Francona to move Carlos Santana back up to the leadoff spot in the batting order, replacing the slumping Jason Kipnis, whose batting average has dropped to .225 on the year, with an on base percentage of .285.
With the injuries, management had to realize they had to lengthen the lineup, which yesterday had Zimmer, Almonte, and Roberto Perez in the bottom three spots.
The league seems to have made adjustments to Zimmer, who is 0 for 17 in August, and the extending playing time has affected Jackson, who is 5 for his last 24.
Bruce will probably play right, with Guyer and Almonte alternating in left and Zimmer and Jackson splitting time in center.
There is speculation that perhaps Brantley and Chisenhall are more seriously injured than originally thought, but we believe the front office couldn’t think of going with an unproductive outfield for even another week, especially with the upcoming schedule of 11 road games, all against playoff contenders.
It also sends a message in the clubhouse that the front office isn’t satisfied with the way the team is playing since the All Star break, and they also want to do more than just win the American League Central.
Considering the cost, it’s a no brainer move for the Indians. Hopefully, Bruce keeps slugging and the seemingly dormant Tribe offense gets a jolt of energy.