Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona is one of the best in the league at using the platoon advantage.
It helps that his team has a number of switch-hitters who are regulars: SS Francisco Lindor, 2B Jose Ramirez, and 1B Carlos Santana were everyday players in 2017.
It enables Francona to platoon in right field where he used Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer until both were injured and the front office acquired Jay Bruce.
He also did the same in center, using rookie Bradley Zimmer and veteran Austin Jackson out there.
In 2016, he did the same, using Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis in center for the American League champs.
The players have to have decided platoon advantages for the strategy to work. Guyer is lethal vs. southpaws, and Jackson hit .352 against lefties last season.
We mention this because with Santana and Bruce now free agents, many people look at available free agents and wonder about fits for the Tribe.
One name that came up was 1B Matt Adams, recently non-tendered by Atlanta.
Adams, who swings from the left side, has an 828 career OPS vs. right handed pitching with a .286 batting average. We like Adams, who has been production even though he’s been an everyday player just one season.
However, there is one problem with the platooning. Francona also likes to carry 13 pitchers, including eight relievers. That means there are only 12 position players, which limits how many spots the manager can use a platoon system.
Plus, two of those dozen position players are catchers, so if you aren’t platooning with that position, it means there are only two spots that the manager can use different players against left-handers and right-handers.
And don’t forget the need for a utility infielder, preferably someone who can play shortstop defensively so you aren’t playing a statue when Lindor gets his infrequent days off.
So, if the Indians don’t re-sign Santana, they will either need a full time option there or decide that Zimmer has to play everyday in centerfield. Either that or have one less pitcher in the bullpen for Francona.
As things are right now, you have to think the current platoons will be Chisenhall and Guyer in right (again) and Zimmer and a right-handed bat to be named later in centerfield.
That’s why we still believe if Santana goes elsewhere, Michael Brantley will move to first base with Jason Kipnis playing left field. If Santana returns, we could see a deal involving Kipnis.
If you want to look at a player from another team that was non-tendered, how about reliever Hector Rondon.
The right-hander was in the Tribe organization until 2012, and had seasons of 29 and 30 saves for the Cubs in 2014 and 2015.
Last season, he was 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA for Chicago, with 69 strikeouts in 57-1/3 innings, so he still has swing and miss stuff.
We know the Indians like to reunite with former players, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the reliever came back to Cleveland, especially since the front office has to be looking for arms to replace Bryan Shaw, who is a free agent.
With the Winter Meetings starting on Sunday, the Indians’ roster changes should start to take place. Just remember the number of platoon options are limited unless full time players are acquired as well.