I was quite high on Esmil Rogers when Cleveland claimed him on waivers from the Rockies in mid-June, writingat the time that the right-hander “should prove to be a fantastic buy low option for the budget-conscience Indians, as (he) has consistently outperformed his ugly numbers.” And Rogers, despite a career 6.77 ERA prior to the move, could develop into a dominant backend option.
He did, just a lot quick than I would have imagined.
In 53 innings for the Indians, the 27-year-old post strong strikeout and walk rates — 9.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 — to go along with a 3.06 ERA. But it wasn’t so much as unearthing a gem, really, as much as Cleveland just pushed him into the role he should have been a long — a reliever.
And on Friday the Indians made another similar low-risk, moderate-reward-type move, claiming hard-throwing right-hander Blake Wood off of waivers from the Kansas City Royals.
Wood missed all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery in mid-May, but should be on target for an early 2013 debut.
The 27-year-old’s strikeout rate took a considerable step forward in 2011, going from 5.62 K/9 to 8.01. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, throwing a sinking mid 90s fastball and decent slider. And he’s shown a tremendous ability to generate a lot of groundballs (52.3% in his career). Assuming he rebounds fully, he could be a useful 7th, maybe 8th inning arm.
It was a great move, a depth move. It could have a been a potential precursor to a Chris Perez deal, allowing Vinnie Pestano to assume the ninth inning duties and Cody Allen, Rogers and Joe Smith vying for the setup job and allowing for Wood to ease his way into a regular role.
On the surface, it’s a favorable move — typically — whenever a team can exchange a relief arm for a regular everyday player. And Aviles is certainly a fringe everyday player. But he won’t be a regular for the Indians, not with Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall locked in at the skill-positions around the infield.
Instead, Aviles will fill the role the Indians’ front office has been trying to fill incessantly for years: super-utility. Or more accurately: a right-handed bench option that can handle multiple positions for the left-handed heavy Tribe.
And, again, give the Cleveland front office credit. This is exactly where Aviles belongs.
He’s an above-average glove at short that also has experience at second and third. And despite being 13% below the league average offensively since 2010, he owns a career .295/.339/.458 line against left-handers.
It would have been a great move, but Cleveland already has two players of the exact same ilk mired in Triple-A. Oh, yeah, both of the players should make about $1 million less than Aviles too.
Phelps, who turns 26 in January, owns a career .291/.375/.477 Triple-A line in almost 1300 plate appearances. And, yet, he’s made just 114 plate appearances with the parent club. He also hit .290/.379/.435 against southpaws with Columbus this year.
Donald’s bat isn’t quite as good — .273/.360/.410 in parts of four Triple-A seasons — but he hits left-handers well (.317/.438/.500 this season albeit in a small sample size) and has a better glove than Phelps.
Whatever combination the organization wanted to go with, either an offensive-minded or defensive-minded bench option, was possible.
So, instead of just adding Wood, using the now deeper bullpen depth to deal Perez for a left fielder or first baseman or starting pitcher and using what pieces the club already has for its right-handed platoon needs, the front office deals away Rogers, who is still a high-upside arm, and acquired a more expensive platoon bat.
That’s a lot of movement for one gigantic lateral step.
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