February 26, 2024

It’s Time to Trust the Indians’ Front Office


This past off-season, Indians President Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff had some difficult decisions to make for the 2018 season and many fans were quite upset. Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce were free agents and the Indians decided not to re-sign them. Additionally, a third member of the 2017 team, Michael Brantley, had his $11.5 million option picked up, which was a bit of a head-scratcher as he has been often injured over the last few years. Finally, to take Santana’s spot at first base the Indians signed journeyman Yonder Alonso.

Carlos Santana was a long-time Indian and a fan favorite. He joined the team in 2008 when he was traded from the Dodgers for Casey Blake. In his eight seasons with the Indians, he batted .249 with 174 home runs and 587 RBI. During his tenure, he played catcher, first base, third base and outfield along with 222 games at DH.

Replacing Santana, the Indians signed Yonder Alonso. Alonso played for four different teams in the first eight seasons. In 2017 he split time with the Athletics and Mariners and he was named to his only all-star game. While in previous seasons Santana has the clear edge, in 2018 Alonso’s numbers are more comparable to Santana’s. The two glaring differences are batting average, where Alonso is batting .037 better and the amount of money they are receiving per year where Santana is making $12 million more. All in all, it looks like the Indians made the right choice.

Name Batting Average OPS HR RBI Fielding %
Carlos Santana .224 .794 14 48 .993
Yonder Alonso .261 .779 12 47 .991

Jay Bruce was acquired by the Indians on August 9 of last season in a trade with the Mets for a minor league player. Bruce played in 43 games for the Indians and batted .248 with seven home runs and 26 RBI. While those numbers may not sound great, he came in at a point of the season when the team had lost a few outfielders to injuries and played like the professional hitter he is.

Michael Brantley is currently in his 10 season as a member of the Indians after being traded as a minor leaguer from the Milwaukee Brewers in the CC Sabathia trade. He has 81 career home runs and a .293 batting average. Nobody has ever questioned Brantley’s abilities as a hitter; the only concern has been if he can stay healthy. In 2016 he played in only 11 games and in 2017 he played in 90 games. Due to his history of getting injured many fans, myself included, were concerned about picking up Brantley’s $11.5 million option.

Looking at a comparison of their numbers, Brantley is definitely a better selection than Bruce, who is currently injured. Every category listed below has Brantley with a big edge and costing less than Bruce. Again, it is safe to say that the front office made the right decision here.

Name Batting Average OPS HR RBI Fielding %
Jay Bruce .212 .613 3 17 .982
Michael Brantley .306 .841 11 48 .991

Additionally, the Indians did not re-sign Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith. While the bullpen has struggled for most of the year, they have been doing better recently and Shaw and Smith have not pitched well for their new teams. Again, this is another case where the front office got it right.

The reality is that hindsight is 20/20 and it is easy to look back at these moves now and see that they got it right; it is not so easy to do that in the moment. We have a tendency to rush to judgment and maybe had we given Antonetti and Chernoff the benefit of the doubt we would see the big picture coming together. Maybe the next move that is made that we deem to be questionable, we will remember this moment and give the move the time it needs to see if it worked out well or not.

Image: ESPN

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