Just a few hours after Chris opined that the Indians needn’t go all-in this season, the Indians made a fairly conservative move. To help shore up their outfield, which is currently short Grady Sizemore and Shin-Shoo Choo, the Indians acquired Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs for two prospects. Chicago will pick up some of the $4.7 million remaining on Fukudome’s deal. While the specific prospects aren’t clear at the time of writing, we can still examine how this helps Cleveland’s chances.
There’s no denying the Indians need for help in the outfield. Sizemore has spent plenty of time on the DL this season, and the Indians cannot count on him to remain healthy and productive for any significant stretch this season. Shin-Soo Choo, after starting the season in uncharacteristically slow fashion, has been on the DL since June 24th. He’s on his way back, but it could still be another month, at the earliest, before he’s back with the Indians. Even then, it’s tough to say how he’ll perform afterward. Thumb injuries are tricky things that can linger.
For the next month Fukudome figures to be the most productive member of Cleveland’s outfield. He currently has a .374 OBP and a 106 wRC+. Michael Brantley, with a .330 OBP and 101 wRC+, is the only active Indians outfielder who comes close to that level of productivity. The trade also squeezes Ezequiel Carrera out of a starting role, for which he is ill-suited. The platoon of Austin Kearns and Travis Buck will continue playing below average in one of the corners, though Carrera could get some time in favor of them if they continue hitting poorly.
Update: The Indians have designated Buck for assignment, so perhaps Carrera will continue seeing significant playing time.
While the move helps on the whole, it might not help the one specific need the Indians have in the outfield. They have combined to produce a .128 ISO, which ranks 11th in the AL. The current unit of Brantley-Carrera-Buck-Kearns has produced an ISO just about at that level (.127), meaning they could really use a boost in the power department. Fukudome, unfortunately, comes in well below the unit’s average with a .096 ISO. While he’ll add value on the whole, in that he gets on base at a far better clip than the other outfielders, he’ll help little in adding the power that they need.
Acquiring Fukudome is by no means a splash, but that’s not what the Indians needed. They needed someone who upgraded on their current outfield, and Fukudome is certainly that. When he puts on an Indians jersey tonight he’ll represent one of their four best active players, and by this year’s numbers he’s their best active performer in the outfield. It’s tough to make that kind of acquisition without it being a huge move. But the Indians found someone who represents and upgrade, and they moved quickly. He might not bring all the tools they need to upgrade, but considering the market and the Indians current position, he was probably the best option available. Things could get better, still, if Sizemore or Choo makes it back in time to help for a September push.
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