The Brandon Guyer extension won’t make many headlines or turn many heads, but it may be one of the more underrated moves that the Indians make this offseason.
Sure, if you’re anything like me, you are still in a state of shock over the signing of Edwin Encarnacion to a three year, $60 million dollar deal, with a fourth year club option for an additional $25 million. To say that this is uncharacteristic for the Indians would be incredibly understated.
It was only last spring when the Tribe brought in four veterans on relatively inexpensive one year deals—Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Juan Uribe, and Marlon Byrd—hoping to find some bargain value from older veterans to boost the offense. Now, with the blessing of the Dolans, Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff have broken the piggy bank unlike ever before in Cleveland – and with great reward. Season ticket sales have gone through the roof, with the Indians nearing 10,000 full season ticket packages sold since the news first broke of Edwin’s impending arrival in Cleveland.
While the Encarnacion signing was momentous, we shouldn’t overlook other moves being made by the Indians. For starters, while the Tribe didn’t have many holes to fill this offseason thanks to a solid core of returning players, they effectively and quietly re-signed all their arbitration-eligible players, avoiding the uncomfortable arbitration process. Most notably, they signed outfielder Brandon Guyer to a two year extension, with a third year club option, potentially keeping him in the Indians lineup (and continuing to get hit by pitches, no doubt) through 2019.
When he was acquired at the 2016 trading deadline from Tampa Bay, Brandon Guyer’s name was not well known to many Tribe fans, but he has proven to be an excellent addition to the team. His ability to platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall in right field has given the Indians tremendous value at a key position at a relatively low cost.
Take the recent rumors of Jose Bautista possibly finding his way to Cleveland on a free agent deal as an example (Bautista ended up going back to Toronto on a one year deal with a mutual option for a second). Though he has been a feared hitter for the past five years, Bautista slashed .234/.366/.452 last year, and is clearly declining entering his age 36 season, dropping from a 5.1 WAR in 2015 to a 1.0 WAR in his injury plagued 2016. On the other hand, Guyer slashed .333/.438/.469 for 0.9 WAR in 2016, playing almost exclusively against lefties, while Chisenhall hit .286/.328/.439 for 0.8 WAR while facing mostly right-handers. Guyer is 30, and Chisenhall is only 28, giving them a younger platoon advantage with far superior defense at a total cost of under $7 million for the 2017 season.
Guyer and Chisenhall are now both under club control through 2018 (Chisenhall’s last year of arbitration), with an additional one year option on Guyer for 2019. Guyer’s continued presence gives manager Terry Francona more tools to platoon within the outfield, something which the Tribe skipper elevated to an art form in 2016, using a combination of Jose Ramirez, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, Tyler Naquin, and many more to cover up the glaring absence of Michael Brantley. When you add in Guyer’s ability to play left and his potential to play center - Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian reports the Tribe will try him out in center this spring - and Guyer emerges as a key yet flexible figure to help Francona continue maximizing his outfield production through a variety of combinations.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Guyer’s contributions in the World Series as well. Don’t forget, while Rajai Davis hit the tying home run in the 8th inning of Game Seven, it was Guyer who was on base already, having hit an RBI double to score Jose Ramirez and narrow the lead to 6-4, enabling Rajai’s fabled run around the bases. Indeed, Guyer got on base again in the 10th with a five pitch walk, and thanks to a stolen base, he was in scoring position for Rajai to once again drive him in, narrowing Chicago’s lead to 8-7.
While Guyer’s extension isn’t likely to sell any season tickets or lead to a spike in merchandise sales, it was a quality move by the Indians to secure good production from a good player for the next two to three years. Guyer’s contributions helped to get the Tribe to extra innings of Game Seven in 2016; hopefully his continued tenure with the team will help bring about opportunities to do the same.