With the acquisition of 1B/OF Brandon Moss on Tuesday, the Indians added another power bat to their lineup. Moss, whom went through hip surgery in October, should provide a much-needed boost to an Indians team that finished ninth in the AL in home runs this past season.
It will be interesting to see where Moss fits in the roster with his versatility. Moss spent time in left field, right field, and at first base in 2014.
Moss will almost certainly not see any action in left field with MVP candidate Michael Brantley holding down the fort. After that, it gets a little tricky. The Indians have a logjam at first base and right field. At first, there’s Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher who each spent time at first base and designated hitter last season. In right field, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn return for the final year of their contracts. To make things even more complicated, the Indians have also discussed using Swisher in right field next season – the position he was originally signed to play.
The Indians will have tough decisions to make on managing playing time for the five players for the two spots in the field and the designated hitter role. The most likely everyday scenario is Santana at first, Moss in right field, and Swisher at designated hitter, with Swisher occasionally giving Santana and Moss a break from the field.
This alignment means Murphy and Raburn will see reduced roles. The trade will especially put a dent in Murphy’s playing time, as Moss and Murphy are both lefties with Moss being the superior hitter. With the GM’s Winter Meetings in San Diego heating up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Murphy or Raburn traded, although Raburn’s trade value is so low that the Indians would have to send cash to another team just to get rid of him. The best scenario for the Indians would be to find a suitor for Swisher’s bad contract, but that seems highly unlikely.
Having Moss to bat against righties – and possibly southpaws as well – will represent a significant upgrade over Murphy. That the Indians only had to give up middle infield prospect Joe Wendle, who was blocked off anyway with the Tribe’s abundance of middle infielders, grades out to be a great deal for the Indians.
If Moss can stay relatively healthy all season, he’ll likely produce at least 25 home runs, and it’s fair to project even more than that considering he will no longer be playing half of his games in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. Instead, he will get the majority of his at bats at Progressive Field, a park that’s typically a boon for left-handed hitters.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti deserves a lot of credit for taking advantage of an Oakland team in the process of mass selling its key parts, something the Athletics are wont to do every several years. If Moss continues to be the run producer he’s proven to be, the Indians will make a legitimate case to be the best team in the AL Central in 2015.