As of now, the Ryan Raburn/David Murphy platoon is set to return to right field in 2015. It’s a platoon that helped the Indians generate a .636 OPS from the right field position a year ago, third worst in all of baseball.
While the Indians don’t have much money to spend, or room on the roster to fit anyone for that matter, there are some potential targets on the market.
Let’s take a look at who’s out there.
Nelson Cruz, Orioles free agent
He’s not coming to Cleveland. He’s going to demand a long-term deal bigger than Bourn and Swishers, and this time he’s going to get it. Don’t waste your time hoping for this one.
Torii Hunter, Tigers free agent
If he doesn’t retire he’s probably going back to Detroit. He would be a ideal fit for this Tribe team and would be a feasible financial commitment so I won’t put the odds at zero, but it’s tough to envision the Tigers letting him go and/or him willingly leave Detroit.
Alex Rios, Rangers free agent
The Rangers declined to pick up Rios’ option, putting him on the free agent market. I advocated for the Tribe attempting to trade for Rios at the deadline, and would love to see him in Cleveland in 2015. He’s 33 and has been terribly inconsistent throughout his career, but is exactly the type of veteran right-handed bat the Indians should gamble on.
Michael Morse, Giants free agent
Morse is a reasonable option if the Indians want a relatively cheap offensive upgrade, but he’s a terrible defensive outfielder. Given the Indians struggles in the field, I’m hoping they can find a better option.
Josh Willingham, Royals free agent
Willingham’s offensive upside is greater than Morse, but he’ll be 36 and has been in steady decline over the past two years. He’s a former catcher whose outfield defense was never very strong and has only gotten worse with age. He might be worth a risk if the price is right, but he probably can’t be counted on for 140+ games.
Nori Aoki, Royals free agent
Aoki would be both an offensive and defensive upgrade for the Indians, but may be tough to sign. He’s not a big name but in a fairly weak free agent class he’ll be targeted by other contenders looking for immediate outfield help. He’s a strong candidate to get overpaid this offseason.
Corey Hart, Mariners free agent
Hart missed the entire 2013 season and most of 2014 and was pretty much awful when he was on the field. But when healthy, he’s a candidate to belt 20 to 30 home runs which gives him the potential to outplay a modest contract. Unfortunately, much like Aoki, he’ll have a large number of interested teams and could start a bidding war which puts him out of range for what the Indians should be willing to risk on this type of player.
Justin Upton, Braves
The Braves are expected to be active this offseason, but Upton reportedly has the Indians included in his no-trade clause. He’d be a good fit, but it sounds like he just doesn’t want to play in Cleveland.
Jason Heyward, Braves
This is the most intriguing name on the entire list due to his age (25) and the fact that he’s arguably the best defensive right fielder in baseball. But if the Indians acquire him, it will come at a cost. They could probably hang on to Francisco Lindor, but would need to part with at least one established player, such as T.J. House, Lonnie Chisenhall or even Jason Kipnis, in addition to some prospects.