You know how sometimes there are just players that drive you nuts…maybe for no really good reason at all. That’s kind of how I am with Brandon Moss. So while I’d like to take an impartial look at whether or not a trade for him would be a good thing, I can’t stop thinking “uggh nooo.” My annoyance isn’t even necessarily rational – I like the Pittsburgh Pirates and watch them whenever I get a chance. (I know, I know…Cleveland and Pittsburgh are like the scene in Ghostbusters where they try to tell the mayor how everything will be mass hysteria. Since I really could care less about football, there’s not really much of a contradiction there for me). Anyway, Moss ended up in Pittsburgh in 2008 in that three-team trade extravaganza that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles. He was there through the 2010 season, after which, the Pirates opted not to re-sign him. During those two and a half seasons, he wasn’t that good. Moss batted just .228/.295/.373 and hit 13 home runs. To put that in perspective, Moss hit 25 home runs last year alone…but only managed 13 in two and a half years. He was a below-replacement level player until he headed west to Oakland for the 2011 season. Then, as many marginal players have done in Oakland, he blossomed into a 20+ home run guy that was fairly consistent at the plate with a .254/.320/.504 line.
Moss’s career numbers against the Indians are absurd – .333/.439/.623 (1.062 OPS). He has 82 plate appearances against he Indians too, so it’s not like it’s some insanely small sample size. So to summarize – when I wanted Moss to do well and perform, he was terrible. When I wanted him to do poorly, he just clobbered the Indians. It was like he was just straight-up mocking me at that point, so he’d probably bat .100 with a negative number of home runs if the Indians did acquire him.
I’ll stop whining and for the sake of balance, actually look at some of the potential positives Moss could bring to the team. Like Josh Donaldson, his numbers are much better away from the Oakland Coliseum, so there’s a chance he could have a slight uptick in his performance at Progressive Field. The Indians could use a power bat, but Moss is left handed…the Indians would probably prefer to have someone from the other side of the plate. By Moss joining the Indians, he would no longer be able to destroy them at the plate as an opposing player (although he would have a prime opportunity to destroy them at the plate from within).
There are way fewer positives than I thought, so unfortunately it’s back to the negatives. Moss dealt with a hip issue for most of the 2014 season, and supposedly is missing cartilage where the bone meets the hip joint on his right side. He was finishing the season with some cortisone injections, but was due for surgery in the offseason. They may even need to go with the microfracture surgery in order to fix the problem. Moss hit just .173/.310/.274 with 4 home runs in the second half of the 2014 season (compared with .268/.349/.530 and 21 home runs in the first half). Manager Bob Melvin claimed that hip wasn’t the reason for the big drop off, since the hip bothered Moss earlier in the season and he still managed to play well enough to make the All Star team. Melvin can say that until he’s blue in the face, but when you’re missing cartilage in your hip and it’s basically bone on bone, when you need cortisone shots just to try and manage the pain and make it to the end of the season…that’s a problem.
It seems like the Indians would like to try and find a poor sap to take Nick Swisher before they would bring someone like Moss to the team, but I don’t know that I’m comfortable with a Moss deal even if they were to send Swisher to live with a nice farm family. One of the things I liked about the Nick Swisher deal when he signed two years ago, was that Swisher had been consistent. Maybe not flashy, but he pretty much always hit at least 20 home runs in a season. Even when he was struggling in Chicago in 2008, he still managed to hit 24 homers. Heck, he even hit 22 with the Indians in 2013. So while there’s a small part of me that thinks “well…Moss has hit at least 20 home runs the past few seasons and that’s playing home games in a pitcher’s park,” I’m not sure I’m going to fall for that again. Moss is now 31 with some major hip issues. They could be fine after surgery and rehab, and he could be ready to roll into spring training even better in 2015. Or it could continue to nag him, and he’ll either spend significant time on the DL, or he’ll put up numbers like he did in the second half of 2014.
So while any power hitter is tempting (especially if you don’t have to surrender a lot to acquire him), I really hope the Indians stay away from this one. And as you can see, I’m not just being driven by bitterness in this case (although it obviously plays a role) – there are a lot of things that should be cause for concern here.
Update: According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s are currently targeting Indians’ Double-A second baseman Joe Wendle. This make sense, as I mentioned in this post about Donaldson the other day, Oakland has been looking for middle infielders. Wendle, a sixth round pick by the Indians during the 2012 draft, missed a sizable chunk of the 2014 season due to a broken hamate bone. He hit .253/.311/.414 with Akron in 2014 in 336 at-bats. That’s not to say that the A’s wouldn’t target other players in addition to Wendle, but it appears that they definitely want him involved in a potential trade.