When the Indians have a move on the horizon, I like to come up with two different scenarios: what I’d like them to do, and what I think they’ll do. After seeing a news headline that read “Hunter about ready to return” a few days ago, it was time to ponder who may pull the short straw once Tommy Hunter needed a roster spot.
Logic would dictate that you send out a marginal or redundant guy from the bullpen in order to clear space for Hunter; perhaps someone like Dan Otero, or after Kyle Crockett was recalled, perhaps it would be Ross Detwiler. You could be certain that Hunter would be on the roster once he was ready to come off the DL, since he is on a major league deal worth $2 million with another $1 million possible in incentives. In fact, the Yankees originally had an $11-$12 million, 2-year deal in place with Hunter this past offseason and backed out over health concerns. He had core surgery over the winter and also had a groin issue.
The other possibility I considered is that the Indians would jettison an outfielder, now that Michael Brantley has returned. They currently have Brantley, Rajai Davis, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Marlon Byrd available for the outfield (with Jose Ramirez earning playing time there as well). The two obvious holds were Brantley and Davis…Brantley, because duh, and Davis because he’s making north of $4 million this season. If it came down to Byrd, Naquin, and Chisenhall (which it still may at some point, once they need a fifth starter), I was betting (and fearing) they’d send Naquin down to the minors because he has options remaining. Byrd still has some value at the plate, even if his play in the outfield leaves a bit to be desired (and that’s putting it kindly). Chisenhall is the reverse – some value on defense, but very little value at the plate at this point. If the choice were mine and I had to select between those three, I’d probably make the difficult choice to cut Lonnie. I know he’s many years younger than Byrd (whose major league career is about over) and has had moments of brilliance. I just don’t think he’s ever an every-day major leaguer and perhaps it would finally be time to bid adieu to Chisenhall. To be fair, I could go either way with him or Byrd, but would rather have Byrd at the plate in a high-pressure situation. I definitely did not want to send Naquin to Columbus, the way he’s been playing. Since Naquin is a lefty, is decent at defense, and the one guy you can really trust in center, his presence makes Chisenhall less necessary.
So as Hunter’s return approached, I fully expected an outfielder to go and already had myself worked up over the fact that it would be Naquin. Since Terry Francona likes to maintain a 70-man bullpen, I figured that there would be no changes there, other than the addition of Hunter. But lo-and-behold, the Indians designated Detwiler for assignment in order to make room for Hunter. It makes so much sense, I almost can’t believe that they did it…you don’t really need both Crockett and Detwiler.
In Detwiler’s defense, in his last four outings against the Mets, Mariners, and Twins he allowed 0 ER and 0 hits in 3 IP. He was used sparingly in those outings, but they were significantly better than his prior 1.2 IP, when he allowed 3 ER on 3 hits. I still thought Joe Thatcher should’ve earned that roster spot out of spring training (he was later picked up by the Dodgers) but Detwiler did calm down some after his terrible start to the season.
If Hunter remains healthy, he could be a solid addition to a back-end of the bullpen that has been shaky at times so far this season. He had some good seasons (and some shaky ones) with the Orioles before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline last year. There were rumors that the Yankees were scared off by an unidentified medical issue (not the core or the groin) so we just have to hope there are no serious arm issues on the horizon.