Fifteen games into the 2019 season, the Cleveland Indians are 8-7 and have been outscored by three runs. They were swept by the Royals in Kansas City over the weekend, with ace Corey Kluber walking five and giving up six runs in 2 2/3 innings Sunday (KC 9, CLE 8). .
The Indians have been without cornerstone Francisco Lindor, who is weeks away from returning from his calf and ankle injuries, as well as double play partner Jason Kipnis all season. Kipnis has been sidelined with a calf strain but will rejoin the team for their series opener with the Mariners on Monday -- stream regionally on fuboTV (Try for free).
Following Sunday's game the Indians designated Brad Miller for assignment to clear a roster spot for Kipnis, and it appeared to be a curious decision for the offensively challenged Tribe. Miller owns .250/.325/.417 batting line this season and is third on the team in OPS. He can play pretty much any position too. He seems like someone worth keeping around, you know?
As you might expect Miller, who filled in at second base for Kipnis, was not happy about being dropped from the roster. Here's what he told reporters, including Cleveland.com's Paul Hoynes, following Sunday's game:
"It's a tough trend," said Miller. "They acknowledge that it wasn't fair. But I'm just a player. I go out there and play my hardest and play for the guys next to me.
"Obviously, they don't want the best guys up here. So I'm just trying to take it somewhere else and see what we've got."
"I'm a player," said Miller, when told he was one of the few consistent hitters on the roster. "I really enjoyed playing for Tito (Terry Francona). That's why I'm frustrated. I want to be here. I like this group. It's a good team and I was hoping I'd be a part of it, but they have other plans.
"I think the writing was on the wall from the get-go. I just hope I can go somewhere else and get after it."
The Indians are the three-time defending AL Central champs, though they've been criticized for chopping approximately $15 million off their Opening Day payroll over the winter. Any time a team does that, they open themselves to questions about their willingness to field the most competitive team possible. Cutting Miller only adds fuel to that fire.
To be fair, Cleveland's decision to dump Miller was not money-related. He has more than five full years of service time, which means he can elect free agency if he clears waivers (a likely outcome), and keep his entire $1 million salary. The Indians still have to pay him. Still, it's hard to see how cutting Miller makes the Indians a more dangerous team.
Designating Miller for assignment means the Indians will stick with the largely overmatched rookie Eric Stamets at shortstop while waiting for Lindor to return. Stamets is 2 for 38 (.053) at the plate with 22 strikeouts, though he rates well defensively. Miller is not as gifted a defender, though he is a significant offensive upgrade, and the Indians could really use some offense right now.
The Indians have seven days to trade, release, or waive Miller. Clearing waivers is always the likely outcome when a player is designated for assignment, though I suppose a contender dealing with infield injuries like the Nationals (Trea Turner), Rockies (Daniel Murphy), or Yankees (Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki) could grab him on waivers for depth.
Miller, 29, is a career .240/.313/.409 hitter in over 2,500 big league plate appearances. He had a 30-homer season with the Rays in 2016.