A different take on the Indians acquiring Brandon Moss

1The Cleveland Indians have acquired 1B/OF Brandon Moss from the Oakland A’s for Indians Double A infielder Joe Wendle.

On the outside looking in, there’s a lot to like about this deal.

As noted yesterday in the Sunday Drive, Moss has been a very good ballplayer for the A’s over the past three seasons. In his years with the A’s, Moss had a slash of .254/.340/.504, for an .844 OPS. His WAR with the A’s over that stretch was 2.1 in 2012, 2.2 in 2013, and 2.6 in 2014. He’s played 233 games at first during those three seasons, 74 games in right field, 75 games in left, and has DH’ed 15 times.

Moss played in his first all-star game last season after a scorching first half. Moss has had quite the journey over the years, having been drafted by the Red Sox in the third round during the infamous 2002 “moneyball” draft, before ultimately ending up with the A’s after years with the Red Sox (and Terry Francona), Pirates and Phillies. Beane plucked him up as a free agent after he spent two years wasting away in the minors of the latter-mentioned National League teams.

By all indications, Moss is a worker. While he has never been considered a plus defender in the outfield or at first base, this is a guy that built himself into whatever the big league club needed. In Oakland, he knew he was stuck behind a logjam in the outfield, so he crafted himself as a first baseman, and was too good to not play in the big leagues.

His fantastic season was derailed by a bad hip last year, and while he didn’t miss any time, he needed offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum. All indicators are that Moss is on the path to health, which is I’m sure why the two clubs stalled before announcing the deal today. His numbers dropped off after the break, but after he took a cortisone shot to the hip in late September, hit two bombs in the wild card loss against Kansas City, which leads me to believe the pain was too much for him to handle as the season progressed.

The Indians don’t appear to have given up much, but I think I see what Billy Beane sees in the overachieving middle infielder.

While many will profess this move to be a salary dump by Billy Beane, I just don’t think that tells the whole story. It certainly doesn’t give Wendle the credit he deserves.

I have seen a lot of Joe Wendle over the past two years, and probably more than most. I’ve also talked to his coaching staff at Carolina at length about his talents, and he is more than where the national pundits have given him credit for.

Is he the natural talent that Francisco Lindor is?

No.

Is he as quick as the smooth and speedy Jose Ramirez?

No.

But can he be as good?

What Joey Wendle gives the A’s is a potential power-hitting middle infielder that the Indians supposedly have in Jason Kipnis. I’ve called Wendle a “poor-man’s Kipnis” for two years, but as noted in the comments of yesterday’s Sunday Drive, Wendle may be a bit more than that in the end.

Did Billy Beane look to drop salary in this deal?

Yes, but if you think it isn’t more than that, you are kidding yourself. I’m sure that Beane thinks he could have a diamond in the rough. If they’ve talked to the same scouts I have, they’ll note that he’s a solid defender (trust me), a merciless worker, and has a plus bat that will project some power.

In the right hands and the right organization, I think Wendle can, and will, become a very productive and regular second baseman. He’s that good. With the A’s, there aren’t any players that should block his path, so look for him to debut with Oakland at some point in 2015.

Are there concerns to this deal?

You tell me. Moss is 31-years old, and while he’s been an impressive and unassuming power producer over the past couple of seasons, he’s also coming off a year in which he struggled with a hip injury. No, it’s not an injury that should be chronic, but as a 31-year old, could it become a chronic injury?

You have to ask yourself, other than a money dump, why else would Billy Beane want to deal Moss, and why would he only deal him for a minor league player?

As noted by several people over the past few days, Billy Beane seems to target specific teams that he wants to work with. IBI’s Tony Lastoria noted that Beane targeted Toronto and specific players that he saw as fits. Could he have gotten more for the third baseman?

Yes, but he went after the players he wanted. He dumped salary, but perhaps acquired more diamonds in the rough.

Again, with Moss, Beane targeted the Cleveland Indians, and in tune acquired Joey Wendle, a player that Steve Orbanek, Michael Hattery and I have been watching with impressed eyes for the past three seasons.

In the end, it’s a deal that the Indians had to make. They need power, and they got it. Is it with risk?

Sure.

But it’s the type of deal that the Indians have to make to get the type of players they need. Wendle likely wouldn’t have seen the light of day in the Indians’ lineup any time soon. With Lindor, Ramirez, and Erik Gonzalez, as well as Mike Aviles and Jason Kipnis, Wendle was at a position of surplus.

The big question is, What’s Next?

If Moss comes with a clean bill of health, where does he play? Carlos Santana seems to be the regular first baseman at this point, as he cemented himself there over the course of the second half of the season. Nick Swisher is locked into the DH, as health has made him far too fragile to play in the field, and his $15 million paycheck will keep him off the bench. That leaves the outfield, where $6 million dollar man David Murphy will be playing.

How much will Moss make?

He has two-years of arbitration in front of him, and should come in at about $6.5 or $7 million next year. Murphy is a left-handed hitter, as is Moss. Both can’t play the same spot, and they won’t platoon.

Do the Indians really want Murphy to be the fourth outfielder?

You can put two-and-two together here.

Murphy is likely to get dealt at some point, unless the Indians can find a suitor for the much more expensive Nick Swisher. As of now, they have too many Indians in the cupboard.

You have to love the winter meetings.

In Brandon Moss, the Indians seem to have filled in some of what they lacked last year. The get a guy with plus-power, and who gets on base at an above-average clip…if he’s healthy.

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3 thoughts on “A different take on the Indians acquiring Brandon Moss

  1. The two bombs Moss hit in the wild card game–one over 430 feet against Yordano Ventura, a 3-run job that should have sealed the game with Lester on the mound, and the other, a 420+ foot blast against James Shields in extra innings that should have won the game–told me all I needed to know about Moss’s bat speed when he’s healthy. He may indeed be damaged (and surgically repaired) goods, but if he’s pain free, this is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Tribe lineup that had no problems getting men on, but struggled to bring them home. In my mind, Moss should hit 30 homers even if he’s on crutches: Gammons Daily reported that Progressive Field enhances left-handed hit homers by 9%–one of the best in baseball–while the Oakland Mausoleum depressed them by 12%. That’s quite a swing for a guy who made Kaufmann look like a bandbox in the one-game playoff, when nobody else in that extra-inning contest came close to homering.

    Furthermore, Brandon is supposed to be one of the most upbeat fellows in the game, a true positive in the clubhouse. Sounds like to me we now have a surBroplus on the team, both in the locker room and at DH. However, I don’t think Moss should be considered an answer in right field; that would be a mistake. Let’s go get Scott Van Slyke to play RF and the middle of our lineup would really start looking formidable.

  2. One other thought: anyone who dismisses the objects of Billy Beane’s affections inevitably is wrong. I like this deal, but Wendle is not another Sogard. Having watched Joey in Zebulon, it was a joy to watch him play the game with skill and enthusiasm. He was what I call a “separator”; you knew after watching him at length that he possessed the sort of qualities that would allow him to move up while others fell by the wayside.

  3. Pingback: The Gavin Floyd gamble at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario | Everybody Hates Cleveland

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