The Indians officially announced today that outfielder Leonys Martin will not return to the playing field in 2018. Manager Terry Francona delivered the news to reporters (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian) but indicated that Martin is recovering well from a life-threatening bacterial infection and has not experienced any type of setback. Doctors have instructed him to focus on his immediate health rather than getting back into baseball shape, however.
Martin’s recovery is a welcome sight for his current and former teammates alike, as well as fans throughout the game. And while that’s clearly the most important element of this story, his absence does leave the Cleveland organization with a rather thin outfield mix — especially after placing Rajai Davis on the 10-day disabled list earlier today. The reasoning behind Davis’ placement on the disabled list is curious in its own right, as the team attributed it to a non-baseball medical condition without going into further detail. Bastian, though, tweets that Davis is expected to return to the team in early September.
With Davis sidelined in the short term and Martin unable to return at all this year, Cleveland’s outfield currently consists of Michael Brantley in left field, Greg Allen in center and Melky Cabrera in right. Brandon Guyer is on hand as a fourth outfield option, but the rest of the roster has sparing outfield experience at best. Jason Kipnis, Yandy Diaz and Erik Gonzalez have all appeared in the outfield in recent seasons, though that group has combined for a total of just 108 innings there. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote last night that the Indians are still on the hunt for outfield upgrades on the August trade market, so it’s possible that Cleveland will still supplement that group.
Looking down the line, Martin’s season-ending illness doesn’t necessarily bring his time with the Indians organization to an end. He’ll have five-plus years of big league service at the end of the year but won’t reach six full years, so Cleveland will have the opportunity to retain him via arbitration. Martin was earning an affordable $1.75MM base salary this season and posted a solid .255/.323/.425 slash with considerably above-average defensive marks in the outfield. Given that level of play, the Indians should have plenty of interest in retaining Martin barring any setbacks in his recovery that would cloud his outlook for the 2019 season.