The Indians have signed outfielder Ben Gamel to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, per a club announcement. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported the deal. Gamel is represented by Jet Sports.
The 28-year-old Gamel will vie for playing time in an overcrowded outfield jumble that is lacking in proven players. Eddie Rosario is the only lock to see time in the Cleveland outfield this year after agreeing to a one-year deal worth $8MM not long ago. Oscar Mercado will surely get a chance to put his awful 2020 season behind him, and if he looks anywhere near his excellent 2019 form, he should be the everyday center fielder.
Other options on the 40-man roster for Cleveland include Jordan Luplow, Jake Bauers, Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Johnson. Luplow, as the only right-handed hitter of the bunch (including Gamel) may have the inside track based on handedness and the fact that he decimated left-handed pitching at video-game-esque levels in 2019 before a 2020 decline.
Gamel brings a knack for drawing walks (10.8 percent over the past three years) to the competition, and he has experience at all three outfield slots. He’s best deployed in a corner, however, and his bat has tailed off considerably since a solid 2017-18 showing in Seattle that saw him bat .274/.335/.398 (102 wRC+). The Mariners traded Gamel to the Brewers after the 2018 campaign, and his strikeout rate in Milwaukee has soared as his overall production has waned
In 483 plate appearances as a Brewer, Gamel batted .245/.331/.381. The batting line looks somewhat similar to his Seattle output, but it came in a more hitter-friendly setting at a time when offense was on the rise throughout the league. Gamel’s strikeout rate also ballooned from 21 percent in Seattle to just shy of 30 percent in Milwaukee, which surely didn’t leave the Brewers feeling great about giving him a raise via arbitration.
If Gamel wins a spot on the Indians’ roster this spring, he’ll remain controllable through the 2022 season via arbitration.