The Indians are optioning outfielder Oscar Mercado, per various reporters (including Zack Meisel of the Athletic). That’s a bit of a surprise, since Mercado had been a candidate to take on a role in Cleveland’s uncertain outfield mix.
After a productive rookie showing in 2019, Mercado opened the 2020 season as the Indians’ center fielder. The speedster fell flat, though, hitting just .128/.174/.174 with a single home run over 93 plate appearances. Those struggles got Mercado sent to the alternate training site in mid-August; Bradley Zimmer and the since-departed Delino DeShields Jr. and Greg Allen garnered playing time at the position down the stretch.
Today’s Mercado demotion seems to pave the way for Zimmer to pick up the bulk of the playing time in center in the season’s early going. The 28-year-old Zimmer has just a .224/.300/.349 line in 510 MLB plate appearances. Shortstop Amed Rosario has also gotten some work in the grass in Spring Training and seems likely to get reps in center in the regular season. Prospect Daniel Johnson could be an option at some point, but he was also optioned out earlier this week. Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow, Josh Naylor, Harold Ramírez, Franmil Reyes and Eddie Rosario are all on the 40-man roster, but everyone in that group fits better in the corner outfield.
In other Indians’ news, Rule 5 draftee Trevor Stephan will make the Opening Day roster, Mandy Bell of MLB.com was among those to note. The 25-year-old righty was selected out of the Yankees’ organization. He’ll need to stick on the active roster (or on the MLB injured list) all season or else be placed on waivers, then offered back to New York.