Cleveland Indians Sign Ben Gamel

Ben Gamel Joins the Indians on a Minor League Deal

The Cleveland Indians agreed to a minor league deal with free agent outfielder Ben Gamel on Thursday. Jon Heyman of MLB Network had the news first on Twitter.

Gamel received a non-roster invite to the big league spring training camp. The 28-year old is coming off a season in which he played 40 games with the Milwaukee Brewers. Over those 40 games, he slashed .237/.315/.404 with 27 hits, eight doubles, one triple, three home runs, 10 RBI, 13 walks, and 39 strikeouts. In addition, he has spent parts of the last five seasons with the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.

The move is an attempt to bolster the outfield which struggled significantly offensively last season. As a unit, Cleveland outfielders combined for a poultry .194/.270/.300 slash line over 687 plate appearances. Furthermore, Indians outfielders had a 25.6% strikeout rate along with a .255 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) over that sample.

Gamel gives the Indians a potential affordable option to bolster the outfield heading into Spring Training. Over his major league career, he has played all three outfield spots, but has the most experience in the corners.

More on the Potential Fit of Ben Gamel

If Ben Gamel does end up breaking camp as part of the Indians roster, he will give the team a potential bat against lefties. Over his career, he has slashed .284/.353/.410 against lefties with a .399 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) over that period. His splits between lefties and righties wasn’t as noticeable last season, but he still put up a .667 OPS against left-handers over 24 plate appearances.

Beyond that, Gamel has been good with runners in scoring position (RISP) as well during his major league tenure. In those situations, he has hit .279/.363/.405 with six home runs, 100 RBI, and a .351 BABIP. For the Indians, being able to score with runners in scoring position will be important this coming season. Granted, it is unclear if Gamel will be on the Opening Day roster, but if he is then he can certainly help the team from that perspective.

Last season over the 60-game sample, the Indians had a .240 batting average with RISP, which gave them the fifth lowest value in that category, out of all thirty teams. Furthermore, the team ranked in the bottom third in the MLB with a .330 on-base percentage in those situations. Cleveland struggled to score runs at various times and based on these two stats, it is easy to see why.

Outfield Mix Heading into Spring Training

As it stands right now, the Indians have five different outfielders on their depth chart not including the aforementioned Ben Gamel. Those individuals include Eddie Rosario, who the team signed to a one-year, $8 million dollar deal in January, as well as Franmil Reyes, Oscar Mercado, Josh Naylor and Jordan Luplow. Rosario has the starting left field job locked up which means there are two spots remaining as well as bench depth.

Beyond that, Gamel will also likely have to compete with Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Johnson for an outfield job. Zimmer, who played in 20 games last year, was once highly regarded by the organization and could still land a spot on the Opening Day roster if he is able to stay healthy. Meanwhile, Johnson had a .237 OPS over 13 plate appearances last season and could be a depth option for the team if there is an injury.

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Players Mentioned: Ben Gamel, Eddie Rosario, Franmil Reyes, Oscar Mercado, Josh Naylor, Jordan Luplow, Bradley Zimmer, Daniel Johnson.