Potential and loyalty make strange bedfellows

I’m a big fan of Michael Brantley. He has virtually all of the qualities one desires in a major league ballplayer: He can hit, field, run; he’s a smart baserunner, has an awesome arm and is a good guy and (not surprisingly) a fan favorite. However, the one quality he lacks – durability – has an uncanny way of quickly negating all of the plusses next to his name.

In recent years, it’s been difficult to enjoy Brantley for any length of time since he can’t stay on the field very long before he’s injured again. To say that the Indians went out on a limb in counting on Brantley for the 2018 season while letting Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce walk is a huge understatement. The Tribe might end up paying Brantley $12 million to be an expensive cheerleader.

I’ve never been much of a Santana fan, and we can only speculate on how Jay Bruce would have worked out had we signed him, but if nothing else, one thing you could say about Bruce and Santana was that they are both durable. I think the Indians fell in love with the Brantley of the past and now find they’re having a difficult time letting go. Loyalty is rare in sports and while the Indians are trying to do the right thing by Brantley, they are risking quite a bit if Brantley goes down again.

That brings us to pitcher Danny Salazar, the oft-injured starter for the Indians, who, like Brantley, can’t seem to stay off the disabled list. It’s been a disappointing career so far for Salazar. Tribe fans will recall him starting the Indians’ wild card playoff game in 2013, after only a few months in the big leagues. An overpowering arm and a number of quality pitches positioned Danny as the guy most mentioned in trade talks whenever the Indians were contacted about a possible deal. The Indians never seriously considered parting with Salazar because of his very high ceiling, or “potential,” as it were.

Now it’s 2018, Danny is 28 years old, and suddenly the ceiling isn’t quite as high as it once was. There are questions about his health, and – perhaps more alarming – whispers about his mental “toughness.” He has had issues with his confidence and – while that is understandable when a prospect is 23 – it doesn’t wash at age 28. It makes one wonder about Danny’s injuries: are they physical or maybe psychosomatic? Self-doubt can make for a nasty opponent.

Those who advocate keeping Salazar point to teammate Carlos Carrasco as the reason to hold on to Danny. Carrasco was a late bloomer (I believe I dubbed him “Carlos Tabasco” at one point when he was regularly getting torched on the mound) who became a dominant starter after floundering for several seasons.

However, there is one glaring difference between the two: Carrasco suffered some nasty injuries – including getting smoked in the face from a batted ball – and rebounded quickly each time. Salazar? Not so much. In fact, I would point to Carrasco as the reason to get rid of Salazar. They may be similar on paper, but that’s where it ends.  

Salazar’s trade value has dropped with each injury and as he ages, but he can still bring some value to the Indians via trade.

How about trading for a decent outfielder as insurance when Brantley gets hurt again?

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 9:35 AM, 02.20.2018