For as disappointing as they've been in 2015, the Indians still find themselves just a single game under .500, with at least a puncher's chance of making the postseason. Indeed, according to Baseball Prospectus, they at least have one chance in three at winning one of the wild cards in the American League.
Now, yesterday, I speculated that they might be buyers at the trade deadline, but there's something that they can do right now that will improve their club significantly and improve their odds of playing past game 162.
It's time to finally bring up Francisco Lindor.
It's not that Lindor is going to come up and go all Kris Bryant on the American League. The consensus Top 10 prospect has not hit exceptionally well at Triple-A Columbus. Oh, don't get me wrong. He's done pretty well for a 21 year old just a step below the major leagues, hitting .264/.341/.373 through 51 games, but that doesn't translate to unbridled success in Cleveland.
No, the real reason the Indians need Lindor is not that he's so good, but that Jose Ramirez is so awful. Ramirez, just a year older than Lindor, has started 42 of the Indians' 53 games. In 167 plate appearances, he has hit just .184/.252/.245. His 40 OPS+ is the fourth worst in baseball of anyone with over 100 plate appearances. Among those other three, one (Rougned Odor) is back in the minors, and one (Evereth Cabrera) was filling in for an injured J.J. Hardy.
At least the Indians would have an excuse to let Ramirez keep playing if his defense was any good. But, man, it's not. Ramirez has made 8 errors on the year so far, and makes fewer plays than any other shortstop in the American League except for Jose Reyes. UZR, Total Zone, Defensive Runs Saved, Fielding Runs Above Average? They all hate him.
It's gotten so bad that the Indians have been using Mike Aviles at short again in the last two games. Aviles has, at least, hit well, but at 34 years old his ability to play shortstop competently is very much in doubt. But when Aviles plays short, he can't fill in at third base, where Lonnie Chisenhall has gone back to being a massive disappointment.
Look, I'm generally not an advocate of rushing prospects. And I respect Terry Francona when he says that Lindor is not ready. But, for one thing, I don't know that I can trust Francona given that he's simultaneously trying to bolster Ramirez's confidence. For another, desperate times call for measures that are themselves very desperate. And, believe me, the Indians are desperate to plug this hole. Or at least they should be.
They can't go outside of the organization, because Lindor is the heir apparent and will be ready soon, and they don't want to create a roadblock. Essentially, they're left with two options, trade for a third baseman who can actually play a little, and live with Aviles at short, or promote Lindor and use Aviles at third. I know which one I'd try first. But they have to do something, because the status quo is ugly, and it is not sustainable if the Indians are going to get back into the playoff hunt in 2015.