Another big shakeup in Cleveland’s infield, as the Indians have demoted starting third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall to Triple-A on the heels of doing the same with starting shortstop Jose Ramirez.
Chisenhall had a big first half last season, hitting .332 with a .915 OPS in 79 games to make a lot of people think the former top prospect was finally living up to his potential at age 25. But then he fell apart in the second half, hitting .218, and Chisenhall was even worse to begin this season with a .207 batting average and .585 OPS in 52 games.
Chisenhall is still young enough to get on track with the Indians, but he’s now a career .253 hitter with a .708 OPS in 397 games as a big leaguer and his inability to control the strike zone stands out as holding him back.
Mike Aviles is expected to serve as the Indians’ primary shortstop, leaving call-ups Zach Walters and Giovanny Urshela to split time at third base. And stud prospect Francisco Lindor will continue biding his time playing shortstop at Triple-A.
Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.
After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.
With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.