Indians Playoff Odds Take Hit With Marlon Byrd Suspension
The Cleveland Indians are hanging by a threat in the increasingly competitive AL Central division, resting at 26-24 in third place behind the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals.
Their plight to storm the top of the division and make a playoff appearance had already taken a hit earlier this year when outfielder Abraham Almonte succumbed to a league suspension. Now they have to deal with the loss of another offensive piece.
Per reports, outfielder Marlon Byrd has been lost for the remainder of the year due to a league-imposed 162-game ban.
Source: Tribe’s Marlon Byrd tested positive for PEDs, again. Previously suspended 50 games after testing positive in 2012. Announcement soon
— Vince Grzegorek (@vincethepolack) June 1, 2016
Byrd is said to have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs for the second time since 2012. Back in 2012 he served a 50-game ban, but will now sit out a full season’s worth of games and will not be allowed to play for the Indians again this year.
It’s a sizable blow to Cleveland’s offense, which had been solid enough to start the year but was still only middle of the pack when it came to producing runs.
Byrd had a had in a good amount of them, though, banging in five home runs and hitting a solid .270 while banging 19 runs in and scoring 11 times on the year, himself.
Next Man Up
The news could send Byrd out of the league for good, as the outfielder won’t be able to suit up for anyone again until he’s 39 years old. By that time, it’s possible no team will want to take a chance on him.
Byrd’s future isn’t of Cleveland’s concern, of course. The bigger dilemma on hand is making sure he’s replaced properly in the starting lineup. The suspension couldn’t come at a worse time for the outfield, either, as Almonte is still serving his suspension and Michael Brantley is dealing with a shoulder issue.
In the interim the news cements starting roles for Lonnie Chisenhall and Rajai Davis for the most part, although either could be moved around depending on matchups. The only other fielders the Indians currently have to work with are Jose Ramirez and Michael Martinez and odds are the first crack goes to the younger Ramirez.
Ramirez is batting a strong .310 on the year and was already seeing steady action at the plate. It remains to be determined what the Indians’ long-term plan will be, but some combination of Chisenhall, Davis and Ramirez figures to stick. That, or Cleveland could look to a trade to spice up their power at the plate.
Cleveland isn’t the strongest playoff contender even before losing Byrd, so it’s tough to see them improving with him on the shelf for good. The team shouldn’t be totally shell shocked by this, either.
Byrd is a 38-year old fielder who strikes out a good amount and brigs a heavy bat sporadically. Cleveland still has plenty of versatile fielders that can rotate between third base and the field and also connect at the plate at a decent rate. However, Byrd aside, they probably need to make a big trade if they really want to jolt their offense and take things up a level.
The Indians were supposed to be able to rely on elite pitching, but to this point have seen nothing but inconsistency out of their top arms. If their offense can stay the course and Corey Kluber and co. can round back into form, the Indians could be an interesting bet. For now, steer clear of Cleveland as a World Series threat and only bet on them in positive matchups on a weekly basis.
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