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Indians buy high on Ryan Raburn, but it’s OK

Aug 7, 2013, 6:10 PM EST

Ryan Raburn AP

After hitting .256/.311/.430 in 1,573 at-bats over seven seasons with the Tigers, Ryan Raburn had to settle for a minor league contract in the offseason.  A few charmed months later, he’s now making guaranteed money through 2015, courtesy of the two-year, $4.85 million extension he signed with the Indians on Wednesday.

There’s no denying that the 32-year-old Raburn has been one of the league’s best role players this season; he’s hitting .277/.370/.565 with 13 homers and 38 RBI in 184 at-bats. He’s not just doing it against lefties, either; he’s hit .257/.347/.523 with eight homers in 109 at-bats against right-handers.

Still, there’s little to suggest this has been any sort of real breakthrough for Raburn. His strikeout rate is a bit higher than his career average. His line drive rate is, too, but only a bit. He’s been more selective than ever before, and it’s helped his walk rate. But much of his success is built on every one of his four flyballs leaving the yard, and that’s just not sustainable. According to hittrackeronline.com, Raburn is one of two players in baseball to have four “lucky homers” this year. His last two homers, coming Aug. 1 against the White Sox, were both wind-aided and wouldn’t have left the yard under normal conditions.

This is also my least favorite type of contract: multiyear deals for part-time players go bad far more often than not. Ask the Cardinals about Ty Wigginton and the Phillies about Laynce Nix. It’s not even about the money; often it turns out to be a waste of a roster spot on a player who doesn’t deserve it.

All of that said, I don’t have much of a problem with the Indians’ signing here. I don’t believe that Raburn will keep this up in 2014, but he’s been a good part-time player more often than he’s been a bad one in his career. Also, the Indians always figure to have use for him with left-handed hitters Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley due to occupy starting spots in the outfield for the next few years.

Little good can come from extending a player at the peak of his value, and that’s exactly what the Indians did here with Raburn. But the money is so modest anyway that this mostly comes down to whether Raburn will still be worth a bench spot in 2015, the final year of the deal. I’m guessing he will be.

  1. buffal0sportsfan - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    It is ok unless he comes back to the Tigers.

  2. neoshweaty - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    They would probably be paying that much (if I understand it as 2.4ish mil per year) for someone of similar performance to his career numbers, right? I’m genuinely curious if anyone knows what the going rate for a player of his caliber is.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:50 PM

      Well, Wigginton was a lesser player signed to occupy a similar role and he got two years, $5 million over the winter. But that was flat-out stupid.

      Jonny Gomes could be considered a similar player and he got $10 million for two years. Scott Hairston is pretty similar, and he got the same as Wigginton: two years, $5 million.

      • neoshweaty - Aug 7, 2013 at 7:03 PM

        Makes sense. Basically, you could do a whole lot worse for the money but you’re probably going to get a Ryan Raburn type.

  3. bigtrav425 - Aug 7, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    It’s 4.8 mil for 2 yrs to a pretty good back up/fill in player…good move by the tribe for once

  4. kindasporty - Aug 7, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    As long as they don’t try to turn him into a starter they should be ok.

  5. takemytalentstosoutheuclid - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Francona likes his ability to play multiple infield and outfield spots, plus he’s the emergency catcher. If a deal of this caliber is going to make or break your club, you have much bigger problems to worry about. He’s a solid utility player and a good clubhouse guy.

    Now if only Antonetti would extend Kazmir….

  6. bravojawja - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    As long as he keeps his 2B eligibility.

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