Designated OF Jason Michaels for Assignment
Recalled OF Ben Francisco from Buffalo (AAA)
Yes, Michaels was hitting just .207/.258/.276 so far this season. Yes, he's making the type of money that Indians wouldn't think much of to dump. And yes, Ben Francisco, an outfielder, was the best available bat in the minors. But even with all those components, the Indians wouldn't have made this move if the offense wasn't horrible. Because carrying a struggling platoon outfielder isn't that much of a burden on even a below average offensive club. It wasn't Jason Michaels struggling that earned him a ticket out of town, it was Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Casey Blake. Something needed to change, and Michaels was it.
Even with the sudden glut of outfielders on the waiver wire, Michaels should find a home somewhere. Even though the idea of him as a starter came and went, he's still an attractive fourth outfielder. He's a solid defender on the corners and could probably still play center if needed. He didn't play much center for the Indians because Grady Sizemore almost never takes a day off, and even when he does, Franklin Gutierrez was the obvious choice.
If we use the same standard in judging Michaels, Ben Francisco hasn't hit much in Buffalo. A .623 OPS with the Bisons could mean Ben was bored, but whatever the underlying reason, his April was not the reason the Indians brought him up. Ben had an excellent Spring Training, had an outstanding 2007 AAA season (.318/.382/.496), and had success in the limited time he spent in Cleveland. And he's the best offensive player the Indians had available in the minors.
Most of Ben's value lies in his bat, which has been consistent throughout his minor-league travels. He has good speed, though I think it will manifest itself better running the bases rather than stealing them. He probably shouldn't play much in center, though the Indians have center covered. He's not going to fit in Jason Michael's old role as the right-handed platoon outfielder. Eric Wedge will probably have to run a three-man rotation on the corners to get David Dellucci, Franklin Gutierrez, and Francisco meaningful playing time. If Travis Hafner continues to struggle, perhaps Francisco could see some games as the DH.
Bringing up Francisco is not going to turn the Indians' offense around. He certainly isn't going to make up for Travis Hafner hitting .209/.305/.345 or Asdrubal Cabrera hitting below the Mendoza Line. But at this point, the Indians need any little production gain they can find.