Tyler Naquin became a Cleveland Indians legend on August 19, 2016.
His walk-off inside-the-park home run was one of the most exciting moments in recent team history and proved that 2016 squad was something special.
That was also Naquin’s best season with the Indians and it came as a rookie.
He finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting and looked like a key building block for the future.
That obviously did not become true.
Naquin was let go by the Indians this past offseason and is now getting a shot with the Cincinnati Reds.
The #Reds have agreed to terms with on a minor league contract and invited to major league spring training OF Tyler Naquin. pic.twitter.com/uFzLWBiy19
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) February 18, 2021
The 29-year-old will look to keep his career alive in Cincinnati after posting a negative WAR in 2020.
His Path to Being Released
Naquin could just never live up to the potential he flashed as a rookie.
Injuries played a huge part in his downfall and he only appeared in a total of 80 games between 2017-2018.
He then showed a ton of promise in 2019, only to blow out his knee during a game in Tampa.
2020 was another year of regression as he posted a -0.5 WAR in 40 games.
The Indians have a surplus of young outfielders to choose from and it was clear Naquin was no longer in the mix.
He could have realistically gotten playing time, but the front office is always going to opt for young talent over someone who has gotten multiple chances.
Adding Eddie Rosario to the bunch also made it clear there was never a spot for Naquin in 2021.
He leaves the Indians with a career .274/.323/.443 line and hit 31 home runs during parts of five seasons.
But nothing will ever top his most memorable home run that didn’t even leave the field.
His Legacy in Cleveland
It is easy to just focus in on that one singular moment back in 2016.
Today is also Tyler Naquin's birthday!
Where were you when he hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run? pic.twitter.com/Bc1O5si9SQ
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) April 24, 2020
But Naquin proved in 2019 he was a suitable option as an everyday player.
His torn ACL was a brutal setback and we may never know what his true peak could have been.
Naquin was the team’s first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and that status helps explain why he stuck around for so long.
The team wanted to see if he could be consistent, but it just never happened.
His impressive 1.5 WAR in 2019 was quickly forgotten after his mark of -0.5 the following year.
Ultimately, Naquin will be best remembered for being part of that special 2016 squad.
The nostalgia is already setting in and he will go down with the likes of Andrew Miller, Rajai Davis, Mike Napoli, and many others as part of a group that got so close to winning it all.
But he still has time to launch a new career with the Reds.
Naquin doesn’t turn 30 years old until late April and heads to southern Ohio with over 300 games of experience under his belt.
While the Indians saw enough, the Reds may have landed a huge steal in the former folk hero outfielder.
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