Cleveland Indians


It was an off-season of transition for the payroll-slashing Indians. Gone are 13 players from last year’s roster, who left either through trades or free agency: Yonder Alonso, Michael Brantley, Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes, Yandy Diaz, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhalll, Josh Donaldson, Melky Cabrera, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Josh Tomlin. The only significant addition is first baseman Carlos Santana, who returns to Cleveland after one year in Philadelphia.
The reason for the mass exodus of players was ownership’s decision to reduce the Indians’ payroll, which last year was a franchise-record $135 million. To help fill the void left by all the departing players, the Indians are bringing almost a complete second roster—19 players—to their major league camp as non-roster invitees.
What’s New
Santana spent the first eight years of his career with the Indians. As a free agent following the 2017 season, he signed a three-year $60 million deal with the Phillies. He returned to the Indians in December, as a part of a three-team trade that saw Cleveland trade Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle. Santana, a switch-hitter who can play first base, left field, or DH, gives the Indians more flexibility than the right-handed hitting, DH-only Encarnacion.

Jake Bauers, acquired in the aforementioned three-team trade, gets first crack at replacing Brantley in left field. Bauers, 23, hit 11 home runs, including one off Corey Kluber, though batting just .201, as a rookie with Tampa Bay last year.
Replacing Gomes at catcher will be last year’s backup, Roberto Perez, whose slash line last season of .168/.256/.263 is concerning enough that, for insurance, the Indians acquired Kevin Plawecki in a trade with the Mets. The third catcher is rookie Eric Haase, who belted 24 home runs at Triple-A Columbus last year. It’s possible all three could start the season on the major league roster.
With Alonso gone, Santana will get most of the starts at first base, but that leaves the designated hitter spot open. There is no obvious everyday DH on the roster, so Manager Terry Francona may rotate various players into that slot.
What Could Change
Barring any last-minute acquisitions, the Indians will begin spring training with perhaps the weakest outfield in the majors. Only one of the seven outfielders on the 40-man roster, Leonys Martin, has been a starting outfielder in the majors for a full season. The most experienced outfielder in camp will be 35-year-old Matt Joyce, one of five non-roster outfielders invited to the big-league camp.
Besides Martin and Bauers, the other five outfielders on the 40-man roster are Greg Allen, Jordan Luplow, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer. Zimmer, who underwent major shoulder surgery last year, is not expected to be game ready until mid-season. Naquin could be a potential platoon partner with Luplow or Allen in right field. Center field appears to be a choice between Martin and Allen, with Mercado, a minor league prospect of some promise, waiting in the wings.
It would not be a surprise if the Indians traded for an outfielder during, or at the end of spring training. That may be a decision the front office will make only after it has seen what the group in camp looks like in game situations.
The other area of concern is the bullpen, which lost mainstays Miller and Allen to free agency. Closer Brad Hand and setup man Oliver Perez are both back, but after that the Indians have numerous candidates to sort through to find the four or five other relievers who will be on the opening day roster. Veteran Dan Otero’s track record may give him an edge in the competition. One new face could be right-hander Alex Wilson, who in 59 appearances with Detroit last year had a 3.36 ERA and held right-handed hitters to a .191 batting average. Wilson is yet another non-roster invitee.
What’s Coming
With all the roster turnover in the off-season, the Indians still have perennial MVP candidates Francisco Lindor, who will miss the first week of the season with a calf injury, and Jose Ramirez anchoring the top of the order. Equally important, Cleveland’s five-star starting rotation remains intact. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber give the Indians the deepest, and perhaps best rotation in the majors. It’s the backbone of an Indians roster that should still be good enough to win the weak AL Central for the fourth year in a row.
It might, however, be the last roundup for this group. Kluber and Bauer were both subjects of considerable trade speculation during the off-season, and those rumors will undoubtedly resurface, and intensify, during and after the coming season. Kluber will be paid $17.2 million this year, the final year of his contract. The Indians do hold club options for $17.5 million in 2020 and $18 million in 2021. Whether the Indians exercise those options, or whether Kluber is even on the team when the time comes to exercise them, remains to be seen.
Bauer will become a free agent after the 2020 season. So, the clock is ticking for both Kluber and Bauer, and the Indians as well. At what point does the club trade them to get the value two top-of-the-rotation starters could bring? That will be a subplot to the 2019 season, especially in the unexpected event that the Indians don’t cruise to another division title.
Best-Case Scenario: The starting rotation performs as advertised, and the reconfigured lineup produces enough offense for the Indians to win a fourth straight division title—and their first World Series in 71 years.
Worst-Case Scenario: Injuries and a lack offense sabotage the season, forcing the front office to trade Kluber and Bauer to the highest bidders at the trade deadline.


Posts les plus consultés de ce blog

Atlanta Braves

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Blackhawks