in 2016, the Cleveland Indians were one win away from achieving their ultimate goal of becoming World Series Champions. now i'm going to look ahead and determine what they have to do--specifically, what moves they need to make--in order to claim the title next year.
the good news is they don't require a complete overhaul. in fact, they're luckier than most teams because the Indians are going to retain the majority of their 2016 roster, including all of their core players. not only that, but the players who were injured in October/November will also be starting the upcoming season at full health. (knock on wood.) so if they can just add a few more pieces, then the Indians should be primed and ready for another run towards a championship. in the meantime, i'm taking on the role of the front office.
this blog is comprised of several sections containing:
--Indians players already on the 2017 roster
--the approximate 2017 payroll
--players the Indians have lost and/or may lose to free agency
--contract extension ideas
--Tribe needs for 2017
--players within the organization who could be used in a trade
--Major League players on the free agent market who could be viable options to acquire
--front office changes
as always, scroll through the different topics and read what you like!
before you get underway here, however, you might want to read my Analyzing the Tribe's 2016 Season + Postseason blog, if you haven't already, which dissects their latest season and recaps each individual player's performance.
note: this blog reflects any Indians/MLB offseason signings and moves made through 8 pm on November 30.
Guaranteed Contracts for 2017
the Tribe's payroll will finally tip over $100 million in 2017, their largest in franchise history, and most of that is simply coming from pay raises for their current players. the nine-figure payroll is an unusual one for the Indians, so they won't have a lot of extra money to work with as far as signing free agents this offseason. but they're never big players in that market anyway. i will peruse the possibilities and get into who i think we might target shortly, but first i'm gonna add up the salaries that are already set for next year.
let's take a look at all of the 9 guaranteed contracts* for 2017. (i pulled these salaries from baseball-reference.com.)
Carlos Santana - $12 million
Jason Kipnis - $9,166,667
Andrew Miller - $9 million
Michael Brantley - $8.375 million
Corey Kluber - $7.7 million
Carlos Carrasco - $6.5 million
Yan Gomes - $4.5 million
Josh Tomlin - $2.5 million
*plus the $9 million salary they still owe Chris Johnson in 2017 as part of the terms of sending Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves on August 7, 2015. (source: Zack Meisel.) so while they're responsible for nine salaries, there's only eight roster spots set in this group.
that's a total of $68,741,667, which is an increase of $20.25 million from the guaranteed contracts in place going into last year's offseason.
Arb Eligible Players
in the arb eligible group, there are 9 players: Cody Allen, Trevor Bauer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Danny Salazar, and Bryan Shaw. barring a trade, i figure the Indians will tender contracts to everyone and that they are all likely to make the 25-man roster next Opening Day.
(Chris Gimenez and Michael Martinez were originally in this group, but both were outrighted prior to the posting of this blog.)
after going over what these nine made in 2016 and weighing that against their performance and future value to the team, i came up with what i felt were appropriate salary increases for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors has an estimated $29.9 million for the nine players. i was not that generous and ended up with a total of $23.8 million.
estimated total payroll so far: $92,541,667
roster total: 17 players
this year, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Roberto Perez, Abraham Almonte, and Tyler Naquin are our 5 pre-arb eligible
players with a Major League contract that has expired, all of whom i'm presuming will be on the team again. pre-arb players basically get about the same as they did in the previous season or near the league minimum. since the exact league min has not yet been established for 2017, i had to do approximations and i came up with a total of $2.755 million for these five guys.
although, there is a chance that one or more of these players could be signed to an extension this offseason and if so, then their 2017 salary will increase. (i'll go more into that in the Who Wants a Contract Extension? section of the blog below.)
estimated total payroll so far: $95,296,667
roster total: 22 players
no one who's guaranteed to open the season with the Indians is listed on baseball-reference to earn the league minimum next season, so i've got nothing for ya here. there's a possibility that someone could break camp with the Tribe and make the league min, such as a minor league reliever. or somebody else we bring in from the outside could also be in this monetary category, but right now i can't predict that.
at this time, the dollar amount for the minimum in 2017 is still TBD. at best, there's an estimation between last year's salary of $507,500 and $550,000, though some players could earn more depending on service time. the league min normally increases a little bit each season so it might be around 515K.
estimated total payroll so far: $95,296,667
roster total: 22 players
now let's take a look at our free agents. we've got Coco Crisp, Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Marlon Byrd, Chris Gimenez, and Michael Martinez*. i'm going to speak on each of these players separately.
Coco Crisp had a $13 million option for 2017, but the Indians elected not to pick it up,
making him a free agent as of November 4. Crisp was acquired with cash
from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Colt Hynes on August 31. he
was brought in at age 36 to take the place of Abraham Almonte in the
postseason, since he was going to be ineligible due to his PED
suspension in the first half of the year. Crisp more
than did what was expected of him in a platoon role while with the Tribe.
Mike Napoli became a free agent on November 7 because the Indians declined him a qualifying offer of $17.2 million. Paul Hoynes maintained on November 21 that negotiations between Nap and the Tribe were going well, but i know the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees have all also expressed interest in him. after his career year, Nap could get a good multi-year deal, but the three-year deal he's seeking (according to Buster Olney) seems a little over the top and quite frankly a bit greedy for a 35-year old. i'll be stunned if any team agrees to that. however, if that's really what he wants, he won't get it here because the Indians are more interested in another one-year contract. and even if they were to offer him a multi-year deal, i can't see it being for more than two years and Napoli may not be thrilled about the price point. Jon Heyman wrote on fanragsports.com that Nap could get a two-year, $26 million deal. he won't with the Tribe though, due to his age.
Rajai Davis also became a free agent on November 7 because the Indians did not extend him a QO either. President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, via Hoynsie, disclosed that they are talking to his agent. i have not heard any rumors regarding Davis and other teams yet, but after the World Series ended, he did reveal he'd be open to returning if Napoli did as well and we could keep the team together. he also had a great year with the Tribe and may be in line for a multi-year deal. Terry Pluto claims the Indians want him back on a one-year deal and Heyman believes he could get two years at $15 million. Davis' American League leading 43 stolen bases showed everyone that despite his age, the 36-year old remains in fantastic shape and has game-changing speed on the basepaths, so he should draw interest from teams that need a 4th outfielder type.
Marlon Byrd was the Indians' third player who became a free agent on November 7 because he, too, was not offered a QO. Byrd was suspended for 162 games on June 1 after testing positive for PEDs and still has to finish serving his suspension in 2017. it's not for certain, but his shortened season with the Indians this year might have been the last anyone sees of the 39-year old in the majors.
Chris Gimenez was outrighted to the Columbus Clippers on November 18. he informed the Indians on November 21 that he'd prefer to become a free agent and secure a big league deal with another team. the Indians acquired him in a trade with the Texas Rangers for cash on May 4. he filled in superbly when Roberto Perez got hurt and also when Yan Gomes suffered his injury. players, coaches, and media members alike all said Gimenez is a pleasure to work with and be around. he will absolutely be a desirable catcher on the FA market.
*Michael Martinez was outrighted to Columbus on November 23, though he was offered a minor league deal with an invite to camp, according to Hoynsie. as of the posting of this blog on November 30, no word had come out yet as to whether or not he wished to become a free agent. but on December 1, Martinez was officially signed to a minor league deal by the Tribe. therefore, i have included him in the Current 2017 Team Construction section of the blog below.
without retaining any of the above to the ML roster, estimated total payroll so far: $95,296,667
roster total: 22 players
so i've got 3 open roster spots and a 2017 payroll close to 100 million already. the final three then should come from either a trade, the clearance rack of the free agent market, and/or a waiver claim. the Indians will also dole out many invites to their spring training complex during the winter, and that could help them stockpile backups in Columbus in case an emergency occurs in the parent club next season.
Free Agents I Want To Re-Sign
the Indians really need to figure out a way to bring Mike Napoli back. aside
from his 34 home runs and 101 RBI this year, i think Napoli brought an invaluable
presence to the team that was pivotal in getting the Tribe to the
playoffs. he made many nice plays at 1st base as well. he might
not be able to replicate his 2016 numbers next year, and he's only getting
older, but i'd take the risk because his right-handed bat will be hard to replace. even with assuming Michael Brantley is healthy and puts up his usual stats in 2017, having Brant and Nap back-to-back in the lineup would be an outstanding combination.
i know what some people are thinking--Napoli stunk in September and October/November. true, Napoli
didn't do very well in the postseason, but if you look through his
career postseason stats, he really hasn't done much overall in the playoffs except for
in 2011 while he was with the Texas Rangers. still, you gotta get there first so that wouldn't deter me from re-signing him.
if the Indians can work out a deal, which is gonna be tough, then Napoli's contract no doubt would push the Tribe's payroll
over $100 million. let's see just how much Nap really enjoyed playing for Terry Francona and find out if that's worth more to him than money. if i had to guess, i'd say Napoli's time with the Indians ended with his lackluster postseason performance. damnit.
in addition, i want the Indians to bring back Rajai Davis. we don't have anyone on our team who can run like he can, which is almost ridiculous to say considering his age and the fact that there are some fast, young guys on our roster. honestly, without Davis, we don't have as strong of a lineup against lefties either. he should be the easier one to negotiate with, but it's gonna be up to him if he wants to try his luck again with us.
Players Who Are Definitely Outta Here
we already know Coco Crisp's option wasn't picked up and the Indians told him that would be the case right when they traded for him. while it was fun bringing him back to the team and watching him get some big clutch hits, we shouldn't miss his bat much with Abraham Almonte playing a full season next year and Michael Brantley returning.
i personally would love to see Chris Gimenez remain in the organization, but that's extremely unlikely. he's looking for a Major League contract, and when the Indians outrighted him, they admitted they would only be interested in bringing him back on a minor league deal with spring invite. a big league team will scoop him up for sure because he's a great backup catcher to have running your pitching staff and on your squad. and i think we will regret letting him slip away because we normally do have at least one injured catcher at some point in a season, and right now we don't have an established backup waiting in Triple A. (sorry, but i'd take Gimenez over Adam Moore or Guillermo Quiroz any day.)
Who Wants a Contract Extension?
while it's not imperative, Francisco Lindor could be a contract extension candidate this offseason. presently, he's under Tribe control through 2021. nonetheless, the Indians might want to lock him into a contract now as opposed to doing it later so that they can potentially cut out some of his arbitration years and save money. and we all know this front office loves saving money.
last year, i said Cody Allen could be up for an extension. they didn't give him one and now look--he's projected to become one of our top five highest paid players after being arb eligible for the second year in a row. why not approach him about a two-year deal with an option? he's certainly earned it and this way they could at least avoid arbitration next offseason.
i've heard many people saying we should extend Jose Ramirez. my preference would be to let him play for another year first to see if his 2017 #s are comparable to 2016. plus, he's not even arb eligible yet, he's pre-arb, so i'd wait cause he's not going anywhere and he's still gonna be relatively affordable.
had Michael Brantley played, i'd say try to extend him now because 2017 is his last guaranteed season with the Indians. and it's scary knowing this could indeed be his final year as a Cleveland Indian should the team not pick up his option for 2018. what if he has another season of injury issues and doesn't play much once again? perish the thought. my hope was that he'd put together a typical Brantley season and that'd give him leverage to go in and get a hefty extension before 2017. sadly, i don't think the Tribe will be able to afford him after 2018. besides that, re-signing him may not even be a priority because of the younger and cheaper outfielders the Indians have being groomed in the minors... (i will address this more in a future blog so stay tuned.)
should they extend anyone, that will further increase that player's salary and add to the team's 2017 payroll. but for now, everything is the same.
estimated total payroll so far: $95,296,667
roster total: 22 players
2017 Tribe Needs
time to write out my offseason wish list.
specific Tribe needs for 2017 include:
--a center fielder
--a 1st baseman (to split time with Carlos Santana)
--a left-handed reliever or two
--a starting pitcher or two for more depth
--a right-handed power bat for the middle of the order
--a backup 3rd baseman
--that veteran player whose presence Terry Francona loves so much lol
seems like a hefty list but remember, some of these needs could be met with just one
player. say we find a right-handed hitter who can also play 1st base, then we've killed two birds with one stone. since we're keeping most of our 2016 group together, that's exactly the kind of players the Indians will need to find--ones who can fill multiple roles because there's only so much roster space to go around. and of course, we might already have some of these necessities in Triple A Columbus.
Current 2017 Team Construction
now i'm going to break things down by position. unless someone is unexpectedly traded, or gets injured before Opening Day, or shockingly does not make it onto the OD roster, then right now, i have a projection of 22 committed roster spots and 3 open spots. the Indians will use spring invites, non-roster invites, waiver claims, and/or trades in an effort to fill those spots.
note: i'm expecting all the players who ended the 2016 season with an injury issue to be fully healthy and ready to go come Opening Day.
let's run through the roster positions and see exactly where there are unoccupied spots that need filling.
left field: Brantley, Guyer, Almonte
center field: Naquin, Almonte
right field: Chisenhall, Almonte, Guyer
other OF possibilities: Ramirez, Martinez, Daniel Robertson
waiting in Columbus for a call up: Bradley Zimmer, Yandy Diaz
with a healthy Brantley, left field is covered. depending on if the Indians can acquire another CF or re-sign Davis, i don't know if both Naquin and Almonte will be on the roster at the start of April. and we seem to have a good platoon in right with Chiz and Guyer. Ramirez could play in the outfield in a pinch if needed and if we had someone to cover for him at 3rd. Martinez can also be considered here, but he's in no way an every day starting outfielder and it's unclear at this time whether he will even make the OD roster. as for Zimmer and Diaz, i'd say they're unlikely to get a call up until later in the year, if at all. and i don't know how much of an impact Robertson will make, who was signed to a minor league deal on November 23. i'd much rather bring in a more experienced OF. (bring back Davis!)
taking into account the 25-man roster commitments at the moment and our immediate team needs, i'd say this is an area where we have 1 open spot to fill.
1st base: Santana
2nd base: Kipnis, Ramirez
shortstop: Lindor, Ramirez
3rd base: Ramirez
other IF possibilities: Martinez, Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez, Jesus Aguilar
waiting in Columbus: Yandy Diaz, Ronny Rodriguez
it's apparent we need a guy who can play 1st base with Santana like Napoli did. also by looking at this roster, it's debatable who's gonna play 3rd when Ramirez needs a day off, so i think we really need to get someone for a backup there as well. Kip and Lindor have 2nd and short on lock.
regarding the infield and our priority of needs, i think we have 1 open spot to fill.
Behind the plate:
catcher: Gomes, Perez
other possibilities: Adam Moore, Guillermo Quiroz
waiting in Columbus: Jeremy Lucas
barring health, Gomes is the #1 catcher and Perez is #2. Moore is still with the farm team and Quiroz signed a minor league deal with spring invite on November 15. the Indians should do that with another, more experienced Major League catcher if at all possible. the loss of Gimenez to free agency could prove costly, especially if Gomes or Perez get hurt, which one always seems to do.
we have 0 open spots to fill here.
other possibilities: anybody
is not a role that needs a full-time player assigned to it, though Santana does seem to be the main designated hitter at this point. basically
any player we currently have or plan to acquire, who might need a quasi-day off to save on his legs when necessary, can be the DH for a game. additionally, if someone has just come off the disabled list and
needs to slowly integrate back into the
daily grind of baseball, they can DH, too. naturally, the DH on any given day depends on who
all has to be at specific fielding positions as well as whose bat needs to be in the
lineup. all that said, definitely don't look for the Indians to add a player who's strictly a DH.
we have 0 open spots to fill here.
Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Tomlin, and Bauer
other possibilities: Cody Anderson, Mike Clevinger, Ryan Merritt, TJ House, Shawn Morimando, Adam Plutko
for once, we have our rotation completed going into next season. unless Terry Francona would like to start out the year with Bauer in the bullpen, we don't need to guess our starting five because nobody's gonna be battling it out for a spot. and i put Tomlin 4th in my listing seeing as how i consider Tomlin to be better than Bauer in terms of reliability. Tito may feel differently though.
now let me talk about our depth in Columbus. we've got a lot of excess arms if someone in our starting five suffers an injury. but of course, it doesn't hurt to add a few more to the mix. if you recall, the Indians seemingly ran out of starting pitchers in the playoffs, especially during their seven games in the World Series. but they had Triple A starters, healthy ones too, that they could have used. except, they couldn't have and didn't. that's because Francona opted to put the arms of Clevinger and Anderson in the Indians' bullpen in September. so by the time the postseason came along, spanning all the way into the beginning of November, those guys were no longer stretched out enough to be starters for us. not to mention, Anderson wasn't even on the World Series 25-man roster.
so let's say the Tribe brings in another starter or two to pitch in Columbus until needed in the bigs. who's to say Tito won't do the same thing--put them in the bullpen in September, thus taking away their ability to actually be used in the rotation in an emergency during an October playoff run because they can only pitch for a couple innings? this is something that our skipper might want to manage better in 2017... just saying.
the five pitchers the Indians start the season with are almost never the five they end with. in this case, that's concerning because if we don't have this starting five at the end, we once again might fall short in the postseason. we could potentially invite an older reclamation type player to spring, or maybe someone who's trying to come back from an injury, in hopes that they might be of some service to us down the road while pitching in Columbus in the meantime. otherwise, i can't see us bringing in a top of the line starter, cause we've got those already.
our five starters are likely set, so i'm gonna go ahead and say that we have 0 open spots
to fill in our rotation.
assuming no trades are made and all the arb eligible players are tendered contracts, our bullpen currently has the following 6 players locked into spots:
Allen, Shaw, Miller, McAllister, Otero, and Manship
other possibilities: Tim Cooney, Edwin Escobar, Kyle Crockett, Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, Perci Garner, Joe Colon
waiting in Columbus: Bryan Price, Nick Maronde
without knowing whether we'll open with a seven- or eight-man bullpen, it's hard to predict how the rest of it will be constructed, but i am very confident about the first six. there are plenty of arms that will play for the Clippers this year if they don't make the Tribe's OD roster, and we'll probably see all of them pitch here by the time 2017 has concluded. this is forevermore the biggest spring training battle out of all the spots because the team not only has the regular Triple A relievers in camp, but also typically invites several new relievers to camp. the newbies could either be guys in the latter years of their careers trying to see if they have one good year left, or simply other free agent BP guys.
the pen could stand to carry another left-hander to make it as dominant as it can be. i think Crockett has shown he can't hack it. maybe one of the southpaws the Indians claimed on November 18, Cooney or Escobar, can fill that role. or someone else they find.
if not another lefty, then we'll have to choose from one of our right-handers. right now, out of our current choices, i'd go with Armstrong or Colon. i don't think Garner is ready and Adams hasn't impressed me during his Indians call ups in quite some time. it's obvious that more relievers will be invited to Goodyear. guaranteed.
i'll go minimal and say we have 1 open spot to fill here in the bullpen.
after speculating that we already had 22 roster spots accounted for and we don't trade any of the aforementioned 22 players, i split our 3 ML roster needs into 1 outfielder, 1 infielder, and 1 reliever. odds are, at least two if not all three will come from outside our organization. but you never know what the Tribe front office has up its sleeve, and there is a possibility that some of my roster presumptions end up being incorrect. for instance, they could bring in a player who consequently eliminates the need for someone else that i penciled in to make the roster, and then that person would start the year out in Triple A. that's happened before. only time and our offseason acquisitions will tell.
To Trade or Not To Trade
now it's time to decide if the Indians have anybody they can theoretically use in a deal in order to get a necessary return. truthfully, i'd be shocked if the team traded anyone who's already on the 2017 roster. still, i'm sure the front office has gotten and will continue to get phone calls from other teams asking about many Tribe players. that's bound to happen when you make it to the World Series--everyone wants what you've got.
i'm gonna encourage people to ignore any national media members who might be continuing to push that story about the Indians potentially trading Andrew Miller. they didn't trade away four prospects, all of whom they believed will be successful in the big leagues someday, for a three-month rental. they don't need to replace the prospects they lost; they need to keep the essential pieces of the team that got them all the way to the Fall Classic together, and make a few enhancements so they can walk away victorious next year. it shall be Miller Time in Cleveland in 2017 and 2018, rest assured.
personally, i would be open to trading Trevor Bauer if the return was satisfactory. i think i've been saying this for the past two years, but he's inconsistent and can be erratic. he makes me nervous sometimes, i cannot lie. he's set in his ways which can result in him being stubborn and unwilling to change, though i do think he became better at making adjustments this (past) season.
i also feel like Lonnie Chisenhall's name could be on the table. he's mainly successful when used against right-handed pitchers in a platoon role, so if the Indians could land a RF with the ability to hit both righties and lefties, they may not need Chiz anymore.
a year ago i posed the question as to whether they would give any thought to dealing Tyler Naquin. but now that he's completed his rookie season and placed 3rd in the ROY voting, they'll likely hang on to him.
should the Indians have a hard time in the first half of 2017, i don't think it's out of the realm of possibility for them to deal Carlos Santana. with this being his walk year, if you're out of contention and you can get something for him, you have to consider it. then again, if the team is doing that poorly, they might be willing to trade more than just Santana. but let's not go there.😟
since i didn't really find any Indians to trade, that leaves the option of using more prospects as trading chips. one would have to assume that after they traded outfielder Clint Frazier to the New York Yankees on July 31 for Miller, they would withhold their other Triple A OF prospect, Bradley Zimmer, from conversations. but there are alternative players in Columbus that could be included in a multi-player deal. perhaps one of the starters: Cody Anderson? Mike Clevinger? Shawn Morimando? trading one of them won't help their pitching depth, but depending on what they'd be getting in exchange, it might be feasible. what about infielders such as Yandy Diaz, Ronny Rodriguez, or Erik Gonzalez? they could be part of trade talks as well.
if the Indians want to dig a little deeper, they could put Double A center fielder Greg Allen's name out there. he seems to be on the fast track to the majors, though i do hope to see him debut with Cleveland. then there's Single A shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang. let's face it, Lindor is blocking the way for any other shortstops in the system right now and will be for years to come. therefore, developing guys at the position and then dealing them might be a smart idea. finally, the Indians have Single A catcher Francisco Mejia. i tell ya, it would take a lot to pry him away from me, but the Indians were willing to include him in a nixed trade at the end of July. so evidently, he's not on their untouchable list. as for pitchers, they've got Single A hurlers Triston McKenzie, Brady Aiken, and Juan Hillman. would any teams be interested in those arms?
clearly the Indians have options, but who knows what they'll actually be able to do. i'm not gonna try to speculate which players they might inquire about on other teams. (but if you want to come up with scenarios on how we can obtain Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates, go ahead.) i'm skeptical about trading any of our guys, even the prospects, so i'm happy this isn't my job.
the last two times i've written one of these Tribe Needs blogs, i said the Indians probably wouldn't have a very active offseason because they had many core players signed to long-term contracts who weren't going to be dealt, and so they wouldn't have a lot of bargaining pieces. and that's true again now. yet, by the same token, we can surmise that the Indians, as per usual, are not going to make a big splash in the free agent market. if they want to fill their needs, their best bet is a trade of some sort. and to make that happen, they'll have to get creative and stay active on the phone. there really is no "off" in a baseball offseason, which Chris Antonetti can attest to.
Free Agent Market
and since i mentioned it, let me next take a look around MLB's free agent market while being mindful of the Tribe's needs. the priorities should be outfielder, infielder, and left-handed reliever, with the two position players preferably being right-handed batters. however, i will list other players if i feel as though they are conceivable options whom we could sign to a minor league deal despite not being one of my top needs for the Major League club.
the Indians' M.O. is to bring in guys on sensible, one- to two-year deals. they'll be looking for someone with a good reputation for being a team player and who can make a positive impact. the Tribe might find a reclamation project to take their chances on. that could include an older veteran or a player who previously played for Terry Francona. (he loves getting his old band back together. it happens with at least one guy EVERY year lol)
in all likelihood, the Indians will not be pursuing players who've already rejected a qualifying offer from their previous ballclub, so that they won't have to relinquish their 1st round draft pick. that eliminates guys like Dexter Fowler, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Ian Desmond, and Edwin Encarnacion from the discussion. not that they were really going after those high caliber/big contact type guys anyway. don't even think it or you will be let down.
note: i originally had a few additional players listed, but they signed with other teams prior to my finishing and posting this blog.
--Gregor Blanco. he's a 32-year old left-hander who's mostly seen time in center field, but has played left and right as well. he wouldn't break the bank because he doesn't hit for much power. he may be first on the list alphabetically, but he's not first on my personal list cause i'd prefer a right-handed bat.
--Peter Bourjos. here's a right-handed center fielder, though he played mainly in right field last season. i think this 29-year old could be a steal, but he's not going to provide a whole lot of power with his bat.
--Chris Coghlan. fresh off a World Series win with the Chicago Cubs, i'm not sure that he'd be open to coming to Cleveland. he's 31 and a left-handed hitter who can play all three OF positions along with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base. he's Terry Francona's ultimate utility man and the Indians might dish out the cash to him if Tito should so desire.
i had him on my FA list last offseason, but claimed he wasn't my first choice simply because i feared he'd be a clone of Michael Bourn. now i can only hope that the Indians find a way to bring the 36-year old back. his stolen bases and penchant to run were huge advantages for us and a distraction for opposing pitchers. he made our 2016 team stronger and bat well against southpaws. he's not a primary member of our group, but losing his influence would definitely be unfortunate. he should still be affordable after making under 6 million dollars this year. then again, if he wants a multi-year deal, we might have to say goodbye.
--Sam Fuld. this left-handed hitter can play all three positions in the outfield. he's 35 years old, should be fairly low cost, and could be used as a platoon option or backup kept in Triple A until needed.
--Franklin Gutierrez. he started his career as an Indian and i've always kept my fingers crossed that he might have a homecoming with us one day. he has dealt with some health issues, but his right-handed bat could be worth taking a chance on. at 33, Gut can play all three OF positions and would come cheap.
--Tyler Holt. another former Indian, he's coming off his most successful MLB season after having played the most games in his career in a single year. he can play any of the three spots and bats right-handed, but does not hit for power. would the 27-year old want to return to Cleveland knowing he wouldn't be more than a part-time player?
--Austin Jackson. another FA i had on my list a year ago. he's predominantly a center
fielder who can play left or right as needed. he's a right-handed hitter, but doesn't have a lot of
power, much like most of the guys in this category. the 29-year old missed time in 2016 with a knee injury, though that might help keep his salary down. that said, Scott Boras is his agent, so i don't know if he's truly a realistic option.
the Indians signed him to a minor league deal with spring invite last year, but he didn't make the cut and later wound up with the Los Angeles Angels. he wouldn't cost much because he doesn't have the greatest numbers in the majors, although i'm not confident he'd be interested in signing with us again. this 32-year old right-hander is simply a 4th or 5th OF who can play
--Drew Stubbs. dare i even suggest this? he's 32 and can play left and center field, but he'd have to be okay with being the backup and the Indians would have to decide they want to give this partnership another go. though this righty would be inexpensive, i say pass.
--Will Venable. the left-hander didn't see much time in the majors in 2016, but he can play all three OF positions. this 34-year old should be available for a reasonable price.
FA 1st basemen:
--Chris Carter. he was recently non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers. the 29-year old right-hander is strictly a 1st baseman at this point and the sabermetrics don't even view him as being very good at that. he does have a lot of power, but he also strikes out a ton. he led the National League in both homers and strikeouts in 2016. it's been presumed he should get around $8 million in arbitration and if the Indians can't work out a deal to re-sign Napoli, he could be who they turn their attention to next.
--Adam Lind. he would be the typical 1st baseman/DH, but he bats left-handed. honestly, he might be on the too expensive for the Tribe side, especially for a 33-year old.
--Mitch Moreland. he's another left-handed hitter, 31 years old, and can play both 1st base and right field. he's got a little bit of power, but strikes out often. he might earn similar to what the Indians paid Napoli last year and could be a favorable replacement 1st baseman/DH if the Indians cannot convince Nap to return.
--Justin Morneau. he came back from major elbow surgery last year and has not played a full season at 1st base since 2014, so he may not be a pragmatic option for us. he's 35, bats lefty, and would come at a reduced rate at this stage of his career.
--Logan Morrison. at 29 years old, he's one of the cheaper 1st basemen on the market right now. he's a left-handed hitter who will give you average production at the plate.
--Mike Napoli. i think i've said everything i need to say about the 35-year old already. he may not put up the exact same numbers in 2017 as he did this past season, but losing his right-handed bat, his skills at 1st base, and his overall presence will be felt all throughout the clubhouse and on the field. get a deal done please, Tribe! and Nap, don't be so money-hungry that you won't accept the offer!
--Steve Pearce. this right-hander plays 1st base,
but can also play 2nd, left, and right field. he's 33 years old and could provide some of the veteran presence that Napoli did. he played for two teams last year and did okay. he should be within the Indians' budget.
FA 3rd basemen:
--Aaron Hill. this 34-year old right-handed hitter could be a backup for Jose Ramirez at the hot corner. he can play 2nd base as well. now that his deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks is done, he's in line for a lower salary, though it still might be too rich for the Tribe's blood.
--Chris Johnson. here's a crazy idea. why not bring back the guy we've already paid for? and he could be our secondary 3rd or 1st baseman. when given limited playing time, you don't tend to see much pop in the 32-year old's bat, but he is a righty and might be good to store on the bench. this would basically be getting a player for free lol so if the bridge isn't totally burned, the Indians may consider it.
--Casey McGehee. this right-hander can play 3rd base as well as 1st. he had a rough
season in 2015 and spent a lot of time in the minors last year. he does not hit for power at all anymore, but the 34-year old might be a cost-effective signing for when some of the regular guys need days off.
--Luis Valbuena. Indians fans are familiar with the left-handed Valby. he's 30 years old now and can play 3rd, 2nd, and 1st base. he got a substantial amount of money with the Houston Astros the last two seasons. as a result, i don't know what he'd be willing to take going forward and so he might be out of our fiscal range.
FA 2nd basemen:
--Alexi Casilla. he played for the Triple A Buffalo Bisons in 2016. he's 32 and a switch hitter who can play 2nd base and short. while we don't have any urgent needs for those positions, if the Indians could pull off inviting him to spring and then get him to accept an assignment to Columbus, he might be a nice weapon to have in case of emergency.
--Kelly Johnson. he's mostly played 2nd base in his career, but he can also play 1st, 3rd, and left field. he is a left-handed hitter, but he's a 34-year old veteran and would assuredly come at a modest price.
--Steve Clevenger. probably a waste of a suggestion here because i'm not sure how the Indians would feel about inviting him to camp after he was suspended by the Seattle Mariners on September 23 for his social media comments. (if you don't know that story, you're better off.) i just thought it was intriguing that he has the same agent as Michael Brantley.
--Ryan Hanigan. i think we need to sign another catcher who will be available for us to call up from Triple A. Hanigan is a 36-year old right-hander with Major League experience. any catcher the Indians invite to spring has to know that he is not going to camp to fight for a job with the Indians. so that could be a big deterrent and Hanigan might very well prefer to find a team where he can continue to play in the majors.
--Jeff Mathis. he bats right-handed and is a pretty good fielder behind the plate, but the 33-year old doesn't have much power. be that as it may, he's an appealing free agent and might be open to mostly playing in the minors.
--Dioner Navarro. this switch hitter could be worth looking into but, already being privy to the fact that his role here won't be a big one, the 32-year old may not agree to play in Columbus.
--Brayan Pena. he's an attractive free agent. he was recently given his release by the St. Louis Cardinals, but they still owe him his salary for 2017. therefore, whichever ML team signs him would only have to pay the league minimum. he's also a switch hitting 34-year old veteran and can play some 1st base. he did have knee surgery in April, but i really think the Tribe should pursue him.
this is a right-hander that i put on my list last year for a backup. he's 33 and it might not be a bad idea to see if he'd be okay with playing in Columbus until one of our Major League catchers inevitably suffers an injury.
--Bronson Arroyo. what if the Indians could sign this right-hander to a one-year deal for a couple million with incentives? he is 39 and will be 40 when next season starts, and he recently underwent a stem cell procedure on his elbow. but if given the choice, would they take the chance?
--Ross Detwiler. he piques my interest because he began with the Indians in 2016 as a reliever, but later moved into the starting rotation for the Columbus Clippers. after he was traded, he continued to start with the Oakland Athletics. would the Tribe ever think about bringing the 30-year old lefty back now for depth?
--Jeremy Guthrie. taking it back to 2004-2006, Guthrie debuted in the majors with the Indians. he had a few good seasons in the past with the Kansas City Royals, but pitched in the minors in 2016. bottom line, this 37-year old righty will be contract-friendly.
--Kyle Kendrick. he's only ever pitched in the National League and the right-hander spent last season in Triple A. this 32-year old could be good to stash in Columbus.
--Kyle Lohse. he's 38 years old and has to be coming up on the end of his career. that means the fee for the right-handed pitcher ought to be somewhat discounted and he should be agreeable to accepting a smaller role on the pitching front.
--Ryan Vogelsong. here's another guy i had on my list a year ago. once again, this righty should be affordable at age 39 and would also be suitable for pitching depth.
FA left-handed relievers:
--Andrew Albers. he's 31 and spent most of 2016 pitching for the Minnesota Twins' Triple A team as a starter. it's probable the Indians explore bringing him to spring training.
--Jerry Blevins. he just had a nice year with the New York Mets and is a free agent now. the 33-year old could be within our means if he'd like to come back to the American League.
--Sean Burnett. this 34-year old may be someone we sign to a minor league deal, but he hasn't carried a heavy workload in the majors since 2012 so i don't know how much he can be depended on.
--Chris Capuano. he used to be a starter, but was employed out of the bullpen last season. he's 38 and shouldn't vastly raise the payroll.
--Phil Coke. Tribe fans saw him a lot when he played with the Detroit Tigers from 2010-2014, but he didn't pitch much in the majors in 2015 and pitched even less in 2016. he's 34 now and might be a guy the Indians want to invite to camp.
--Tim Collins. he's 27 and coming off two Tommy John surgeries in the last two years, but maybe pitching coach Mickey Callaway could work with this lefty and get him back on track. the Indians are no stranger to his abilities since he's played for four years with the Kansas City Royals.
he was on my list last offseason. he ended up spending more time in the
minors than majors in 2016 and he's a free agent once again. maybe
this will be the year we extend an invitation to the 33-year old and give him a shot.
--J.P. Howell. he's 33 and his four-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers has ended. he could be an option for us to add another southpaw reliever to the team.
--Dan Jennings. this 29-year old has been reliable health-wise and done well in his career. he figures to make more money in arbitration this year than he has in the past, but should be a player the Indians attempt to go after.
--Boone Logan. with 11 years of Major League experience, this 32-year old could cost a little too much for the Indians.
--Marc Rzepczynski. would it be possible to reunite Scrabble with the Tribe? at 31 years of age, he'd certainly come at a fair price, though i'm not sure if either party wants to get back together.
--Pat Venditte. he's a rarity because he can pitch left-handed or right-handed. indubitably, that is Terry Francona's dream guy because it's like a two-for-one deal. he's 31 and pitched in both the majors and minors in 2016. he could be a strong weapon to have coming out of our 'pen.
--Travis Wood. he won the 2016 World Series with the Chicago Cubs and is a career National League pitcher. he's in line to get a nice deal and may be a little on the more expensive end of the spectrum, but the 29-year old would surely be a nice addition to our bullpen.
FA right-handed relievers:
--Al Alburquerque. he spent most of his time pitching in the minors as opposed to with the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. prior to that, the Indians saw him pitch out of the bullpen against them as a member of the Detroit Tigers for five years. at age 30, he could be of interest to the Tribe for 2017.
--Matt Belisle. he's 36 years old, but still has something left in the tank, or arm, and he'd be an economical roster addition. he has yet to pitch for an American League team so what better time than now?
--Joe Blanton. he pitched 80.0 innings in 75 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. he's durable, 35, and could potentially be someone the Indians pursue to strengthen their bullpen.
--Blaine Boyer. maybe the Indians could present him with an invite to spring training, but i don't see anything all that special about this 35-year old. he did have a good year when he pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 though.
--Luke Hochevar. he's played for the Kansas City Royals his whole career. now, as a 33-year old, he might be ready for a change of scenery, and why not turn our competition into an ally?
--Daniel Hudson. still young at 29, he's taken on a heavy workload in the past two seasons and could be a practical purchase.
--Tommy Hunter. this seems like a long shot considering the Indians released him in August after his DL stint. overall, the 30-year old had a good season, even while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles. bonus attribute: he's not prone to giving up the long ball.
--Casey Janssen. he might be someone we sign to a minor league deal in anticipation that the 35-year old can offer some veteran experience.
--Kevin Jepsen. the 32-year old didn't have the best season last year, yet could want a contract the Indians won't give him. he's probably not a viable option.
--Dustin McGowan. he had a good year with the Miami Marlins and is 34 years of age. he might be worth taking a look.
--Ross Ohlendorf. he could be a guy the Indians seek out. he's 34 and struck out 68 batters in 65.2 innings pitched last season with the Cincinnati Reds.
--Cory Rasmus. this 29-year old is not about to get a huge contact, but may not really be a good fit here.
--Joe Smith. i have fond memories of Smitty's time with the Indians and the 32-year old is an available free agent now. the submarine style sidewinder pitched many effective innings in Cleveland, but that ship literally may have sailed.
--Charlie Villanueva. he's 33 and didn't have the greatest season last year, but that's precisely why it shouldn't be that difficult to strike a deal with him.
--Tom Wilhelmsen. he had a bit of a rough going with the Texas Rangers in 2016, but did better after he signed with the Seattle Mariners. the 32-year old might not be in our price range though.
--Jerome Williams. he didn't pitch a whole lot last year, but at 34, you'd think he could be persuaded to accept a spring invite if no Major League team signs him outright this offseason.
that concludes my research of the FA market and, as usual, i went scrounging in the bargain basement bins lol just kidding. most of these players would be welcome additions to help boost our already superior team, and they should be so lucky to play for Mr. Francona. but signing a guy isn't nearly as easy as merely picking out who you want from a group. we may hit a snag if players want multi-year deals or more money than the Indians can afford and if other teams offer them what we can't. so the Indians might have no choice but to go the trade route to get their desired guys. we'll see what happens over the course of the next two months. yeah, spring training is almost here and the ink has barely dried on our 2016 season. funny how there's such a quick turnaround when you go all the way in the postseason, isn't it? lol
and remember, not all of these guys need to be invited to spring or offered contracts before the outset of the 2017 campaign. some of them will presumably be unsigned free agents after the Opening Day games begin, and could get signed as the season continues on. hence, even if we don't add anyone (from my list) this offseason, there's still a chance that we could later on this year, if the players don't sign elsewhere first.
The Coaching Staff & Front Office
lastly, i want to touch on the guys who don't play the game, but are just as vital to the success of the organization. on November 4, the Indians exercised manager Terry Francona's contract options for 2019 and 2020. obviously, they were pleased with his work this past season in spite of the Fall Classic's outcome. but it should put everyone's minds at ease now knowing that Tito's expertise is gonna be around for the next four years. furthermore, he's a great draw to get players to want to come here.
as for his coaching staff, that looks to remain intact. one member was granted permission to interview with another team, possibly for a managing position. rumor has it, bench coach Brad Mills was the one, but since that happened three weeks ago, i'm inclined to think he was not selected. other coaches could go on interviews before spring training starts as well; however, i think we'll be going into 2017 with the same crew.
Sandy Alomar, Jr., the Tribe's 1st base coach, will be in his second year of the two-year deal he signed last offseason. Mike Sarbaugh is staying on as our 3rd base coach. Mickey Callaway is still the pitching coach. Jason Bere will continue his work next year as the bullpen coach. Ty Van Burkleo and Matt Quatraro are set to return as the hitting coach and assistant hitting coach, respectively.
Alomar and Callaway are certainly candidates for future managing jobs. with their proven track records, those advancements would be well-deserved, though sad for Indians fans. enjoy 'em while we (still) got 'em!
in other news, the Indians' front office saw a change as soon as the World Series ended and the Tribe's year was officially complete. Derek Falvey was hired to be the new President of Baseball Operations for the Minnesota Twins, leaving a vacancy in the Indians' assistant GM spot. on November 4, it was announced that both Carter Hawkins and Matt Forman would take over the assistant GM role. Mike Chernoff remains the GM and Chris Antonetti carries on as our President of Baseball Operations. Falvey was not expected to take anyone else from the organization with him.
so there you have it. the Indians know there are only a few spots to fill and Antonetti's already started working hard to obtain those players. they don't need a drastic renovation, but they do need to add a couple more pieces and make some moves to counterbalance the loss of their free agents. they can't simply rely on what they presently have. they need to bring in more experience, much like they did a year ago.
as good as this team is gonna be in 2017, this upcoming year will not be identical to the one the Indians just had. the players who acquired career numbers could regress some. plus, not everyone will be returning. never underestimate the importance of team chemistry; the rapport between the 2016 Tribe was really something special. but even though our 2017 team may be different, i'm optimistic they can continue to embody a
winning formula, especially with AL Manager of the Year Terry Francona running the show, because trusting
in Tito usually leads to great results.
things are going to change outside of the Indians ballclub
as well. in moves beyond our control, other teams will make improvements this offseason and
Indians have to, too, in order to stay ahead of them and maintain
dominance. in 2016, the Tribe seemed to own the AL Central Division, but that may not be their reality next year. and there's no guarantee they'll make a reappearance in the World Series--it's hard to get into the Fall Classic two consecutive years. all that's certain is it will be another grueling season with tough competition. so the more reinforcements the front office can bring in, the better.
the final roster decisions might not be made until the last week of spring, so there's plenty of time for the Indians to deliberate who should get those open slots. can't wait to see what newbies join the Tribe this year and what they can do!
as of the date of this post, there are 74 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training and 124 days until Opening Day. Go Tribe 2017!😀
thank you to everyone who read this post and again to anyone who's been reading my blog all season. i greatly appreciate it!
now i want to hear from you. what do you
think are the Tribe's biggest needs? who do you think we should offer a contract extension to? who should we try to trade for and who would we have to give up in order to get that player? and finally, who are you hoping we go
after on the free agent market? leave all your thoughts in a comment below!
also don't forget, i am tweeting all the Brantley health updates i discover @clevelandgirl23 (though information has been scarce lately). please give me a follow if you haven't yet. he's almost four months removed from his surgery, so we should be hearing some exciting news before long. then i will put together an offseason updates compendium blog and post it when appropriate. if you'd like to be notified when that and my other blogs are published, you can sign up to be on my email subscription list. simply enter your email address in the box underneath my Blog Archive sidebar on the upper right side of the blog.🙂