CLEVELAND – We're finally inching closer to the end of such an unprecedented year, which means all eyes can start zeroing in on next season. What questions are still looming about the Tribe in 2021? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox:
With no fan revenue throughout MLB in 2020, is there any chance that the Indians will be unable to trade Francisco Lindor this winter? And if Lindor is traded, which of the Indians prospects is most ready to assume the major league SS position? [email protected]
Well, we saw how difficult it was for the Red Sox to trade Mookie Betts – who had just one year remaining until free agency, like Francisco Lindor -- last offseason. Adding a year of financial losses like 2020 to that mix will only make it more difficult for the Tribe to get the return package it would be looking for. However, despite the hurdles, it still seems inevitable that Lindor will be traded this winter.
If the Indians are able to trade Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor, will that free up enough salary space to re-sign 2B Cesar Hernandez? And would they do that deal? [email protected]
Sort of like the way Boston traded David Price along with Betts? We’ve seen trades like this happen before. With how transparent the Indians have been about their financial difficulties, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Carrasco’s $12 million for 2021 get shipped out with Lindor’s projected hefty contract. So, could this deal happen with some team? Sure. But Carrasco getting traded is far from a guarantee -- unlike Lindor, who seems to be the closest thing to a guarantee of getting traded.
If it would happen, one would think that there would be at least enough financial wiggle room to ink someone like Cesar Hernandez, who signed for a one-year, $6.25 million deal with the Tribe last offseason, considering José Ramírez’s $9.4 million owed for next year would be the largest contract on the payroll. But the Indians’ front office hasn’t specified its desired maximum payroll for the 2021 season, which makes it more difficult to predict.
Do you think the Indians will go in house to fill 2B & SS or do you think they'll go after someone either in trade or FA? [email protected]
If Lindor is traded, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Tribe gets a middle infielder in return. However, when Indians manager Terry Francona spoke to the media on Friday, he was very quick to list Chang as a top candidate to play second base next season. Plus, with the addition of Clement and Arias (both shortstops) to the 40-man roster, the team will certainly have a handful of internal options to choose from.
Which OFs are going to get 1st shot at regular positions? Assuming Naylor stays in LF? Who has the edge taking over for Santana at 1B? [email protected]
What happens with Josh Naylor will largely depend on who plays first base. Both Jake Bauers and Naylor are first basemen who have had to spend time in the outfield while their primary position was occupied. The two will compete with Bobby Bradley to earn the starting job next season. If Naylor is not the first baseman, he could easily be back in left field -- at least for the start of the season. Jordan Luplow will also be in the mix in left and Nolan Jones could eventually get some time in the corners, as well. Oscar Mercado should be back in center and it seems like it's Daniel Johnson’s time to earn the everyday right-field job.
Francona also said that Bradley will strongly be in the running for the first-base job. He could finally got a real shot at the big league level, but the club was also optimistic about the improvements that Bauers showed at the alternate training site this past year.
What are the plans with Nolan Jones right now? [email protected]_rocks
With Ramírez at third, Jones won’t see much time there at the Major League level in 2021. But it’s clear the Indians have been excited for the 22-year-old’s arrival for a while, which is what caused them to ask him to get some repetitions at first base and the outfield so that he could play a role on the big league roster even if he’s not at the hot corner. For now, the best guess is that he’d probably start the year in Triple-A and would eventually come up and get some time in the outfield.
How do you think the bullpen will be for the 7th, 8th & 9th? [email protected]
James Karinchak seems set to take over for Brad Hand in the ninth. He still had a 5.3 walks-per-nine-innings ratio in 27 games last season, but his whopping 53 strikeouts in 27 innings are hard to ignore. The more he betters his fastball command, the more lethal he will be at the back end of the bullpen.
The Indians didn’t have much time to see Emmanuel Clase in Spring Training last year due to injuries before he was suspended for the 2020 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but the team is still excited about his future and it wouldn’t be surprising if he slides in as the seventh- or eighth-inning guy for Cleveland. Whichever inning he doesn’t take could go to Nick Wittgren, who the Tribe signed for $2 million on Tuesday. In two seasons with the Indians, Wittgren has pitched to a 2.99 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 21 walks in 81 1/3 frames.
With the current situation with payroll and income, do you see the Indians rebuilding for a run in the future and not the present? [email protected]_baseball81
Over the last few seasons, the average age of the Indians’ roster has been on a steady decline. The team’s payroll struggles are evident and the competition within the AL Central is only getting tougher. The team may look like it’s gearing up to be more competitive in a few years rather than next season, but Francona was adamant that the club hasn’t taken that mindset.
“The one thing you'll never hear me say is that we're going to make an excuse for not winning,” Francona said. “Regardless of what we -- again, we may have to change our philosophy a little bit or develop more at the Major Leagues, however you want to say it -- but we're never going to make an excuse for not winning. Our goal every day is to win, and that'll never change. Ever.”