What to watch for: Indians offseason FAQ

November 1st, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The Indians’ 2020 season ended a few weeks earlier than the team had hoped, following a two-game sweep by the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Series. Now, the club’s focus turns to planning out how to attack the upcoming offseason.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know this winter:

Which Indians are free agents?
There are three from the 40-man roster: , Cesar Hernandez and .

When is the deadline for qualifying offers?
The deadline to receive qualifying offers was five days after the World Series ended. However, none of the Tribe’s free agents received one.

Which players have options?
The Indians exercised Roberto Pérez’s $5.5 million option for 2021 and declined the options of Carlos Santana, Brad Hand and Domingo Santana.

Who is a non-tender candidate? When is that deadline?
The Tribe has a handful of arbitration-eligible players, including , , , , , and . Lindor’s contract will surely be tendered, and none of the remaining players who are eligible for arbitration are expected to make too large a figure for the Indians to handle. Because of the overcrowded outfield, the likeliest candidates would be DeShields or Naquin. The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is Dec. 2.

Who needs to be added to the Indians’ 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?
Without a doubt, the club will add top prospect Nolan Jones to its 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Though he, like the rest of MLB’s prospects, lost a year of Minor League games, Jones was selected to be part of the Indians’ 60-man player pool in Lake County, Ohio, this season and has shown tremendous growth in his defense at third base. But the Indians said they’re willing to try Jones at different positions as he nears his Major League debut.

“I think we're willing to try him in the outfield, in other corners, potentially at first base,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. “We feel like he has the attributes to be a more versatile guy and fill any need that may come up on our Major League roster.”

Outfielder Will Benson (No. 30) is the other player in the Tribe’s Top 30 prospects, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, who’d be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December. However, the Tribe’s first-round pick from 2016 hasn’t advanced beyond Class A Advanced Lynchburg, which may make it less likely for him to be protected.

Do they have enough room on the roster? When does it need to be set?
The 40-man is currently full now that the Indians added back to it after he served his suspension this season for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The club will definitely have to find a spot for Jones.

Whoever will be protected from the Rule 5 Draft needs to be added to the 40-man roster by Nov. 20.

What kind of help do the Indians need? Will they be active in free agency?
Don’t expect any big splashes in free agency. The team could try to bring back Hernandez at second base, but because of the financial losses over the 2020 season, the front office noted it’s not sure what the '21 payroll will look like just yet. Any big-time signings will certainly be out the window.

Aside from Hernandez, the team could try to find inexpensive ways to help bolster the outfield or bullpen, but that will likely come through trades rather than free agents.