Inbox: Is Arroyo likely to start at 2B for Tribe?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from fans

November 5th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Indians waited through a long October for the postseason to come to an end. Now, the final roster moves are being made and free agency has begun. One thing that remains on the minds of Indians fans is the glaring hole at second base.

We’ve gone through the options before, but now that the time has come to make some moves, it’s worth revisiting. Who could start in the Tribe’s infield in 2020? What other deals could be made? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox:

Christian Arroyo is certainly in the mix, but it’s a little too soon to determine if he’s a good bet to start at second next year.

The 24-year-old was acquired this year in the days leading up to the Trade Deadline. The Indians knew at the time that he’d likely be out for the remainder of the season with forearm tendinitis. He played in just 16 games for the Rays and 33 games for their Triple-A affiliate because of the injury.

After missing so much time, Arroyo will need to figure out where to get at-bats before he’s in contention to earn the starting job, not to mention that his new organization has yet to see him in action. Spring Training will be extremely important for the versatile infielder to make a strong first impression. Even if it takes him a little beyond Opening Day to earn his way onto the Major League roster, he could easily end up in the running to be the everyday second baseman.

“Obviously, he missed a lot of game time, so we’ll figure out if there’s any sort of offseason games we could get him in or what that would look like,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. “But he could absolutely potentially be an option.”

In a perfect world, the Indians could find a way to get Whit Merrifield to sport the block-lettered “C” on his cap, but it isn’t that simple.

The Royals need pitching help, both relief and starting. The Indians have the majority of their bullpen returning for the 2020 season, but don’t quite have the depth to be able to move a piece or two to complete a deal. They do have the cost-efficient starting depth to be able to pull off a trade; however there’s no way the club would want to send one of its young arms to a team within the division.

The last time Cleveland and Kansas City traded a Major Leaguer for a Major Leaguer was on Aug. 30, 1997. The Royals sent Bip Roberts to the Indians in exchange for Roland de la Maza. If history can tell us anything -- and when it comes to the Tribe’s trading past, it usually can -- it’s unlikely that they’d be able to put together a deal to bring Merrifield to Northeast Ohio.

If he could’ve spent at least some time in Triple-A this past season, it’d be easier to say there’s a chance. However, the 21-year-old split his season between Single- and Double-A and would likely need a little more time in the Minors before Indians manager Terry Francona would feel comfortable bringing him up to the big leagues. This doesn’t mean that he won’t come up at some point during the year, but Opening Day may be a stretch, especially now that he’s recovering from right thumb surgery he had last month.

Between Arroyo, Mike Freeman, Yu Chang, Andrew Velazquez and José Ramírez, the Indians at least have a few in-house options to fill the holes at second and third base. We know Ramírez will start at one of the two positions; it’s just whether the team decides to make a trade, explore the free-agent market or stick with the players they already know to fill the other.

As far as Bradley Zimmer’s status, the outfielder will likely begin next season in Triple-A. He missed practically the entire year with shoulder and oblique setbacks and needs to get at-bats before he’s in the running to be an everyday outfielder. The Indians suggested that he get some extra reps in winter league action, but he insisted he have a regular offseason, which may land him in the Minors to start next year.

He can, and that could definitely be one route the Indians explore over the winter to attempt to fill their infield/outfield needs.

However, Corey Kluber was rumored to be a trade candidate all offseason heading into 2019, and the Tribe proved they wouldn’t bite unless they’d get the perfect package in return. With his injuries this year likely hurting his trade value, opposing clubs may not be willing to give up what Cleveland would want in exchange for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

Francisco Lindor is anything but off the table.

It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s back in Goodyear, Ariz., with the Tribe for Spring Training, but the Indians will absolutely be listening to offers to see what they could get. Lindor’s two years of control would be worth an insane amount in return, so the front office knows it has to at least take everything in.

Could he be moved this offseason? Possibly. At the end of the regular season, the Indians gave the impression that they’d like to hang on to him, but if the perfect package comes along, it may be difficult to say no.

Between Tyler Clippard, Ryan Flaherty and Yasiel Puig, Clippard seems to be the most likely to be back in Cleveland next year. Francona mentioned multiple times this past season just how much Clippard meant to their bullpen.

“Clippard’s been kind of unsung all year,” Francona said in September. “He just comes in and gets people out. Sometimes he makes stuff up, but he gets people out.”