LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Indians manager Terry Francona loves versatility among his players. Right now, though, the amount of versatility on his roster, combined with the club's offseason needs, has created a situation where there are multiple positions with no cemented solution.
Jason Kipnis can play second base or the outfield. Jose Ramirez can handle second or third base. Michael Brantley has been a left fielder for his entire career, but a move to first base is not out of the question. Yandy Diaz plays third base, but he could be in the mix for first or corner outfield. Lonnie Chisenhall has experience at all three outfield spots and both infield corners.
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"Those are things we will answer," Francona said on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. "It's nice to know you have some flexibility."
If and when the Indians make an addition to their Major League lineup, it will create a chain reaction that will bring this puzzle more into focus. The biggest piece on the wish list right now is free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana, who is weighing offers after spending the past eight seasons with Cleveland. If he returns to play first, that would help solve a portion of the Tribe's problem.
Santana's asking price may climb north of the Indians' comfort level, however, which would initiate a search for some offensive help. First basemen such as Logan Morrison, Matt Adams, Lucas Duda and Yonder Alonso are among those on the open market. The Indians also could cast a wider net and target corner outfield or corner infield help, and adjust the rest of the roster accordingly.
The way Francona sees things, adding a first baseman might be essential if Santana signs elsewhere.
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"We've got [Edwin Encarnacion] we can certainly put there," Francona said of his internal options for first base. "We can put Lonnie there if we want. We have guys we could [play at first]. I think we'd probably like to sign somebody."
For what it's worth, Francona did not mention Brantley's name on Wednesday when rattling off the possibilities for first base. On Monday, during a sit-down with reporters, Francona said he still views Brantley (currently recovering from October surgery on his right ankle) as an outfielder.
Clarity on where Ramirez and Kipnis will play should arrive in the coming weeks.
Francona said he prefers Ramirez at second base, but he would not hesitate to move Ramirez back to third. Francona cited Diaz and Giovanny Urshela as the alternatives for the hot corner. At the end of last season, when Kipnis came off the disabled list, he moved to the outfield due to the club's contentment with the combination of Ramirez at second and Urshela and Diaz splitting time at third.
"With Kip, what we know is, when healthy, we have a really good player," Francona said. "We don't quite know where he's going to play, yet. So what we need to do is get our house in order, let [the front office] do their thing, and then communicate to Kip, because that's fair to him, so he can get ready for the year."
And when will that time come?
"We don't know until we fill out our roster," Francona said. "Then, we'll kind of figure out where we are best suited."