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Tribe could get creative at Winter Meetings

Antonetti & Co. may look for major trade to help Indians in long term
MLB.com @castrovince

One need not stretch the metaphoric muscles much to come up with some kind of allegory linking the gambling that goes down in Las Vegas with the wheeling and dealing that goes down at baseball's Winter Meetings. That the two will be intertwined at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino this coming week makes for easy cornball copy.

So let's be clear that the pun is honestly not intended when we say that the stakes are pretty high for the Cleveland Indians right now. These Winter Meetings could take place in Dutch John, Utah (not exactly a gambling mecca), and we'd still be saying much the same.

One need not stretch the metaphoric muscles much to come up with some kind of allegory linking the gambling that goes down in Las Vegas with the wheeling and dealing that goes down at baseball's Winter Meetings. That the two will be intertwined at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino this coming week makes for easy cornball copy.

So let's be clear that the pun is honestly not intended when we say that the stakes are pretty high for the Cleveland Indians right now. These Winter Meetings could take place in Dutch John, Utah (not exactly a gambling mecca), and we'd still be saying much the same.

That's because the Indians, who already dealt All-Star catcher Yan Gomes to the Nationals last week, are entertaining some major, franchise-altering moves right now. For reasons we've gotten into before and will get into again below, Cleveland has to be open to concepts that address current Major League needs and shore up the long-term contention outlook.

And yes, that could mean moving Trevor Bauer or two-time Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber.

With Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi off the free-agent board and the starting-pitching market percolating, the Meetings could be the ideal environment for president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff to definitively decide which direction they're going to go. Though the days of drawing up deals on bar napkins are long gone, the efficiency of the Meetings, where the front offices of every club are gathered in one building for four days, still can have the impact of putting deal discussions in a sort of time compressor. Activity can escalate quickly.

Video: Clevinger on trade rumors surrounding Indians' staff

So we'll see what's in the cards (OK, that pun was intended) in the coming days. For now, here's where things stand with the Meetings about to begin.

Club needs
The Indians need tangible help in their outfield (where Michael Brantley's departure from an already iffy alignment looms large) and in their bullpen (where the free-agent departures of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen loom large), but, first and foremost, they need the salary relief it would take to adequately fill those needs (see below for more on the payroll picture). That's why there is so much talk about Cleveland potentially dealing a starting pitcher in a trade that directly (talent) or indirectly (money) influences these areas.

Whom might they trade?
With the club having already dealt from one area of valued depth with the Gomes deal and Carlos Carrasco locked into a new contract extension, all eyes are on Kluber and Bauer, and either would be capable of bringing back a team-altering trade haul. Cleveland has had conversations with clubs about both players, and there is a sense in the industry that the Indians might be more inclined to move Bauer than Kluber. Of course, given the difficulty of making a deal in which two contenders both get better, it's possible neither pitcher is moved. It's possible that the Indians would try to attach Jason Kipnis, who is owed just north of $14 million and is coming off two below-average seasons, to either pitcher in a deal.

Video: CLE@KC: Kipnis slugs solo homer, Tribe takes lead

Prospects to know
The Indians are far more inclined to dealing from areas of depth on the Major League roster to impact that roster than doing a more traditional prospects-for-big-leaguers deal. With that said, their most valuable chips down on the farm are arguably right-hander Triston McKenzie (No. 1 on the Indians' top prospects list per MLB Pipeline), third baseman Nolan Jones (No. 2) and, given his position and near-readiness, shortstop Yu Chang (No. 6).

Rule 5 Draft
Unlike a tourist sauntering out of the Mandalay Bay buffet after his third piece of pie, the Indians' 40-man roster is not quite full. So they do have the room to add a player during the Rule 5 Draft. The Indians left their No. 23-rated prospect, Oscar Gonzalez, unprotected in the Rule 5, though he is only 20 years old and hasn't played above A-ball, so he wouldn't be the safest bet to stick on a big league roster for the duration of 2019.

Payroll summary
The gist of the Indians' winter is that they're suffering significant free-agent losses with very little accompanying salary relief because of in-house raises and arbitration cases. The Tribe has already carried franchise-record payrolls each of the past two seasons, and it is not raising the payroll. That's why the front office is trying to creatively address the needs of a maturing roster, potentially with a major trade.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Cleveland Indians

Napoli retires big bat after 12-year career

Slugger debuted with Angels in '06, won '13 title with Red Sox
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Longtime slugger Mike Napoli announced his retirement Saturday via a statement released through his Twitter account.

"After much thought and consideration with my family, I have decided to retire from the game of baseball," Napoli said. "I dreamed about playing baseball since I was a little kid growing up in Hollywood, [Fla.], and I was lucky enough to get paid to play a kids game for 18 years."

Longtime slugger Mike Napoli announced his retirement Saturday via a statement released through his Twitter account.

"After much thought and consideration with my family, I have decided to retire from the game of baseball," Napoli said. "I dreamed about playing baseball since I was a little kid growing up in Hollywood, [Fla.], and I was lucky enough to get paid to play a kids game for 18 years."

Tweet from @MikeNapoli25: THANK YOU... pic.twitter.com/CzhaoU9YUH

Napoli, 37, was a free agent, and he hadn't suited up for a big league club since 2017, when he hit 29 home runs over 124 games for the Rangers. The former first baseman and catcher signed a Minor League deal with the Indians last spring, but he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during a Triple-A game in April and underwent season-ending surgery.

Napoli began his MLB career with the Angels in 2006 and played for four franchises over a 12-year span.

Video: Mike Napoli cranks 8 postseason home runs

"I was blessed to be mentored by great people at the beginning of my career with the Angels and was able to bring that winning attitude to each clubhouse that I was fortunate to be a part of," Napoli said. "I hope to be remembered as someone who always tried to keep the clubhouse atmosphere light and inclusive, making sure that everyone was respected by his peers while leading by example, both on and off the field.

"Most importantly, I am proudest of positively affecting people's lives and putting smiles on people's faces by simply being myself, reflecting the way I was brought up in South Florida."

Napoli's grit and professionalism endeared him to several fan bases, most notably in Cleveland where his powerful swings to the left-field seats inspired the "Party at Napoli's" catchphrase. The 2012 All-Star finishes his career with 267 homers and 744 RBIs while having played in three World Series, including Boston's championship run in '13.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Mike Napoli

Carrasco, Tribe agree to extension through '22

Deal with veteran right-hander also includes club option for '23
MLB.com @castrovince

CLEVELAND -- So much of the offseason conversation surrounding the Indians has revolved around the possibility of them trading a starting pitcher. But on Thursday, the club locked in one of its best arms for the long haul.

Carlos Carrasco's extension was extended. The deal the right-hander signed in 2015 that was scheduled to run through 2020 now runs through '22 with a club option for '23. The Indians had already picked up their $9.75 million option on Carrasco for 2019. With the new deal, they officially pick up their $10.25 million option on him for '20 and add $12 million guarantees for '21 and '22. The '23 club option is worth $14 million, with a $3 million buyout.

CLEVELAND -- So much of the offseason conversation surrounding the Indians has revolved around the possibility of them trading a starting pitcher. But on Thursday, the club locked in one of its best arms for the long haul.

Carlos Carrasco's extension was extended. The deal the right-hander signed in 2015 that was scheduled to run through 2020 now runs through '22 with a club option for '23. The Indians had already picked up their $9.75 million option on Carrasco for 2019. With the new deal, they officially pick up their $10.25 million option on him for '20 and add $12 million guarantees for '21 and '22. The '23 club option is worth $14 million, with a $3 million buyout.

"I feel great to be part of the Cleveland Indians," Carrasco said. "I just want to finish my career with them. This is something special for me and my family."

Carrasco, who signed his original extension after a health scare that involved non-invasive heart surgery in 2014, is the longest-tenured member of the Indians -- so long that his nickname "Cookie" was given to him back in 2011 by long-departed closer Chris Perez (simply because Carrasco was eating cookies in the clubhouse one day). Now, the trade talk specifically involving Cookie has crumbled, as has any erroneous assumption, in the wake of last week's Yan Gomes trade, that the Tribe is in some sort of full-blown sell situation.

"What this does," team president Chris Antonetti said, "is provide us additional continuity in the rotation beyond 2020. We effectively left this year [2019] alone, exercised the option for 2020 and added two new years beyond that. It's a continued investment by ownership in our team and the desire to remain a very competitive team moving forward."

Video: CLE@KC: Carrasco strikes out 6 over 5 strong frames

Over the last four seasons, Carrasco, 31, has compiled a 3.40 ERA and 130 ERA+ (30 percent better than the league average) in 722 innings. That ERA is the sixth best among qualified American League starters in that span, trailing only teammate Corey Kluber (2.96), Chris Sale (3.00), Justin Verlander (3.04), David Price (3.34) and Dallas Keuchel (3.37). In that four-season span, Carrasco has averaged 29 starts and 180 innings. His 2016 was cut short by a line drive that broke his hand in early September, yanking him out of the Indians' postseason mix. But in two AL Division Series starts over the last two years, Carrasco allowed just two runs over 11 innings against the Yankees and Astros.

In 2018, Carrasco went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 192 innings, with a career-best 5.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He had a 2.52 ERA in the second half. His 5.3 FanGraphs-calculated WAR mark for the season ranked 10th in the Majors among qualified starting pitchers.

Carrasco, a native of Venezuela, arrived to the Indians' organization in the 2009 trade that sent reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies. Carrasco's development took time, and it stalled with his 2011 Tommy John surgery that kept him out of action for all of '12.

"Some guys like Francisco Lindor just get it right away," Carrasco said. "[For others] it takes time. But when they gave me the opportunity in the bullpen [in 2014] and then put me back in the rotation, I thought, 'This is my time now. I think this is my time to show off what I can do.'"

Video: Indians extend Carrasco through 2022 with '23 option

That brief demotion to the bullpen wound up unlocking a more determined strike-throwing mindset. Now, Carrasco ranks second all time among Indians pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings (9.27), trailing only Kluber (9.81). Carrasco ranks ninth in franchise history with 1,127 strikeouts.

"It really changed his mindset," Antonetti said. "Carlos has always had a great complement of stuff. How he utilized that stuff came and went at times. When he went to the bullpen, [he adopted] the mindset of just executing one pitch at a time and trying to get that hitter out and then getting the next guy out until Tito [manager Terry Francona] takes the ball from him. That mentality flipped the switch and allowed him to stay aggressive."

So Carrasco's impact on the mound has been immense. And he's made an impact in the community, as well. Carrasco and his wife, Karelis, started the Carlos Carrasco Foundation in 2016 and have raised money and collected resources such as food, books and clothing for the less fortunate both in Cleveland and in Tampa, Fla., where they reside in the offseason. Carrasco has been the Indians' nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award each of the last four years.

The trade rumors involving the Indians will continue, especially with the Winter Meetings about to begin on Monday. The Indians are known to have had talks with other clubs about Kluber and Trevor Bauer (some executives have gotten the sense that they are more likely to move Bauer, if anybody), as the organization is considering any opportunity that might both enhance its 2019 postseason outlook and its long-term window to contend. So much uncertainty is in the air in the Hot Stove rumor mill. But the baseball world can now officially cool the Cookie talk.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco

Here are Winter Meetings FAQs to know

MLB.com @castrovince

In most industries, meetings are a bore and chore. They consist of PowerPoints, "action items" and "check-ins," and the end result, usually, is just an agreement to "circle back" to everything at yet another meeting at a later date. Meetings are a necessary evil, a means to an end, an annoyance on your Outlook calendar.

But just as the concept of "touching base" takes on a different connotation in the baseball world than the business world, so, too, do meetings themselves. The phrase "Winter Meetings" has a titillating tenor to it. It conjures up images not of action items but actual action. We think of it as the event where the baseball world convenes and big deals get done.

In most industries, meetings are a bore and chore. They consist of PowerPoints, "action items" and "check-ins," and the end result, usually, is just an agreement to "circle back" to everything at yet another meeting at a later date. Meetings are a necessary evil, a means to an end, an annoyance on your Outlook calendar.

But just as the concept of "touching base" takes on a different connotation in the baseball world than the business world, so, too, do meetings themselves. The phrase "Winter Meetings" has a titillating tenor to it. It conjures up images not of action items but actual action. We think of it as the event where the baseball world convenes and big deals get done.

They are, in short, meetings you can actually get excited about.

With the 2018 Winter Meetings about to begin at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on Monday, here's a primer on what this annual event is all about.

What is it?
The Winter Meetings are an industry gathering. Representatives from all 30 teams and their various affiliates attend the Winter Meetings. Executives, team staff, media, exhibitors and job seekers converge to network with peers, fill job and internship vacancies, attend workshops, discuss trends and exchange ideas. In some ways, it isn't terribly different from, say, an accountants' conference, because it features a trade show, a job fair, seminars, luncheons, etc.

A key difference is that accountants don't typically gather together in hotel suites and devise ways to trade their clients or sign them to multimillion dollar contracts.

That's why we love the Winter Meetings.

Why does it matter?
Though the ubiquity of texting and e-mailing has altered the dynamics of the Meetings as much as it has altered the fabric of our daily lives, team executives still view the Winter Meetings as a productive place to conduct offseason business.

The convergence of team decision-makers and agents in a single building -- a building many of them will not leave at all for four days -- can accelerate action. It is an efficient environment for deal-making because of the ease of face-to-face dialogue (agents will sometimes fly clients to the Meetings so they can make and listen to pitches in person) and, sometimes, the competitive spirit that kicks in when everybody gets together under one roof.

What happens?
Folks typically arrive on Sunday and depart on Thursday. Team executives usually line up meetings with other clubs and with agents throughout Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. General managers usually have a daily discussion with the local beat reporters to keep them abreast of where things stand, and each Major League manager conducts a press conference where questions about the state of the club are fielded. Reporters mill about the hotel lobby, seeking out team and agent sources, gathering information and, yes, spreading rumors.

When a deal actually gets done, the involved club or clubs hold a press conference in the media work room. If it's a free-agent deal or major trade completed in time for the player to travel to the site, it is not unusual for the player to attend the press conference. That's what happened when the Yankees unveiled Giancarlo Stanton at the 2017 Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for instance.

What are some notable deals that have gone down there?
In 1975, the always enterprising owner Bill Veeck, having just recently purchased the White Sox, set up a table at the Winter Meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a sign that read, "Open for Business." He went on to make six trades involving 22 players that week.

The Winter Meetings aren't always that lively, but plenty of big deals have gone down there over the years. In free agency, Barry Bonds (1992, Giants, $43 million), Kevin Brown ('98, Dodgers, $105 million) and Alex Rodriguez (2000, Rangers, $252 million) all set new records with contracts completed at the Winter Meetings. Brian Cashman's abrupt exit at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in '08 to fly to California to nail down a $161 million deal (at the time, a record for a pitcher) with CC Sabathia was memorable, as was Albert Pujols' mega pact with the Angels that was negotiated at the '11 Winter Meetings and completed just as everybody was packing up.

As far as trades are concerned, the Yankees' 1959 acquisition of Roger Maris, the Orioles' '65 trade for Frank Robinson, the Mets' '84 deal for Gary Carter, the '90 Padres-Blue Jays blockbuster that involved Fred McGriff, Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez and Roberto Alomar, the Tigers' franchise-altering trade for Miguel Cabrera in 2007 and the Red Sox's '16 acquisition of Chris Sale are some of the standout swaps that have taken place at the Winter Meetings.

What else is announced at the Winter Meetings?
On Sunday, a National Baseball Hall of Fame Eras Committee gathers at the Winter Meetings to discuss and vote on that year's ballot, be it the Today's Game (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized from 1988 to the present), Golden Days (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized from '50-69), or Early Baseball (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized prior to '50). Those candidates who appear on 75 percent of ballots cast get inducted into the Hall of Fame the following summer, alongside the Baseball Writers' Association of America selections.

This year, the Today's Game Era Committee will vote on a ballot featuring Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner. The results will be announced at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday on MLB Network.

What is the Rule 5 Draft?
The Rule 5 Draft is the annual grand finale of the Winter Meetings, taking place on Thursday morning as executives prepare to depart. It is an opportunity for teams to take a chance on untapped talent and, while the players involved are little more than lottery tickets, it has uncovered some real gems over the years.

The Rule 5 Draft involves players who were left off their team's 40-man roster and were either A. signed at age 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for at least four years or B. signed at 18 or younger and have played for at least five years. A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $100,000 to the team from which he was selected, and the receiving team must keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster or disabled list (though the player must be active for at least 90 days) for the entirety of the following season. If the player does not remain on the roster, he must be offered back to the team from which he was selected for $50,000. All players on a team's 40-man roster are "protected" from the Rule 5 Draft, and only teams with vacancies on their 40-man at the time of the Draft can participate (in reverse order of the previous season's standings).

Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria are the most famous examples of impact players who were acquired in the Rule 5 Draft. There are also Triple-A and Double-A phases of the Draft.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Valbuena, Jose Castillo killed in car accident

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Tributes and sorrow poured in from all corners of the baseball world Friday following the tragic deaths of free-agent infielder Luis Valbuena and former Major League infielder Jose Castillo in a car crash late Thursday in their native Venezuela, where they were playing winter ball.

Their team, Cardenales de Lara, confirmed via Twitter both men had been killed in the crash, which occurred after they had played in a game Thursday night. According to media reports from Venezuela, two other men in the car, including former big league infielder Carlos Rivero, survived.

HOUSTON -- Tributes and sorrow poured in from all corners of the baseball world Friday following the tragic deaths of free-agent infielder Luis Valbuena and former Major League infielder Jose Castillo in a car crash late Thursday in their native Venezuela, where they were playing winter ball.

Their team, Cardenales de Lara, confirmed via Twitter both men had been killed in the crash, which occurred after they had played in a game Thursday night. According to media reports from Venezuela, two other men in the car, including former big league infielder Carlos Rivero, survived.

Tweet from @CardenalesDice: Estamos viviendo una horrible tragedia en Cardenales de Lara. Perdimos a nuestros jugadores Luis Valbuena y Jos�� Castillo en un accidente de tr��nsito. pic.twitter.com/HPf3LRuxp1

Four men were taken into custody in the state of Yaracuy, where the state's governor, Julio Leon Heredia, said via Twitter that they were allegedly involved in causing the crash and robbing the players of their belongings. Media reports stated the SUV the players were riding in crashed after encountering a rock in the road.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement on Friday afternoon.

"This is a very sad day for our sport as we mourn the deaths of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo," the statement read. "It is clear by all the stories today that they loved baseball and made an impact on their teammates and the clubs they represented. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, friends and fans, particularly those in their native Venezuela."

Tweet from @MLB: We are saddened by the tragic news that Luis Valbuena and former major leaguer Jos�� Castillo have died in a car accident. pic.twitter.com/C3nILO00SE

Valbuena, 33, played the previous two seasons with the Angels, hitting .199 with nine homers and 33 RBIs in 96 games in 2018 before being released in August. He was a career .226 hitter with 114 homers and 367 RBIs over 11 big league seasons, also playing for the Mariners, Indians, Cubs and Astros while forging a reputation as one of the most likeable players in the game.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder Jose Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief," the Angels said on Twitter.

Tweet from @Angels: We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder Jos�� Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief. pic.twitter.com/GxegOtJXuB

Many of Valbuena's former teammates were shaken when they read news of his death on social media early Friday.

"We're thinking about Luis Valbuena's family today. Our thoughts go to them. RIP to a teammate and a friend…" Angels outfielder Mike Trout wrote on Twitter.

Tweet from @MikeTrout: We���re thinking about Luis Valbuena's family today. Our thoughts go to them. RIP to a teammate and a friend...

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, a teammate of Valbuena's in 2015-16 and also a native of Venezuela, expressed his disbelief on Instagram, writing in Spanish: "I still can't believe what's going on … rest in peace brothers."

Castillo, 37, last appeared in the Major Leagues for the Astros in 2008. He also played for the Pirates and Giants in parts of five Major League seasons, batting .254 with 39 homers and 218 RBIs.

"The Astros family lost two young men yesterday, entirely too soon," the team said in a statement. "During his two seasons in Houston, Luis was an extremely popular player with his teammates and the Astros' staff. He was a productive player on the field and played a key role in the Astros' run to the postseason in 2015. Off the field, he was a warm and friendly presence to all who interacted with him. Jose's time with the Astros was brief, but he also had a positive impact on those around him. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends."

Video: Best moments from Valbuena's 11-season MLB career

Angels general manager Billy Eppler remembered both men in a statement released by the club.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo," the statement read. "Beyond Luis' many accomplishments on the field, we will all remember him for his magnetic personality, radiant smile and ability to make the people around him better. He will be truly missed by all in the baseball community. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to both the Valbuena and Castillo families."

Via Twitter, the Indians expressed their condolences.

"The Indians are saddened to hear of the passing of former Tribe infielder Luis Valbuena. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Tweet from @Indians: The Indians are saddened to hear of the passing of former Tribe infielder Luis Valbuena. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/YYJdiqNXo2

Valbuena's passion for the game was evident in the way he played and interacted with teammates on and off the field. An enormously popular player in any clubhouse he stepped into, Valbuena's penchant for flipping his bat -- whether on a homer or a single -- was a sign of how much he enjoyed the game.

"I am so sad to hear about the sudden loss of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo," Astros manager AJ Hinch said in a statement. "I will miss Luis' banter, smile, genuine love for his teammates and, of course, the bat flips. He was a beloved person whether he was on our team or across the field. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the lucky ones who could call him a teammate or friend."

Indians pitcher Danny Salazar tweeted: "So sad for this news. God has a good place for you in heaven mi amigo. All My condolences to the Valbuena and Castillo family. #ripbrother."

Tweet from @DannySalazar67: So sad for this news, God has a good place for you in heaven mi amigo, all My condolences to the Valbuena and Castillo���s family #ripbrother https://t.co/6HLcoaWHOw

Free-agent catcher Rene Rivera, who played with Valbuena briefly this past season, also tweeted: "Sad to wake up to the news of the loss of teammate Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo. Praying for their families to find comfort in such a difficult time. You will be missed ValBueeeeeena."

Tweet from @ReneRivera13: Sad to wake up to the news of the loss of teammate Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo. Praying for their families to find comfort in such a difficult time. You will be missed ValBueeeeeena 😔

A teammate of Valbuena for two years, Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs wrote: "RIP Luuuuuu... I will miss you brotha. Gone way too soon. Great teammate and great person. Every day he would have a smile that would light up the room."

Tweet from @TylerSkaggs37: RIP Luuuuuu... I will miss you brotha. Gone way too soon. Great teammate and great person. Every day he would have a smile that would light up the room. pic.twitter.com/YA9WghcLYB

The Venezuelan League will suspend games scheduled for Friday, and players will wear black armbands in memory of Valbuena and Castillo.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Jose Castillo, Luis Valbuena

Each team's best 1st-rounder of the past decade

MLB.com

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

AL East

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays, 2012 (No. 22 overall)
Stroman's profile scared away many teams in the 2012 Draft, but the Duke product has done his part to overcome the stigma associated with being an undersized right-hander. Though he regressed in 2018, while dealing with right shoulder fatigue and, later, a blister issue, Stroman posted back-to-back 200-inning seasons (2016-17) and has been worth 10.6 WAR over five seasons with the Blue Jays.

Manny Machado, SS, Orioles, 2010 (No. 3 overall)
Machado made the jump straight from Double-A to the Majors as a 19-year-old in late 2012, and quickly became a star. His 33.8 WAR is the highest among 2010 first-round position players, second only to Chris Sale, and after helping guide Baltimore to two postseason appearances as a four-time All-Star, Machado netted the organization five Top 30 prospects when it dealt him to the Dodgers this past July.

Ryne Stanek, RHP, Rays, 2013 (No. 29 overall)
Drafting in the first round has long been a problem for the typically savvy Rays, and even their selection of Stanek isn't a hands-down win for the organization, considering he was viewed as a starter (before needing hip surgery) out of the Draft. That said, the right-hander emerged as a legitimate late-inning weapon (and, at times, an "opener") for the Rays in 2018, when he compiled a 2.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings over 66 1/3 innings (59 appearances).

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox, 2015 (No. 7 overall)
Benintendi went from unheralded Arkansas freshman to consensus College Baseball Player of the Year as a sophomore, soaring up Draft boards in the process. The Red Sox had him No. 2 on theirs (behind Dansby Swanson), which he justified by becoming a regular in their 2018 World Series championship lineup just 13 months after signing.

Video: 2015 Draft: Red Sox draft OF Andrew Benintendi No. 7

Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees, 2013 (No. 32 overall)
Judge was the second of three Yankees first-rounders in 2013, sandwiched between Eric Jagielo (No. 26) and Ian Clarkin (No. 33), and lasting that long because there were questions about how well his massive raw power would translate into production. After only hitting 18 homers in three years at Fresno State and 56 in three seasons in the Minors, he exploded for a rookie-record 52 in 2017.

AL Central

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians, 2011 (No. 8 overall)
Cleveland landed perhaps the best player in a historically good first-round class, as Lindor has become one of the faces of game while totaling 23.9 WAR -- second to Mookie Betts (35.2) among 2011 draftees -- and leading the Indians to an American League title (2016) since his debut in '15, when he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Entering his age-25 season, he's garnered All-Star honors and finished Top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.

Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals, 2009 (No. 12 overall)
The Royals haven't fared well in the first round during the last decade, though Crow made the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2011, and was an effective reliever for four seasons until he blew out his elbow shortly after a trade to the Marlins. Cristian Colon (No. 4 overall, 2010) didn't have as much sustained success but delivered the championship-winning hit in the 2015 World Series.

Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers, 2018 (No. 1 overall)
Perhaps this one is more aspirational because he's thrown only 13 2/3 career innings since being the top pick in last June's Draft, but Mize should be able to use his three plus pitches and his plus control to move quickly through the Tigers' system. Look for him in Detroit sooner rather than later.

Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins, 2016 (No. 16 overall)
The rules for this story don't allow for a supplemental first-round pick to be chosen, otherwise Jose Berrios might be the guy. But after missing the 2017 season, Kirilloff erupted in '18, his first real full season, and is looking like one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball.

Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox, 2010 (No. 13 overall)
After 2010's Big Three of Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Machado, Sale should have been the next player taken. But teams psyched themselves out over worries about his low arm slot and desire for a big league contract (typical for top college arms at the time), allowing the White Sox to steal him at No. 13. He was saving games for Chicago by September and has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons as a starter.

Video: WS2018 Gm1: Sale K's Dozier to start off World Series

AL West

Matt Chapman, 3B, A's, 2014 (No. 25 overall)
Chapman emerged as the A's next homegrown star in his first fully healthy season, as he ranked third in WAR (8.2) among all position players, finished seventh in AL MVP voting and took home the revered Platinum Glove award as baseball's best defensive player. His 11.7 WAR in 229 career games is tops among positional players from his Draft class -- ahead of even Trea Turner (10.4), who's played 360 games.

Mike Trout, OF, Angels, 2009 (No. 25 overall)
The teams that say they had Trout No. 2 on their board are sort of like the million people who say they were present for The Shot Heard Round the World. Their loss was the Angels' gain, obviously, as he's turned into one of the game's top stars, with seven All-Star appearances and two MVP Awards.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros, 2012 (No. 1 overall)
George Springer (No. 11, 2011) and Alex Bregman (No. 2, 2015) can also make a case, but our choice is Correa. A series of impressive pre-Draft workouts gave him late helium and made him the first Puerto Rican taken with the top choice. He won AL Rookie of the Year Award honors in '15, then received All-Star recognition and won a World Series two year later.

Video: ALCS Gm1: Correa knocks go-ahead single in 6th

Mike Zunino, C, Mariners, 2012 (No. 3 overall)
Zunino struggled for several years after being rushed to the Major Leagues and hit .207 over 2,000 plate appearances with Seattle. His combination of right-handed power and strong defense behind the plate, however, became increasingly valuable, especially with the quality of the position on the decline across the Majors.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers, 2012 (No. 29 overall)
The Rangers' 13 first-round picks from the last decade have produced only three big leaguers and a combined -0.4 WAR so far. An exceptional athlete who has yet to hit in the Majors, Brinson went to the Brewers in a deal for Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy in July 2016, and to the Marlins in a trade for Christian Yelich last January.

NL East

Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves, 2017 (No. 5 overall)
The Braves hoped Wright would move quickly when they took him with their first pick in the 2017 Draft out of Vanderbilt. Starting his first full season in Double-A was a good sign and reaching Atlanta before the year was over was ahead of schedule, even for a fast-tracker.

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins, 2010 (No. 23 overall)
One of the 2010 Draft's better hitters as a California prep, Yelich reached the Majors in mid-2013 and received a seven-year, $49.57 million contract extension two years later. He hit .290/.369/.432 (18.6 WAR) over 643 games with Miami, and then helped the organization restock its farm system with four prospects, including Brinson and Monte Harrison, when they dealt him to Milwaukee last offseason. In his first year with the Brewers, Yelich won the batting title (.326) and powered the club to the National League Championship Series en route to MVP honors.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Yelich crushes solo homer to right-center

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets, 2014 (No. 10 overall)
It took the Oregon State product only a year to get to the big leagues, and while his performance has been a little up and down, he's hit 56 homers the last two years and has an All-Star nod already on his resume. Still only 25, he has already amassed nearly 1,400 Major League at-bats.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals, 2010 (No. 1 overall)
The Nationals' selection of Harper with the first pick in the 2010 Draft forever changed the course of the franchise, as it gave the club a player with near-immediate impact potential as well as generational-star upside worthy of building around. Over seven seasons with the Nats, Harper -- a six-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP -- hit .279/.388/.512 with 184 homers in 927 games, good for a 27.4 WAR.

Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies, 2014 (No. 7 overall)
Nola took his combination of solid stuff and outstanding command and made a beeline to Philadelphia, joining the rotation in just over a year following his selection. And the 25-year-old is just getting going, making his first All-Star team and finishing third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2018.

NL Central

Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers, 2017 (No. 9 overall)
The Brewers' track record with first-round picks isn't great, but Hiura could soon help reverse that trend. After leading all Division I hitters in average (.442) as a UC Irvine junior, Hiura raked his way up to Double-A this past season and then took home MVP honors in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He still needs some more time in the Minors, but it shouldn't be long before Hiura is driving in runs from the middle of Milwaukee's order.

Jack Flaherty, RHP, 2014 (No. 34 overall)
The Cardinals have had some solid back-half-of-the-first-round selections, like Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong, but Flaherty made it to the big leagues in 2017, then finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in '18. Flaherty will be only 23 in 2019, so the best may be yet to come.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs, 2013 (No. 2 overall)
Bryant had a stunning junior season at San Diego, swatting 31 homers to not only lead NCAA Division I but also topping 223 of the 296 teams at that level. He raced to the big leagues, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and encoring with an NL MVP Award and World Series championship the next season.

Video: STL@CHC: Bryant belts a towering solo homer to center

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates, 2011 (No. 1 overall)
Cole's 17.4 WAR is more than double any other Pirates' first-rounder in the last decade. Perhaps his tenure with Pittsburgh was up and down, but he made the All-Star team, finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting and made three postseason starts in 2015. He's also topped 200 innings in three of the last four years (albeit the last one coming for the Astros).

Mike Leake, RHP, Reds, 2009 (No. 8 overall)
Leake spent exactly zero days in the Minor Leagues between getting drafted and his Major League debut, breaking with the Reds' rotation on Opening Day in 2010. He's compiled more WAR than any Reds first-rounder in the last 10 years (15.6) and his trade to the Giants in 2015 netted them Adam Duvall (two years of 30-plus homers) and Keury Mella, who should contribute to the pitching staff in '19.

NL West

A.J. Pollock, OF, D-backs, 2009 (No. 17 overall)
When Pollock was coming out of Notre Dame, he was a solid college performer, but one who didn't have a plus tool, so some thought he might end up a bit of a tweener. There have been some injuries, but there's also been an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove as an everyday center fielder, one who is currently coveted on the free-agent market.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers, 2012 (No. 18 overall)
After taking pitchers with their previous six first-round choices -- landing Clayton Kershaw and five non-impact big leaguers -- the Dodgers changed course and went for Seager, who was one of the better all-around high school bats but also came with some signability concerns in the first Draft with bonus-pool rules. He signed for $2.35 million ($400,000 above the assigned value at No. 18) and proved well worth it, earning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 and All-Star recognition in each of his two full big league seasons.

Zack Wheeler, RHP, Giants, 2009 (No. 6 overall)
He wasn't a cornerstone of World Series championships like Giants 2006-08 first-rounders Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but the guy who followed them has been a quality big league starter when healthy. Wheeler didn't last long with San Francisco, however, going to the Mets in a 2011 trade for Carlos Beltran.

Trea Turner, SS, Padres, 2014 (No. 13 overall)
Turner played the first half of his pro debut on borrowed time, as he'd already been dealt to the Nationals as part of a three-team trade with Tampa Bay (that netted the Padres Wil Myers) by the time the 2015 season began. He's emerged as one of the more impactful young players with the Nats.

Video: Draft 2014: Padres draft SS Trea Turner No. 13

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies, 2014 (No. 8 overall)
The Rockies hoped for Kyle Schwarber or Nola, but the Cubs and Phillies foiled those plans and led them to Freeland, whose elbow worried some clubs because he had arthroscopic surgery as a Denver high schooler. He had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2015 but has been otherwise healthy, winning 11 games as a rookie in '17 and finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting last season.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

These are the 10 best starting rotations

MLB.com @williamfleitch

Tuesday, the Washington Nationals snatched up Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, for the not-exactly-a-discount-price of $140 million over six years.

For all the talk of Bryce Harper and the rest of Washington's lineup, it was, as tends to be the case with the Nationals, a bet on pitching.

Tuesday, the Washington Nationals snatched up Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, for the not-exactly-a-discount-price of $140 million over six years.

For all the talk of Bryce Harper and the rest of Washington's lineup, it was, as tends to be the case with the Nationals, a bet on pitching.

"That's how we've won," general manager Mike Rizzo said before the signing "When we put our guy on the mound [and he], each day, gives us a chance to win, you've created yourself a chance to have a really good ballclub and play deep into October."

RIzzo backed it up with the Corbin signing.

The Nationals now have one of the best rotations in baseball, and considering the combined $525 million they're paying Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, well, they better. But how do they rank among baseball's best rotations?

In the wake of Corbin's signing, here's a look at the 10 best rotations in the game at this particular moment. With Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and others still out there unsigned, this list obviously is still subject to change, but here's how it looks right now:

1. Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber

Assuming the rumors that the Indians would part with Kluber aren't true, this is still a rotation that'll keep the Indians atop the American League Central and holding the upstart Twins and White Sox at bay for at least one more season. Bauer was downright fantastic last year -- their best starter, really -- and Clevinger was the best starter in baseball you're pretty sure pitched in the '80s at some point. And Carrasco has been so good for them for so long you almost forget about him. Who knows, maybe Danny Salazar can return and be what he once was, too. But again: We gotta make sure they don't trade anybody.

Video: Bauer joins Hot Stove to discuss his surplus value

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood

Typical Dodgers -- they've got the second-best rotation in the game, and they're still looking to add. Bringing Kershaw back was always going to happen, and Buehler looks like a pitcher who's already ready to win a Cy Young Award. The Dodgers will shuffle pitchers in and out of the rotation as needed, and you can probably count on them being on the phone with the Indians pretty regularly these days. Whatever they lack, they'll end up getting.

3. Washington Nationals
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross

Adding Corbin obviously makes a formidable rotation even scarier, but third still seems about right for the Nats, top-to-bottom. Scherzer's the horse, and Strasburg, when healthy, has somehow become oddly underrated. If Corbin can keep up what he did in 2018, that's a daunting top three, but there's still some issues with the back of the rotation, particularly the No. 5 spot, which probably won't really end up being Ross. Erick Fedde? The Nationals, all told, could maybe use another pitcher.

4. Houston Astros
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Josh James, Brad Peacock

The top two are both top-five Cy Young Award candidates, and you know they're going to add a free agent at some point this offseason, maybe Eovaldi. But having both Charlie Morton and Keuchel as free agents leaves some holes to fill. They've got Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez coming, not to mention Forrest Whitley, who might be one of their most important pitchers come September and October.

Video: Red Sox, Astros and Yankees interested in Eovaldi

5. Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson

It almost seems unfair that a team with an offense as overpowering as the Red Sox also has one of the top five rotations in the game, but hey, that's why they're the World Series champions. They'd like to keep Nathan Eovaldi around in Boston, though there are other teams -- some on this very list -- who are going hard after him. But with Sale as the guy atop the rotation who hasn't won a Cy Young Award, suffice it to say, the Red Sox will be fine either way.

6. New York Mets
Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas

Whatever other issues the Mets might have -- and that trade that Mets fans will be debating for generations to come -- it's impossible to argue with the top of their rotation. Syndergaard took a small step back in 2018, but he was still excellent, and Wheeler has become a better, more consistent pitcher than anyone has quite noticed. Matz put up 30 starts of sub-4.00 ERA, which you'll absolutely take from a fourth starter. The questions, still: Do they need to pick up a backend starter, and … Syndergaard's definitely staying, right?

7. Atlanta Braves
Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint

The Braves had the fourth-best starter ERA in baseball last year, and the second-best in the National League, thanks largely to a terrific season from Foltynewicz, excellent backend work from Newcomb and Teheran, and a surprisingly strong finish from trade acquisition Gausman. But the real excitement here comes from the young pitchers -- from those who are already here (Toussaint) to those who are about to arrive (Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright). The Bravs are only going to move up this list.

8. St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright

The Cardinals' strength isn't necessarily in their quality: It's in their quantity. In addition to those five names above, they have potential starters in Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon, John Gant, Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes. Theoretically, St. Louis will trade some of that rotation depth in the offseason for some sort of upside bat, but the Cardinals have above-average starters everywhere, and in Flaherty, they have a potential ace.

Video: Mikolas on importance of throwing strikes, his 2018

9. Chicago Cubs
Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish

This unit was a little bit of a disappointment last season, but still, look at those five names. Hamels might have been the Cubs' best starter after he came over at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Lester and Hendricks are proven veterans who still have plenty left, and Quintana took a step back but is still a solid starter capable of much more. And as for Darvish: He should be healthy in 2019, and even if he isn't his old self or quite worth his hefty salary … he can't possibly be worse than Tyler Chatwood was.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Ivan Nova, Joe Musgrove

Archer was the high-profile addition at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Taillon is the true ace of this staff, and he's also three years younger than Archer. Don't sleep on Williams, by the way, who actually had a lower ERA than Taillon and had a 1.38 ERA in the second half. They could probably use an upgrade on the backend, though.

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays (the one starter they have, anyway!)

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Inbox: Breaking down the Indians' offseason

Anthony Castrovince answers questions from Tribe fans
MLB.com @castrovince

Last week's Indians Inbox was my first in eight years. This week's is my last for the foreseeable future. After filling in for the departed (as in, new job, not dead) Jordan Bastian, I'm sliding back into a life of national baseball puns and punditry for MLB.com.

But I still love talking Tribe. I'll do it on my Twitter feed. I'll do it in my columns and features. I'll do it on the Morning Lineup Podcast I record thrice-weekly with friend and colleague Richard Justice. I'll do it on the Indians podcast I record with the team beat writer. I'll do it in my regular segments on MLB Network. I'll do it on the Cleveland radio waves as a Tribe insider for WKNR.

Last week's Indians Inbox was my first in eight years. This week's is my last for the foreseeable future. After filling in for the departed (as in, new job, not dead) Jordan Bastian, I'm sliding back into a life of national baseball puns and punditry for MLB.com.

But I still love talking Tribe. I'll do it on my Twitter feed. I'll do it in my columns and features. I'll do it on the Morning Lineup Podcast I record thrice-weekly with friend and colleague Richard Justice. I'll do it on the Indians podcast I record with the team beat writer. I'll do it in my regular segments on MLB Network. I'll do it on the Cleveland radio waves as a Tribe insider for WKNR.

(As Bob Feller routinely used to tell us in the Indians' press box, "If you don't promote yourself, who will?")

The powers that be are still nailing down Bastian's permanent replacement. In the meantime, MLB.com's Mandy Bell will have your Indians coverage at next week's Winter Meetings and beyond. She's a good reporter and a good person, and I know you'll all give her a warm welcome.

For now, in the wake of the Yan Gomes trade and Danny Salazar's new contract, an Inbox is in order.

Tweet from @lmeehan3: I like Gomes, but think we've seen his best season(s), so I am ok moving him...all about what comes next regarding roster....long way to go.

Larry, next time please provide your unorthodox rationality, patience and practicality in the form of a question.

I'm a Gomes fan. Watching his evolution from, as Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti put it, "an unheralded Triple-A corner-utility player to an All-Star-caliber Major League catcher" has been one of the more impressive maturations I've seen in my time around this team. And "Indians trade All-Star catcher for prospects" is not a fun look for a supposed contender.

But let's make a few salient points here:

• As I wrote in this space last week, moving Gomes was an obvious way to make a little room in a tight budget, and what the Indians do with that room will be an important factor in how we judge the trade. The return wasn't overwhelming, but it's not as if Cleveland turned down offers of All-Star outfielders from other clubs. The Tribe got what it could get in a market stocked with catchers, and Antonetti's trade record (including the trade to acquire Gomes) speaks for itself.

• In 2018, Gomes had his best offensive season since '14. Roberto Perez had the ninth-lowest OPS this century by a catcher with at least 200 plate appearances. But let's not forget that as recently as the second half of 2017, Perez had begun to take over the regular catching duties from Gomes because their offensive performances weren't much different and Perez graded out better defensively (in framing runs, blocking runs and fielding runs above average). In the three-season sample from 2015-17, Perez more than doubled Gomes' Baseball Reference-calculated Wins Above Replacement mark (2.7 to 1.3), despite playing in 70 fewer games.

• Gomes' age (31), injury history and offensive track record make him a regression candidate. As of this writing, Steamer projects him to play just 72 games for the Nationals, with a 1.2 WAR and 86 weighted runs created plus. Steamer projects Perez to be worth 1.6 WAR and a 79 wRC+ in 113 games for the Indians, who also have Eric Haase coming off a solid year at Triple-A Columbus.

• No one asked, but even after the Gomes trade, I'm more concerned about Cleveland's outfield than the catching spot. And I'm more concerned about the bullpen than the outfield.

• The bottom line is that values can fluctuate quickly in baseball, especially at a position as physically and mentally demanding as catcher. Anybody here remember Jonathan Lucroy?

Tweet from @StephenTipton: Is it fair to say at this point that the @Indians see everyone besides Jose and Lindor as tradeable?This year's off season rumor mill has been whiplash inducing, particularly because there wasn't much warning that the whole team was on the block.

On winter breaks during college, I worked in the layaway department at the Eastlake, Ohio, Walmart (a lovely place). My job was to retrieve boxes of items from the storage trailers when people paid off their bills. Occasionally (read: frequently) the boxes had been lost, and I'd have to go through the store and shop for all the missing items. This, friends, is how I gained unexpected experience buying underwear for strangers.

In our jobs, we do what must be done, is what I'm saying.

After two years of franchise-record payrolls netted the Indians nothing more than four playoff home games and a declining attendance total, Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have been forced to take a hard look at a maturing roster loaded with in-house raises. Given the budget constraints, it would be malpractice not to explore the trade values of the more expensive veterans. And the two areas where the Tribe had a combination of workable depth and a player (or players) with actual trade value were catching and starting pitching.

Gomes might represent the extent of the "sell-off," or the Indians could still move a starter. Rest assured that if Cleveland does actually move a starter, it's not going to be solely for salary relief and mid-grade prospects like the Gomes trade. It would be for tangible help at the Major League level right now. But that value is very hard to align in the trade market.

Tweet from @jasonleonard305: Do you think if the indians trade Kluber (Lindor? Ramirez?) they could net 3 or 4 more fourth outfielder types? I���m concerned they don���t have enough depth in that area, and trading more of their all stars is definitely the way to fix it.

I, too, enjoy employing the comedic device of conveying scorn by saying the opposite of what you clearly mean. I just wish we had a word for it.

Tweet from @216burner: Feel like I'm the only one of my friends/family that is defending the tribe. How do I tell everyone I know that they're all idiots?Thanks,A Fan

Announcing it loudly at Thanksgiving dinner would have been ideal. But because it's too late for that, I would wait until New Year's Eve and after everybody has had a few alcoholic beverages.

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: Love the trade. What do you think the odds are we see either Johnson or Rodriguez contribute to the Major League Club in 2019? #indiansinbox

Both Daniel Johnson and Jefry Rodriguez are a possibility for 2019. Rodriguez is a stronger possibility, given that he's already pitched in the bigs and will be immediately vying for a bullpen role (and bullpen jobs open up all the time). But I don't have to tell you there is opportunity in the Indians' outfield. Johnson needs to tighten up his strike-zone awareness before he's a serious candidate for the call.

Tweet from @dpdiamond13: What���s the front office���s logic/reasoning for dumping a $7M contract (Gomes) but picking up $4.5M contract for Salazar who has continued injuries? This isn���t a Brantley situation. Gomes was a formidable day-to-day leader. Is it as simple as getting as much value as possible now?

Salazar sometimes grabs his elbow and shoulder just from looking at a baseball. But in the vast majority of Major League markets, a $4.5 million investment on a pitcher with Salazar's raw stuff is a layup. For the Indians this winter, it was more laborious. In the end, they did the right thing. There is too strong a possibility of Salazar providing at least $4.5 million of value to them (or maybe to another team in a trade) in 2019.

Tweet from @Fatherbeatrice: I���ve heard of trades with the Dodgers involving Puig, which makes absolutely no sense since he has one year left. Do you think it should be Bellinger or no deal with the Dodgers? Only way I���d like a trade with Kluber or Bauer is if Bellinger is included.

Right, Cody Bellinger makes more way sense than Yasiel Puig, who will make eight figures in his final arbitration round. And MLB Pipeline's No. 32 overall prospect, Alex Verdugo, whose advanced bat is due for his shot in the bigs, makes way more sense than either of them.

Tweet from @proud2BfromCLE: Would the Gomes trade have made more sense, or been easier for fans to swallow, had we not traded our top prospect (Mejia -Catcher) 5 months ago?

Well, sure. But then you guys wouldn't have Brad Hand and would be freaking out about the possibility of Neil Ramirez being the 2019 closer.

For high-end relief help with multiple years of control in the midseason market, Francisco Mejia was the cost of doing business. (And for the record, evaluator opinions about the likelihood of him remaining behind the plate in his big league career are mixed.)

Tweet from @bwpeery: Any hope of dumping Kipnis' $14.5 million? Where does he fit in 2019? Seems like Tito is finally ready to give Yandy a shot a 3rd and move Ramirez to 2nd. Kip seems to be the odd man out again.

Gomes did a fantastic job reasserting the value of his contract in 2018. Kipnis did not. I think the only way you move Kipnis is by taking on a good amount of his contract (thereby defeating the purpose of moving him), trading him for a similarly bad contract or attaching him to a more valuable trade asset (i.e. Kluber or Bauer).

If the season began today, Kipnis would be in left field. And the field would be wet.

Tweet from @KingSalmon38: Oh hi, Anthony! All these trade rumors are tearing me apart! But this Carrasco extension rumor is intriguing. I think Cookie getting an extension along with Kluber���s extra year means Bauer has been the odd man out all along. What do you think?

I think I missed these references to "The Room" in the Inbox.

With Carlos Carrasco indeed receiving an extension, through 2022, that leaves Kluber and Bauer as the key trade candidates. Kluber has the better resume, but he'll be 33 with a rising price tag and declining velocity, so it's not sacrilege to suggest that Bauer might provide more surplus value than Kluber in '19 (as Bauer himself can tell you). Of course, analytically minded clubs know this, and that affects offers. But at this moment in time, I think there are better arguments for moving Kluber than Bauer because of the age and surplus value equation mentioned above.

That said, the extra year of club control of Kluber is an undeniably important element in all of this.

Tweet from @world_dictator: Doesn���t seem like you���re happy to be (temporarily) back on the Indians beat. Are we not good enough for you?

Contrary to the assumption of this amateur psychologist, it has been a blast to briefly be back on the beat and interacting with you all these last few weeks. We made beautiful Inboxes together, and nobody can take that away from us.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco, Yan Gomes

These are the top 50 prospects for the '19 Draft

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

The crop of talent for the 2019 Draft appears to be one of the most imbalanced in recent memory. Quality position prospects abound all over the diamond, while question marks surround the best pitchers available.

MLB Pipeline's new Draft Top 50 Prospects list reflects this dichotomy, starting with six straight hitters at the top. A lot will change before the Orioles exercise the No. 1 overall pick on June 3, but only once has a Draft started with as many as five consecutive position players. Justin Upton (D-backs), Alex Gordon (Royals), Jeff Clement (Mariners), Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) were the first five selections in the 2005 Draft, which coincidentally is considered the strongest so far this millennium.

The crop of talent for the 2019 Draft appears to be one of the most imbalanced in recent memory. Quality position prospects abound all over the diamond, while question marks surround the best pitchers available.

MLB Pipeline's new Draft Top 50 Prospects list reflects this dichotomy, starting with six straight hitters at the top. A lot will change before the Orioles exercise the No. 1 overall pick on June 3, but only once has a Draft started with as many as five consecutive position players. Justin Upton (D-backs), Alex Gordon (Royals), Jeff Clement (Mariners), Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) were the first five selections in the 2005 Draft, which coincidentally is considered the strongest so far this millennium.

2019 Draft order | All-time Draft picks

Top Draft Prospects

"If you're in the hunt for pitching up top, this might not be the best year for it, especially with the college arms," an American League scouting director said. "It's definitely a position-player Draft from what I've seen over the summer. It's better than what it's been the last couple of years. It's almost a little scary how good the hitters are compared to the pitchers."

The consensus among clubs is that the top tier of 2019 prospects includes as few as one and no more than three position players: Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and California first baseman Andrew Vaughn. They're also the three most highly decorated prospects in the '19 class.

Rutschman won Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series, where he helped the Beavers capture a national title to cap a breakout sophomore season in which he batted .408/.505/.628 and set school records with 102 hits and 83 RBIs. He's a switch-hitting catcher who's just starting to harness what could be plus power, and he's also a quality receiver with a strong arm.

Video: Adley Rutschman on being top-ranked Draft prospect

The son of Bobby Witt, the No. 3 overall pick in 1985 en route to a 16-year pitching career in the big leagues, Witt Jr. won the High School Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game and also Most Valuable Player Award honors at the Under Armour All-America Game, the States Play Series and the 18-and-under Pan American Championships in Panama. He's a potential five-tool shortstop who comes with some mild hittability concerns, but also plus raw power, speed, arm strength and defense.

"In 1999, we had the two Joshes [Hamilton and Beckett] and then everybody else," a National League scouting official said. "It could be a similar situation this year with Rutschman and Witt. Bobby Witt's kid is certainly one of the most exciting kids I've seen in a long time. You have to go back a long way to see a shortstop with those tools."

Video: Draft Report: Bobby Witt Jr., high school shortstop

Some teams would group Vaughn, the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner, with Rutschman and Witt. He's the best offensive player available, a .402/.531/.819 hitter as a sophomore who draws raves for his ability to barrel balls, hit for power and control the strike zone.

There's plenty of depth beyond that trio. On the college side, there's another catcher ticketed for the top of the draft in Baylor's Shea Langeliers, a five-tool sleeper in Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner and potential impact bats such as Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung, Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday and North Carolina first baseman Michael Busch. Scouts usually bemoan the lack of college shortstops, but this year, there are five who could factor into the first round (even if they might not all stay at the position): UNLV's Bryson Stott, Texas A&M's Braden Shewmake, Auburn's Will Holland, N.C. State's Will Wilson and Clemson's Logan Davidson.

Along with Witt, shortstop C.J. Abrams (Blessed Trinity Catholic High, Roswell, Ga.) and outfielders Jerrion Ealy (Jackson Prep, Flowood, Miss.) and Maurice Hampton (University High, Memphis, Tenn.) headline an impressive group of premium high school athletes. Ealy and Hampton are also four-star football recruits, with the former a running back committed to Mississippi and the latter a cornerback earmarked for Louisiana State. Outfielder Corbin Carroll (Lakeside School, Seattle) is one of the best pure hitters in the Draft, third baseman Rece Hinds (IMG Academy) may have the most raw power available and third basemen Brett Baty (Lake Travis High, Austin, Texas) and Tyler Callihan (Providence School, Jacksonville, Fla.) combine the ability to hit for average and power.

"You'll see position players, and especially the college bats, move up into the top half of the first round," an NL scouting director said. "You could see 18-20 bats in the first round, because it's just not a great class of pitching."

Video: Draft Report: Carter Stewart, college pitcher

MLB Pipeline's top-rated pitcher is right-hander Carter Stewart, who went No. 8 overall to the Braves in the 2018 Draft but didn't sign after a disagreement over the severity of a wrist injury that hampered him at the end of his senior season at Eau Gallie High (Melbourne, Fla.). Stewart, who had the best curveball in the '18 class as well as a fastball that reached 98 mph, is expected to enroll at Eastern Florida State Junior College for the spring semester.

There's also uncertainty with the top arms at four-year colleges, all of whom are left-handers: Duke's Graeme Stinson, Kentucky's Zack Thompson and Texas Christian's Nick Lodolo. Stinson has to prove he can succeed and hold up as a starter after relieving for most of his college career, and Thompson missed two months last spring with an elbow injury that didn't require surgery. Lodolo was the highest unsigned pick in the 2016 Draft (No. 41 overall, Pirates) but has been more respectable than dominant with the Horned Frogs.

Clubs consider high school pitching to the be the riskiest Draft demographic, and prep righties often seem to last longer than they should. Brennan Malone (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.), Daniel Espino (Georgia Premier Academy, Statesboro, Ga.) and Matthew Allan (Seminole, Fla., High) are the premier power arms among prepsters. Former All-Star Al Leiter's son, Jack (Delbarton School, Morristown, N.J.), is the most polished high school hurler, while two-way star Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon High, Carlsbad, Calif.) is the best left-hander.

"This is a good Draft. I like it," a second NL scouting official said. "There's not a lot of pitching at the top, but there are a lot of bats to go get."

Video: Callis breaks down Jack Leiter's draft stock

BREAKDOWN

College: 27
HS: 22
JC: 1

RHP: 12
OF: 10
SS: 10
LHP: 6
3B: 5
1B: 4
C: 2
2B: 1

Top tools

All players, as always, are given grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for all tools or pitches. These are future grades, a reflection of what the scouting industry thinks each of these amateur players can become in the future. Here are the top grades for each tool and pitch.

Position players
Hit: 60 -- Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State; Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California; Riley Greene, Hagerty (Fla.) HS; Corbin Carroll, Lakeside (Wash.) HS
Power: 60 -- Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California; Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Run: 75 -- CJ Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity Catholic (Ga.) HS; Jerrion Ealy, OF, Jackson Prep (Miss.)
Arm: 70 -- Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Field: 60 -- Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State; Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage (Texas) HS; Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor; Mike Toglia, 1B/OF, UCLA; Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill (Ga.) HS

Pitchers
Fastball: 70 -- Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Fla.); Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy; Ryne Nelson, RHP, Oregon
Curveball: 65 -- Carter Stewart, RHP, None
Slider: 65 -- Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke
Changeup: 55 -- Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU
Control: 55 -- Jack Leiter, RHP, Delbarton (N.J.) HS

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Which division is the most interesting right now?

MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB

This is an eventful time in the National League East.

Early last week, the Braves moved to defend their division title by signing third baseman Josh Donaldson and reuniting with catcher Brian McCann. The Mets soon responded, signaling their intention to win now under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. On Monday afternoon, New York finally completed a long-discussed blockbuster trade with Seattle that netted second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz.

This is an eventful time in the National League East.

Early last week, the Braves moved to defend their division title by signing third baseman Josh Donaldson and reuniting with catcher Brian McCann. The Mets soon responded, signaling their intention to win now under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. On Monday afternoon, New York finally completed a long-discussed blockbuster trade with Seattle that netted second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz.

Video: Mets acquire Cano, Diaz in 7-player trade

The Nationals and Phillies haven't exactly been quiet, either. Washington struck on Tuesday afternoon, reportedly landing the most coveted free-agent starting pitcher, left-hander Patrick Corbin, on a six-year deal. Corbin would join Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg atop the Nats' rotation, pitching to a shiny new catcher tandem of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. Gomes was acquired last Friday from Cleveland to pair with Suzuki, who signed as a free agent on Nov. 20. The Nats previously landed a pair of talented bullpen arms (Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal), seeking to address another 2018 weakness.

Meanwhile, the Phils landed a Mariners middle infielder of their own, having completed a deal for Jean Segura, who represents an immediate upgrade for the club at shortstop. And with Carlos Santana going back to Seattle in the trade, Philly now can have slugger Rhys Hoskins make a beneficial move from left field to first base. While the club fell short in its pursuit of Corbin, it has been been connected to numerous other available players, including ultra-hyped free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

In other words, the Hot Stove is on high in the NL East, which now has four teams that clearly aim to compete for a postseason berth in 2019 (sorry, Marlins fans). That puts it atop this list of the most interesting divisions, which takes into account offseason activity and likely competitiveness next season.

1. National League East
2018 champ: Braves (90-72)
Other playoff teams: None
Biggest offseason add: Corbin (Nationals)
Projected 2019 front-runner (per Steamer): Nationals
Atlanta, knowing that standing pat was not a viable strategy after last year's surprise postseason run, has come out of the gates aggressively. Signing Donaldson to a one-year deal was a low-risk move that with good health could have a massive payoff. Meanwhile, the Mets improved their 2019 roster by adding an excellent hitter (Cano) and an elite closer (Diaz), which should set them up to do even more. The Phillies also appear primed to go big, but for now they have at least acted to address some clear needs by snagging Segura.

And it's doubtful anyone is sleeping on the Nationals at this point, even though they stumbled last season in their quest for a third straight division crown. Yes, manager Dave Martinez's rookie year went poorly. Yes, Harper might leave -- maybe even for an NL East rival. But there's a reason the early 2019 Steamer projections still had Washington atop the division, even before agreeing to terms with Corbin. There is no shortage of talent here, and general manager Mike Rizzo has proven again that he is not shy about making moves.

Video: Corbin reportedly signs with the Nationals

2. National League Central
2018 champ: Brewers (96-67)
Other playoff teams: Cubs (95-68)
Biggest offseason add: Lonnie Chisenhall (Pirates)
Projected 2019 front-runner (per Steamer): Cubs
This isn't about Hot Stove moves, as these clubs have been relatively quiet -- so far. But this was perhaps MLB's best three-team race in 2018, when it also was the lone division to have four clubs finish above .500.

The Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals should be battling it out once again next season, giving them plenty of reason to look for upgrades this winter. In particular, Milwaukee's search for starting pitching and St. Louis' search for another high-impact bat are situations to watch as the offseason continues. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati get lost in the shuffle, but both are worth keeping an eye on, especially with the Reds rumored to be pursuing significant rotation help.

Video: MLB Tonight on the Reds' interest in Dallas Keuchel

3. American League East
2018 champ: Red Sox (108-54)
Other playoff teams: Yankees (100-62)
Biggest offseason add: James Paxton (Yankees)
Projected 2019 front-runner (per Steamer): Red Sox
Those not on the East Coast might tire of the Yankees-Red Sox storylines, but these teams combined to win 208 regular-season games last season, then clashed in the playoffs, before Boston eventually won it all. With the Sox now trying to defend their championship and the Yankees fighting to reassert their control of the rivalry, things will continue to be feisty and fiery atop the AL East. Acquiring Paxton gives New York another top-of-the-rotation arm to try to tame Boston's lineup, and nobody expects that to be the last significant addition these teams make before Opening Day.

While the Sox and Yankees draw most of the attention, the Rays flew under the radar to win 90 games in 2018, doing so in innovative fashion with their "opener" strategy. Tampa Bay already has traded for catcher Mike Zunino and should be looking to add some more pieces moving forward.

Video: Bloom discusses Rays adding Zunino, more trades

4. American League West
2018 champ: Astros (103-59)
Other playoff teams: A's (97-65)
Biggest offseason add: Jesse Chavez (Rangers)
Projected 2019 front-runner (per Steamer): Astros
Oakland gave Houston a surprisingly strong challenge in 2018, keeping things interesting down the stretch as Seattle fell apart after a promising start. While there is a long ways still to go this offseason, it's worth wondering if this will be any more than a two-team race in '19.

Even if the A's can build on last season -- no easy task following a 22-win jump -- the deep and talented Astros figure to once again make for a difficult target. Meanwhile, the Angels face some significant challenges with their roster (Mike Trout aside), the Rangers are coming off 95 losses, and the Mariners have begun retooling in earnest by trading several key pieces.

Video: Biggest needs for the Angels in 2019

5. National League West
2018 champ: Dodgers (92-71)
Other playoff teams: Rockies (91-72)
Biggest offseason add: Eduardo Escobar (D-backs)
Projected 2019 front-runner (per Steamer): Dodgers
This division, long a three-team race involving Arizona, ultimately came down to a 163rd game between Los Angeles and Colorado. Could it be close again? Baseball is full of twists and turns, but for now, Steamer projects the Dodgers for 95 wins -- 13 games in front of the Rockies. That's before any significant roster tinkering from L.A., which has managed to keep Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and David Freese in the fold.

Video: Will D-backs consider trades of Goldy, Greinke?

The Padres have a top farm system, but they almost certainly won't be ready in 2019. The Giants may be changing direction under new front-office leader Farhan Zaidi, perhaps even trading Madison Bumgarner. The D-backs are said to be considering a trade of Paul Goldschmidt and/or Zack Greinke, while also facing the loss of Corbin and A.J. Pollock through free agency. In other words, there could be a lot riding on the fortunes of the Rockies, who must find a way this winter to bolster their offense.

6. American League Central
2018 champ: Indians (91-71)
Other playoff teams: None
Biggest offseason add: Alex Colome (White Sox)
Projected 2019 front-runner (per Steamer): Indians
The Indians cruised to their third straight division title in 2018, finishing 13 games ahead of the Twins and 27 games ahead of any other AL Central club. Will there be a real race in '19? This offseason could offer some clues.

Video: Anthony Castrovince talks Indians on Hot Stove

Next year's Indians could look quite a bit different, due to potential free-agent departures (Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Donaldson, Chisenhall and others), and trade rumors that have swirled not only around Gomes, but also the club's starting rotation. It still figures to be an uphill battle for the rest of the division, though Minnesota and Chicago, in particular, have the talent to make things interesting.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.