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Don't rush to judgment on Tribe's offseason

MLB.com @castrovince

The Indians have made three trades in the past three weeks. The Major League roster was weakened in at least two of them (the Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso deals). The impact of the third (a three-way deal that removed Edwin Encarnacion and Yandy Diaz, and added Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers) is more debatable. But all three deals were provoked by a desire to pare payroll, and, as one reader put it in an e-mail, "talking about financial flexibility is not sexy for most fans."

Maybe it says something about my advancing age and my holiday season credit card statement, but I personally think there's something very sexy about financial flexibility.

The Indians have made three trades in the past three weeks. The Major League roster was weakened in at least two of them (the Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso deals). The impact of the third (a three-way deal that removed Edwin Encarnacion and Yandy Diaz, and added Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers) is more debatable. But all three deals were provoked by a desire to pare payroll, and, as one reader put it in an e-mail, "talking about financial flexibility is not sexy for most fans."

Maybe it says something about my advancing age and my holiday season credit card statement, but I personally think there's something very sexy about financial flexibility.

Indians send Alonso to White Sox, free up cash

I understand the angst. The Indians' roster, right now, is quite possibly -- if not definitely -- weaker than it was at the start of the offseason. And the roster at the start of the offseason was -- as a result of the free agencies of Josh Donaldson, Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, among others -- definitely weaker than it was at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

There's nothing sexy about that.

But if the offseason grades we hand out at the start of each Spring Training have been proven worthless (and Lord knows they have), I don't even know how to properly characterize the utter meaningless of mid-December roster evaluation (particularly for a club with so many unanswered questions, and particularly at a time in MLB when so much of the offseason heavy lifting bleeds into January and even February) except to say that it makes the DXL Frisco Bowl look like the national championship game.

Go Bobcats!

Besides, it's a lot easier to shrug off any potential ill effects of these three swaps when you consider the track record of the people who made them. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff didn't build the best American League record over the last six years on a budget by coming out on the short side of swaps or erroneously allocating expenses on the regular. The path to three straight AL Central titles was paved by shrewd decision-making.

Video: Chernoff discusses acquiring Santana, Bauers in trade

Their cumulative 2013-18 Opening Day payrolls were about $600 million lower than those of the Yankees, and they won 14 more games than the Yanks in that span. Even when you account for the admittedly vast difference in divisions, that's pretty good.

Indians leave Meetings with payroll flexibility

Vinnie Pestano for Mike Clevinger? They did that.

Gomes and Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers? That's on their greatest hits album.

The creative accounting of the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn for Chris Johnson trade that freed up some cash for what turned out to be a World Series-caliber 2016 roster? That one was money (literally and figuratively).

Miller at the 2016 Trade Deadline? No matter what becomes of Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, if you could go back in time, you'd probably do it again.

None of the above gives the Tribe brass a free pass to gut this club and then try to sell it to the fans as a job well done. Though I actually think the pure baseball merits of the three completed trades is better than many fans are giving the Indians credit for, these deals were necessitated by a maturing and increasingly unwieldy player payroll.

For what it's worth, here are Steamer's 2019 projections for the Weighted Runs Created Plus and Wins Above Replacement marks of players significantly affected by the three swaps:

Gomes: 86 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
Roberto Perez: 79 wRC+, 1.6 WAR
Encarnacion: 122 wRC+, 1.6 WAR
Santana: 121 wRC+, 2.0 WAR
Alonso: 103 wRC+, 0.7 WAR
Bauers: 104 wRC+, 1.3 WAR

The first rule of predictive baseball analysis is that nobody knows anything, but these projections would lead you to believe the Major League roster might have actually improved, on measure.

This club carried franchise-record payrolls in each of the past two seasons. But attendance trended downward, and the Tribe made a quick postseason exit in successive Octobers. That, combined with the guaranteed raises and arbitration raises that offset much of the money that came off the books in free agency, left the front office with a budget that demanded immediate attention. There are various ways to calculate the payroll pertaining to buyouts and signing bonuses involved in the Encarnacion and Santana contracts, but the gist is that the Indians have saved somewhere between $18 million to $22 million for 2019 in the last few weeks. They found ways to address the money matters without robbing from the signature strength that is the rotation (in fact, they extended Carlos Carrasco through at least 2022), and they are no longer expected to move Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber.

Video: Antonetti discusses Kluber, Bauer trade rumors

So let's call all of the above Phase 1 of the offseason.

It's Phase 2 -- the allocation of the saved salary -- that will ultimately determine whether the Indians' offseason was defensible or lamentable. If ownership pockets that saved sum and the club goes into Spring Training with its present-day lineup (which at the moment would probably have to employ Bauers at both first base and left field, an arrangement that feels physically iffy), go ahead and rip 'em to shreds. But if the entire focus of the offseason was to shed salary, there are frankly much better ways the Indians could have gone about it, up to and including dangling Francisco Lindor ahead of what could be a historic first-time arbitration case.

On the contrary, the Carrasco extension, the Bauers acquisition (he was on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list a year ago) and the more feasible financials point to a club that is trying to extend, not close, its competitive window.

So let's see what they do with the dollars. It probably still rates as a longshot, but can they make a play for A.J. Pollock? Can they significantly beef up the bullpen in a market saturated with relievers? Are there more trades coming -- ones that more clearly rate as baseball boosts?

Time will tell, as it tends to do. For now, I'm inclined to give Antonetti and Chernoff the benefit of the doubt. They've earned at least that much.

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

Report: Brantley close to deal with Astros

Outfielder spent first 10 seasons of career with Cleveland
MLB.com @MandyBell02

The Indians are inching closer to officially parting ways with another free agent.

According to a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Michael Brantley is nearing a two-year contract with the Astros.

The Indians are inching closer to officially parting ways with another free agent.

According to a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Michael Brantley is nearing a two-year contract with the Astros.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Michael Brantley close to signing with #Astros, source confirms @Ken_Rosenthal report. @MLBNetwork @MLB

With the Indians' goal of cutting payroll this offseason, it was never a strong consideration to re-sign Brantley. The team did not make him a qualifying offer, which means it will not receive a compensation Draft pick.

Hot Stove Tracker

Brantley spent the first 10 of his Major League seasons in Cleveland, making three All-Star appearances (2014, '17, '18). He was acquired as the player to be named later from the Brewers in the CC Sabathia trade at the end of the 2008 season. The other players included in the deal were Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson.

The left-handed-hitting outfielder then made his big league debut as a 22-year-old on Sept. 1, 2009, and has since compiled impressive career numbers with Cleveland, hitting .295 with 87 homers, 528 RBIs and a 114 OPS+ in 1,051 games for the Tribe.

Video: Brantley, Astros reportedly nearing two-year deal

The former Cleveland left fielder had surgeries on his right shoulder and right ankle that cut his 2016 and '17 seasons short, appearing in a combined 101 games. However, Brantley had an excellent comeback season in '18, slashing .309/.364/.468 with 17 homers, 76 RBIs, 48 walks and just 60 strikeouts.

According to Statcast™, Brantley had an 11 percent whiff rate, which ranked third lowest in the league. He swung at 1,008 pitches in '18 and missed just 111 times.

Tweet from @darenw: Michael Brantley swung at 1008 pitches last season and only missed 111 times. His 11% whiff rate was 3rd lowest in @mlb. Alex Bregman was 7th lowest. https://t.co/469CiJXhZ0

Losing Brantley -- along with outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Melky Cabrera -- to free agency has left some holes in the Indians' defense. As of now, Cleveland could have Jordan Luplow -- who was traded by the Pirates to the Indians on Nov. 14 -- in left field, Leonys Martin in center and Tyler Naquin in right. Newly acquired Jake Bauers could also get some reps in either corner outfield position when he's not at first base.

Luplow, 25, had limited Major League experience with the Pirates over the last two seasons, playing in 37 games in '18 and 27 in '17. Last year, he hit .185 with three homers and seven RBIs in 103 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Martin has been cleared to resume baseball activities after suffering a severe bacterial infection in August. Manager Terry Francona said at the Winter Meetings that Naquin feels "really good" after last season's struggles and medical issues (right hip surgery). Bauers has only made a handful of appearances in the outfield, but his athleticism and versatility could add some much-needed depth for the Indians in both left and right field.

Through the team's trades of Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz and Yonder Alonso, Cleveland has trimmed almost $20 million from its payroll, leaving enough room for either another trade or a free-agent signing to bolster the outfield and lineup.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley

The stats say: Chang poised to take off in '19

MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

One great feature on MLB Pipeline is the prospect stats tool. In addition to offering helpful data on specific performances through all the basic, commonly-used stats, it's become an especially valuable resource for doing deeper dives into players' strengths and weaknesses.

Specifically, the 'Advanced search' tool allows for a highly detailed and customizable look inside specific players' performances and how they compare to others throughout both the Minors and big leagues.

One great feature on MLB Pipeline is the prospect stats tool. In addition to offering helpful data on specific performances through all the basic, commonly-used stats, it's become an especially valuable resource for doing deeper dives into players' strengths and weaknesses.

Specifically, the 'Advanced search' tool allows for a highly detailed and customizable look inside specific players' performances and how they compare to others throughout both the Minors and big leagues.

So, with the offseason now in full swing, we thought that we'd begin a new series using the aforementioned stats tool to take a deeper dive into certain players' 2018 seasons as a means of forecasting future success.

The goal in this first installment is to identify hitters who have the potential to make developmental strides in 2019. That could mean a full-blown breakout campaign for some players, while for others it could simply mean a return to form after a down year.

In the Minor Leagues, distinguishing types of contact is not a perfect science -- for example, some official scorers might label a line drive as a fly ball and vice versa. So, for the sake of consistency, we'll mostly be looking at line-drive and fly-ball rates, or a combination of the two, for this article. Pop-ups are not factored into the fly-ball rates, and please keep in mind that these numbers represent raw data and have not been properly adjusted for league and/or park factors.

Luis Carpio, 2B/SS, Mets' No. 17
Carpio's .219 average was the fifth worst among qualified hitters in the Class A Advanced Florida State League last season. He did, however, hit a career-high 12 homers and 21 doubles in the pitcher-friendly league, and there are quite a few signs that the 21-year-old is in store for more success moving forward. Specifically, Carpio had a surprisingly low .242 batting average on balls in play last season even though 52.2 percent of his contact was either a fly ball or line drive. He also struck out a reasonable 18.4 percent clip, had an equally reasonable 9.4 percent swinging-strike rate and walked 9.3 percent of the time.

Yu Chang, SS/3B, Indians' No. 6
Chang had a solid first Triple-A campaign by all standards, slashing over .256/.330/.441 over 127 games in the International League at age 22. And while he's never really hit for a high average as a .251 hitter in more than 500 Minor League games, Chang has long shown that he can drive the baseball to all fields using a combination of plus bat speed, top-hand-led barrel control and a swing that features good extension through contact. Last season, 57.6 percent of Chang's contact was a line drive or fly ball, a mark that ranked tied for second among all Top 30 prospects (with at least 300 BIP) and furthered a trend that's followed him during his rise through the Minors.

Video: Top Prospects: Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Indians

Isan Diaz, 2B/SS, Marlins' No. 9
After joining the Marlins in the offseason blockbuster that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, Diaz totaled 13 home runs, 41 extra-base hits and produced a .232/.340/.399 line over 119 games between Double-A and Triple-A. While Diaz's ability to drive the ball out of the park to all fields remains one of his strengths, his fly-ball rate has hovered around 29 percent in the past two seasons -- well below the 39.7 percent mark he posted back in 2016, when he connected on a career-high 20 home runs. The good news is that the 22-year-old's plate discipline as well as his feel for using the entire field has remained steady during his rise through the Minors, so the ingredients seemingly are there for Diaz to make strides offensively in 2019.

Jeter Downs, SS/2B, Reds' No. 7
The 2017 Competitive Balance A pick (No. 32 overall) showed a serious knack for lifting the ball in his first full season en route to 13 home runs and 23 doubles. His 33.2 percent fly ball rate was the 10th-highest among Top 30 prospects who had at least 350 BIP in 2018, and he also posted a solid line-drive rate of 17.5 percent. The fact that he has some swing and miss to his game (19.7% K%) and hits a lot of popups (16.6 percent) highlights Downs' room for growth, so improvement in those departments could very well prompt an uptick in power from the 20-year-old middle infielder.

Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers' No. 4
At face value, Erceg underwhelmed in his first Double-A campaign by hitting .248/.306/.382 with 13 home runs over 508 plate appearances. His strikeout and walk rates both improved, though, and he even drove the ball in the air more frequently compared to his first full season. The left-handed hitter's combined line drive-fly ball rate of 54.1 percent was 10th-best among Top 30s with at least 350 BIPs and suggests that the quality of his contact might translate well in the Majors even if the results currently aren't there, and there are some evaluators who believe Erceg will earnestly tap into his plus raw power as he learns to turn on the ball.

Video: Top Prospects: Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers

Santiago Espinal, IF, Blue Jays' No. 23
Toronto acquired Espinal from the Red Sox for Steve Pearce back in June, in the middle of the 24-year-old infielder's breakout campaign. He would ultimately hit .297/.356/.444 with 43 extra-base hits including 10 home runs over 124 games, finishing the year in Double-A. Espinal produced a line drive or fly ball in 44.4 percent of his 518 plate appearances in 2018, and that number was the highest among qualified Top 30 prospects. 56.7% of his BIP was either a line drive or fly ball, the second-best among Top 30 prospects with at least 350 BIP, yet his .412 average on such contact was the 10th-lowest mark. Factor in his solid strikeout and walk rates (12.9 and 7.3 percent, respectively) and the fact that he uses the entire field well, and a case can be made that Espinal is merely scratching the surface of his underrated potential.

Jake Rogers, C, Tigers' No. 12
Few hitters elevated the ball last season better than Rogers, who hit a line drive or fly ball nearly 60 percent (59.8) of the time when he put the ball in play That translated to 17 homers over 99 games in his first Double-A season, though it came at the cost of a .219 average and a career-worst 27.5 percent strikeout rate. Making more contact should result in even more over-the-fence power in future seasons for the 23-year-old, and along with his plus defense, gives him a realistic floor as an everyday big league catcher in the mold of Mike Zunino.

Video: Tigers prospect Rogers on the Arizona Fall League

Brent Rooker, 1B/OF, Twins' No. 7
Productive first baseman in the Minors are all too often overlooked, if only because so many prove to be Quad-A types or ultimately have to take a back seat to an even more productive incumbent. But a deeper dive into Rooker's 2018 campaign suggests reason to be bullish on his future. The Twins' Competitive Balance Round A pick from the 2017 Draft moved up to Double-A for his first full season and finished second in the Southern League in home runs (22) and tied for first in doubles (32). Specifically, 56.6 percent of Rooker's batted balls were line drives or fly balls -- third-best among Top 30s with at least 350 BIP -- and 14.8 percent of those were extra-base hits

Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers' No. 2
As MLB Pipeline's No. 39 overall prospect, Ruiz is perhaps the most notable name on this list. He proved to be a highly advanced hitter as a 19-year-old in Double-A last season, slashing .268/.328/.401 with 12 homers over 101 games. Hitting from a pronounced crouch, Ruiz is adept at using his lower half and quick bat to elevate the baseball, and nearly half (49 percent, to be exact) of his contact was either a line drive or fly ball in 2018. That bodes well for Ruiz's future success, as it's easy to envision him hitting for more average and power given his present strengths at the plate.

Video: Keibert Ruiz on Fall League experience

Max Schrock, 2B, Cardinals' No. 11
After hitting .324 across his first three pro seasons, Schrock uncharacteristically slashed just .249/.296/.331 last year over 114 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. While some of Schrock's struggles can be attributed to poor luck (.260 BABIP), he did experience a dip in his line-drive rate (from 23.1 percent to 19.0) and employed a more pull-heavy approach after he had excelled at using the entire field in previous years. Beyond that, however, Schrock once again posted strong strikeout and walk rates, rarely swung and missed (4.3 percent whiff rate) and hit the ball in the air more often. So don't be surprised if the 24-year-old returns to his pre-2018 form in '19.

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

Indians send Alonso to White Sox, free up cash

Latest deals trim roughly $18M from payroll; Tribe also nets OF Call
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- When the Indians acquired both Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers in a three-team deal with the Mariners and Rays on Thursday, the writing was on the wall for Yonder Alonso, who was no longer a clear roster fit on a team suddenly loaded with first-base types.

That wall did not lie. The Indians traded Alonso to the division-rival White Sox on Friday for Minor League outfielder Alex Call. The club officially announced the deal on Saturday morning.

CLEVELAND -- When the Indians acquired both Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers in a three-team deal with the Mariners and Rays on Thursday, the writing was on the wall for Yonder Alonso, who was no longer a clear roster fit on a team suddenly loaded with first-base types.

That wall did not lie. The Indians traded Alonso to the division-rival White Sox on Friday for Minor League outfielder Alex Call. The club officially announced the deal on Saturday morning.

"We had been in conversations with a variety of teams [about] Yonder as we were moving things forward with the three-team trade with Seattle and Tampa Bay," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "So we developed an understanding and a landscape for Yonder -- and the White Sox emerged as a potential option for us in the last few days. ... This is the concept that we felt makes the most sense for us and that's why we moved it forward."

The real key to the deal was the Indians' ability to move the entirety of the $8 million owed to Alonso in 2019, as well as the $1 million buyout of his vesting option in '20. Taken in totality with the swap two weeks ago that sent Yan Gomes to the Nationals and the aforementioned three-team deal swung at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, the Indians have shaved roughly $18 million off their '19 payroll.

Video: Antonetti discusses acquiring Santana and Bauers

"I think we've had a couple of goals going into the offseason and that's first and foremost trying to make sure we have a team that's capable of winning the American League Central in 2019, but also position the organization for sustaining success beyond that," Antonetti said. "There are a couple [of] ways to do that. One is to infuse young, controllable talent into the organization and the second element of that is to manage our finances -- and we feel like the series of [moves] we've made up to this point advances both of those goals."

That savings has significance in a marketplace where the Indians have listened to offers for starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. They don't have nearly the financial incentive to move one of their controllable starting stalwarts that they once did. Although Antonetti did not take any potential trade option off the table, the Indians can conceivably use the money saved in the three completed swaps to fill their Major League needs without robbing from their signature strength.

"It's still relatively early in the offseason," Antonetti said. "So I think what we will continue to do is be aggressive -- taking opportunities to improve our position moving forward. Whether that's a 2019 impact or it's gonna help us sustain success beyond 2019, we'll have to see what opportunities present themselves."

If we were to boil the activities of the last few days down to their essence, the Indians swapped in Santana for Encarnacion and Bauers for Alonso, gaining 2019 salary relief and sacrificing Yandy Diaz, a '19 Draft pick and Minor Leaguer Cole Sulser. Though he obviously has nowhere near the established track record of Alonso (who had a .738 OPS, 23 homers and 19 doubles in his lone season with the Tribe), Bauers could profile as a sort of younger, cheaper version -- a left-handed bat with on-base ability and potential for 20-homer pop as his isolated power improves. Bauers comes with some added defensive versatility, having experience in the corner-outfield spots though he is most comfortable and valuable at first base.

"We feel like he's a developing, young hitter [who has] got a good approach at the plate with emerging power," Antonetti said. "... We think he has a lot of ingredients to be a successful Major League player."

Of course, salary relief comes with a cost of a different sort. In making these deals, the Indians created a new hole in their infield, where Diaz was penciled in for regular at-bats at third base. At the moment -- and in case you haven't noticed, the Indians' roster is a moving target -- Jose Ramirez could return to third base and Jason Kipnis might return to second. But that only adds to the riddle that is and has been the outfield, where Jordan Luplow is the only external addition of the offseason to date who profiles as big league ready.

So as was the case with the previous two trades the Indians made, the Alonso deal will best be judged when the entirety of the offseason is taken into account -- and only the Marty McFlys among us are capable of that. But the Bauers addition was a clear precursor to an Alonso trade, and the Indians did not take long to drop the other shoe. He goes to a White Sox club that could use Alonso's arrival as a lure (beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars) to try to attract Alonso's brother-in-law, Manny Machado.

As far as what the Indians got back in the Alonso deal, Call is considered an organizational depth piece. The 24-year-old split 2018 between Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, turning in a combined .248/.345/.415 line with 12 homers and 28 doubles in 505 plate appearances.

"We do think [Call] has some ingredients to be a pretty good hitter," Antonetti said. "He showed good patience at the plate and we think there's an opportunity for his power to continue to develop. In fact, his exit velocity has increased a little bit over this past season and we're hopeful that trend can continue."

Again, though, the real addition was the subtraction of salary -- and that might result in the ability to retain Kluber and Bauer.

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.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians, Yonder Alonso

Tribe acquires prospect to complete Gomes deal

MLB.com

The Indians' trade that sent catcher Yan Gomes to the Nationals is officially complete.

On Nov. 30, Cleveland dealt Gomes to Washington for right-hander Jefry Rodriguez, outfielder Daniel Johnson and a player to be named later. That player was announced Monday as Minor League infielder Andruw Monasterio.

The Indians' trade that sent catcher Yan Gomes to the Nationals is officially complete.

On Nov. 30, Cleveland dealt Gomes to Washington for right-hander Jefry Rodriguez, outfielder Daniel Johnson and a player to be named later. That player was announced Monday as Minor League infielder Andruw Monasterio.

Monasterio split the 2018 season between the Cubs and the Nationals organizations. In Class A Advanced across both organizations, the 21-year-old infielder from Venezuela slashed .267/.363/.338 with 14 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 36 RBIs in 122 games. He stole 12 bases on 18 attempts and drew 59 walks while striking out 70 times.

Monasterio is listed as a second baseman, shortstop and third baseman. In 2018, he appeared in 83 games at second, 31 games at short and one at third.

In 2014, Monasterio signed with the Chicago Cubs at the age of 17. He spent the first five seasons with Chicago's organization, but was traded to Washington on Aug. 21 for Daniel Murphy.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians

Santana returns to Cleveland in 3-team deal

Indians send Encarnacion to Seattle, swap Diaz for Rays' Bauers
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff had their hands full at the airport in Las Vegas, waiting to board their flight back to Cleveland. They sat at their gate, working on a blockbuster trade, but not one that involved their starting pitchers.

The Indians acquired Carlos Santana from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion and cash considerations and sent Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser to Tampa Bay for Jake Bauers in part of the three-way deal that was finalized as Antonetti and Chernoff were stepping onto the plane.

LAS VEGAS -- Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff had their hands full at the airport in Las Vegas, waiting to board their flight back to Cleveland. They sat at their gate, working on a blockbuster trade, but not one that involved their starting pitchers.

The Indians acquired Carlos Santana from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion and cash considerations and sent Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser to Tampa Bay for Jake Bauers in part of the three-way deal that was finalized as Antonetti and Chernoff were stepping onto the plane.

"We needed Commissioner's approval on the cash component, and that was the last thing we got," Antonetti said. "That was this morning right before we got on the plane. Or as we were getting on the plane."

Video: Justice discusses Tribe trading for Bauers, Santana

After donning an Indians uniform for his first eight years in the Majors, Santana will have a homecoming in 2019. The 32-year-old spent his '18 season in Philadelphia after being signed as a free agent last December. The infielder slashed .229/.352/.414 last year with 24 homers and 86 RBIs. He was traded by the Phillies to the Mariners on Dec. 3 for shortstop Jean Segura, right-hander Juan Nicasio and lefty James Pazos. Because he was in the air, Antonetti had to wait until after the flight to call Santana, though the two communicated via text throughout the flight.

"I mean, we have a long history with him," Antonetti said. "We know what makes him tick, we know all of the things he brings to a team and a clubhouse, so that does help."

The Indians have multiple decisions to make at first base. Bauers played mainly first and some outfield for the Rays last season. After getting the callup to the big leagues in June, Bauers, 23, hit .201 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 388 plate appearances. The rookie could take first, but could also be a much-needed option in the Indians outfield to fill the vacancies left after the team lost multiple key outfielders to free agency.

Video: Must C Catch: Bauers lays out for great catch

"Jake's pretty special to us," Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom said. "Our high opinion of him doesn't change. He's a competitor who can hit, and he's a pretty good defensive first baseman. We like him a lot. The Indians are getting a hell of a player, and it's going to be fun to watch his career progress."

"We like the fact that [Bauers] can play both [first and the outfield]," Antonetti said. "We feel he's an above-average defender at first, but also has some experience in the outfield and can also play out there if that's where we have an opportunity. So that versatility was an attractive element for us in addition to what we think he has the ability to develop into offensively."

Tweet from @JakeBauers11: Going to #TheLand https://t.co/IYAN3RleGu

Another option for the Tribe would be to split time between Yonder Alonso and Santana at first and designated hitter with Bauers in the outfield. Dealing Diaz to the Rays opens third base for Jose Ramirez, with Jason Kipnis settling back in at second base. Santana, who made 19 appearances at third last season, could also fill at times. However, the final roster is anything but set, and Kipnis also has gotten starts in the outfield and could again. The Indians also could use Alonso in a trade to help fill the vacancies in the rest of the roster, especially the bullpen.

"A lot of it depends upon what the final construction of our roster might be, but both Carlos and Jake do have some versatility," Antonetti said of Alonso's role in 2019. "So we could configure the roster in a variety of different ways. But there's still a lot of offseason left. I'm not sure this will be the final roster that we have going into Spring Training."

Diaz, 27, appeared in 39 games for Cleveland in 2018, hitting .312 with 15 RBIs. Antonetti said earlier this week that the team would feel comfortable with the young infielder getting over 500 plate appearances next year, but now the acquisitions of Santana and Bauers bring both experience and flexibility to the roster, respectively.

"First off, I think we're acquiring two players that we feel will help us next year," Antonetti said. "Both Carlos and Jake are productive Major League players that not only contribute but enhance the versatility of our roster. Beyond that, it adds some payroll flexibility for us in 2019."

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Money exchanged in the three-team trade, per source:$5M from #Rays to #Mariners.$6M from #Mariners to #Indians.Encarnacion owed $25M for one year, including $5M buyout.Santana, headed to #Indians, owed $35M for two years, including $500K buyout.

The Indians' payroll has been one of the most discussed topics this offseason. Dealing Encarnacion erases the team's largest contract with the designated hitter to make $21.67 million in 2019 with Santana receiving $17 million.

According to a report by MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal, the Indians will receive $6 million from the Mariners to help with Santana's two-year contract of $35 million (including a $500,000 buyout in 2021). With Santana's '19 earnings and the extra cash considerations, the Indians will have a little more wiggle room with their payroll for next season.

Seattle will also receive Cleveland's 77th pick of the 2019 Competitive Balance Draft.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians, Jake Bauers, Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana

Indians leave Meetings with payroll flexibility

MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- The Indians came to Las Vegas and successfully executed the same plan that many commoners share, but fail to execute, upon arrival to Sin City: obtain more money.

Thursday morning, Cleveland completed a three-team trade that sent Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle for former Indians slugger Carlos Santana and cash considerations and shipped Yandy Diaz and Cole Suler to Tampa Bay in exchange for Jake Bauers.

LAS VEGAS -- The Indians came to Las Vegas and successfully executed the same plan that many commoners share, but fail to execute, upon arrival to Sin City: obtain more money.

Thursday morning, Cleveland completed a three-team trade that sent Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle for former Indians slugger Carlos Santana and cash considerations and shipped Yandy Diaz and Cole Suler to Tampa Bay in exchange for Jake Bauers.

Encarnacion will make over $21 million in 2019 (the largest contract on the Indians' '19 payroll), while Santana is owed $17 million. Although it's not the greatest amount of savings, the cash considerations involved will add a little more breathing room to address the team's other needs.

Video: Justice discusses Tribe trading for Bauers, Santana

"It certainly helps," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "It just helps our near-term position and gives us more flexibility as we seek to build our team for 2019. Exactly what that means or what we'll do, we'll have to see."

Although the trade provided some flexibility to the Indians' roster, it doesn't necessarily fill all the holes the team has prior to Opening Day. Having cleared some space on the payroll by eliminating Yan Gomes' $7 million contract in a trade with the Nationals, Cleveland has made space to potentially add some depth to the roster in the near future.

"A lot of things we were thinking about [can be accomplished through] interrelated transactions," Antonetti said on Tuesday. "It would lead us to have different segments of the roster, which if all of the pieces don't come together it doesn't align well so each deal is kind of dependent upon the other one."

Video: Francona on how the Indians can improve in 2019

Biggest remaining needs
1. OF:
After losing key outfielders Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and Melky Cabrera to free agency, the Indians are left with some inexperience and lack of depth beyond the infield, relying on Leonys Martin, who is bouncing back from a severe bacterial disease in August, and Tyler Naquin in right. Picking up Bauers in Thursday's trade will give the Indians another option, however the cliche "the more the merrier" would definitely benefit the Tribe.

Video: Francona talks about options for the outfield in 2019

2. Relievers: Just like its impact on the outfield, free agency also impacted the Indians' bullpen. The Tribe returns closer Brad Hand, but after losing Andrew Miller, Oliver Perez and Josh Tomlin, Cleveland could use a couple of additions to bolster the back end.

Rule 5 Draft

The Indians did not make a selection in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, but did lose right-hander Kyle Dowdy from Triple-A Columbus when the Mets selected him in the first round. Dowdy was acquired from the Tigers organization, along with Leonys Martin, at the 2018 non-waiver Trade Deadline. In six starts for Double-A Akron, the 25-year-old went 1-4 with a 6.52 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. He was selected by Detroit in the 12th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Houston.

Cleveland lost two more right-handers and a first baseman in the Triple-A phase. In the first round, the Angels selected Matt Esparza, who was Cleveland's 14th-round pick in 2015. Esparza, 24, had a combined 6.23 ERA in 8 2/3 innings in Rookie League and with Class A Advanced Lynchburg. Hector Figueroa was taken by the Rays to conclude the draft. Figueroa, 24, pitched to a 2.78 ERA in 14 appearances last season. Finally, the Indians' 18th-round pick in the '15 Draft, Anthony Miller, was then selected by the A's. Miller, 24, slashed .264/.363/.432 with eight homers with Lynchburg.

Also in the Triple-A phase, the Tribe selected left-hander Yapson Gomez from the Cubs' organization and first baseman Wilson Garcia from the Orioles. Gomez, 25, has been in Chicago's organization since 2013. Last season, Gomez tossed a combined 68 2/3 innings in relief, cumulating in a 3.28 ERA with Class A South Bend and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. Garcia, 24, hit a combined .293 with 23 home runs and 76 RBIs with the Class A Advanced teams in the Phillies' and Orioles' organizations.

GM's bottom line
"We could configure the roster in a variety of different ways. But there's still a lot of offseason left. I'm not sure this will be the final roster that we have going into Spring Training." -- Antonetti

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians

Jose Ramirez's backyard has infield and pool

This week, Radiohead was officially announced as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee after decades of accolades and consistent musical weirdness. The band's most recent album was 2016's "A Moon Shaped Pool," which earned Thom Yorke and company a pair of Grammy nominations.

There's no Hall of Fame specifically for the backyard structures built by professional athletes, but if one existed, Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez would no doubt hold a spot in its hallowed halls after this, his infield-shaped pool he proudly shared with the world on Friday. 

Indians set framework at Winter Meetings

Chernoff, Antonetti know roster work extends beyond Vegas
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- A lot of attention gets put on the handful of days that executives from every Major League club gather under one roof. Expectations of blockbuster trades during this short span are always high. Entering the 2018 Winter Meetings, it looked like the Indians were setting up to take all the headlines, but it has been quite the opposite.

Aside from a few rumors regarding Corey Kluber, the Indians kept as quiet as they could while having two of the top pitchers in the Majors available on the market. But just because the Winter Meetings are wrapping up, it does not mean the chance for a trade is over.

LAS VEGAS -- A lot of attention gets put on the handful of days that executives from every Major League club gather under one roof. Expectations of blockbuster trades during this short span are always high. Entering the 2018 Winter Meetings, it looked like the Indians were setting up to take all the headlines, but it has been quite the opposite.

Aside from a few rumors regarding Corey Kluber, the Indians kept as quiet as they could while having two of the top pitchers in the Majors available on the market. But just because the Winter Meetings are wrapping up, it does not mean the chance for a trade is over.

"I think everybody is focused on improvements to their team or just trades or free agents when they are here, so the number of contacts increases with teams," general manager Mike Chernoff said. "That doesn't necessarily mean they die down later, it just means over the three or four days that you are here, everybody is focused on this and solely this."

Even if no deals have been completed over the past few days, the focus on the constant negotiating has left Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti feeling the same way: "Tired."

"Every year I can say we feel exhausted by the end," Antonetti said. "I'm guessing you'd get the same answer from all of our peers."

Many expected the Indians to make a big splash in Sin City, trading either Kluber or Trevor Bauer. The hurlers may still be sporting their Cleveland caps for now, but that does not mean the executives haven't made headway. Antonetti said they were able to eliminate some teams who had "fallen by the wayside" from trade discussions and develop different ideas based on the market.

"I feel like there are things that we made some progress on, yes," Antonetti said. "Not necessarily always on the things that were top of mind coming in, so those things could evolve over the course of a few days, but I do feel like we made some progress on some things. Have a better understanding of the landscape of the market in different spaces."

Antonetti and Chernoff have kept all talk of potential deals confidential. As to whether the team is closer to completing a transaction than they were prior to the Meetings, both executives said they would not tip their hand prematurely.

"Until it's done, you never assume anything," Antonetti said. "We've had things fall through at every phase of the trade process. Literally, every step of the way. That's why we'll always say it's not done until we're calling players and they're informed."

The Indians still have some decisions to make in the remaining hours of the Winter Meetings, including whether or not to fill an open spot on the 40-man roster during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.

"We're talking about it. We're not sure whether we'll do anything yet," Antonetti said. "We'll spend a little bit more time going through that and then make a decision. Some of it might depend upon which players are there when it's our turn to pick."

The conclusion of the Winter Meetings does not mean that trade talk will slow down or that the executives will take a day or two to rest. Antonetti said he and Chernoff landed in Cleveland after the Winter Meetings last year and sat at the airport for three hours to complete a deal.

So no matter how aggravating the rejections to potential trades have been, both Chernoff and Antonetti understand that everything can change with a phone call.

"I think we just recognize it's the realities of the job," Antonetti said. "You have to be persistent and find different ways to try to make things work and recognize that a lot of your efforts won't be fruitful, but inevitably there will be some that are."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians

Francona excited for Edwards, Naquin in '19

Manager working to 'build a base' as trade rumors swirl
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- It's no secret that the Indians' clubhouse could look drastically different in 2019 than it did the year before. With a handful of core players on the market as free agents and potential trades looming, manager Terry Francona believes maintaining the culture the team has built in that room falls on his shoulders.

"That's why we worked so hard at it in Spring Training, to build a base, and we'll do it again," Francona said. "You're right, we may not know yet who some of those names are. And it looks like this year we may have some turnover, maybe more than we've had in the past. But that will never be an excuse."

LAS VEGAS -- It's no secret that the Indians' clubhouse could look drastically different in 2019 than it did the year before. With a handful of core players on the market as free agents and potential trades looming, manager Terry Francona believes maintaining the culture the team has built in that room falls on his shoulders.

"That's why we worked so hard at it in Spring Training, to build a base, and we'll do it again," Francona said. "You're right, we may not know yet who some of those names are. And it looks like this year we may have some turnover, maybe more than we've had in the past. But that will never be an excuse."

While most of the focus this offseason has been what players the Indians may be losing, as a manager, Francona has to keep his focus on the names left on his roster to begin prepping for the next season.

One of the two main areas of need for the Indians is the outfield with Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall on the free-agent market. Despite the current holes, Francona seemed optimistic about his remaining options, especially right fielder Tyler Naquin.

Video: Francona talks about options for the outfield in 2019

"You know what, the whole thing is fluid right now," Francona said. "Because so often one movement necessitates the next. Like where Jason Kipnis plays. I mean, I know Naquin feels really good. And that's good, because that was hard for him what he had to go through. But he's in a really good place. Bradley Zimmer is coming. We know he's not going to be our center fielder at the beginning of the year. But that doesn't mean that he won't be at some point."

Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Oliver Perez and Josh Tomlin are all up for grabs as free agents, leaving little to fill the bullpen. But one of the relievers remaining on the 40-man roster who has impressed Francona is 30-year-old Jon Edwards, who posted a 3.12 ERA in nine appearances last season.

"I think Edwards is a huge sleeper," Francona said. "He was pitching well enough last year where he had probably earned the right to be on the playoff roster. I think we thought enough about him and his future and what he's been through to not put him on the roster, and we told him that. Just because he had been rehabbing for a year and a half, to throw innings with that kind of intensity at that time of year, we didn't think was fair to him. We think he might actually be a really good bullpen guy."

Video: CWS@CLE: Edwards strikes out Engel, the side in 8th

Cleveland also has Brad Hand at the back end of the bullpen, and Francona said he believes Adam Cimber tried to do a little too much last year and will be good going into 2019.

With so much up in the air, Francona is excited about Carlos Carrasco. The right-hander received an extension through 2022, locking him in for next season's rotation.

"We're not going backwards. We don't want to go backwards," Francona said. "We want to continue to try to give ourselves a chance to win. And Carrasco wanting to be here, not grabbing every last top dollar, allowed that to happen. So I'm thrilled. Carlos has turned into one of the top probably 10 pitchers in baseball."

Video: Indians extend Carrasco through 2022 with '23 option

Rumor mill
Plenty of rumors have surrounded the Indians since the team made it public that it would be willing to listen to potential trades involving starters Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, but Francona made it clear to not believe everything you hear.

"I've seen the rumors," Francona said. "I would say so far 99.9 percent are not correct. I mean, [president of baseball operations] Chris [Antonetti] and [general manager Mike] Chern[off] talk to every team. They do their due diligence, but I think that some of this stuff just -- it's the Winter Meetings. It gets a life of its own; that's just the way it is."

Video: Francona talks trade rumors surrounding Kluber

No matter what, if any, trades end up happening, Francona knows that the result will only benefit his club despite the possibility of losing an ace.

"Well, I know I have faith," Francona said. "[Antonetti and Chernoff] are always so supportive. So I kind of just try to be supportive because this is their area, and they're good at it. And they've proven they're good at it. And at sometimes under some challenging circumstances, but they're trying to keep us healthy, competitive for the future. For next year, for the year after that, for the year after that."

Injury report
Danny Salazar, who underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery in July, is throwing again and has reached 90 feet. Francona said the timetable of his return will be completely up to Salazar.

Francona also noted that outfielder Leonys Martin is about six pounds away from reaching his weight prior to sustaining a severe bacterial infection in August.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians, Jon Edwards, Tyler Naquin

Adames, Bauers sad they aren't teammates

Thursday saw the hot stove go nuts. Edwin Encarnacion was sent to Seattle, Carlos Santana went to Cleveland, Yandy Diaz went from Cleveland to Tampa Bay and the Rays sent Jake Bauers over to Cleveland. Phew -- catch all that? 

While most people were interested in how this would impact each team's roster or the postseason races, we forgot about the friendships getting split up: Namely, Bauers and Willy Adames, the bestest of best friends.

Tribe prez disputes 'intensifying' Kluber talks

Dodgers among clubs showing interest in two-time Cy Young winner, but no deal is imminent
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- Although it took little time for rumors regarding a potential Corey Kluber trade to spread on the first day of the Winter Meetings, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti aren't rushing to make any decisions.

"You try to use the meetings to help increase the frequency of interactions with teams, but not change your decision-making dynamic," Chernoff said. "That can be hard when you're outside of your element. We're usually in our office doing this, so you have to make sure you're creating those safeguards to keep your same decision-making principles."

LAS VEGAS -- Although it took little time for rumors regarding a potential Corey Kluber trade to spread on the first day of the Winter Meetings, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti aren't rushing to make any decisions.

"You try to use the meetings to help increase the frequency of interactions with teams, but not change your decision-making dynamic," Chernoff said. "That can be hard when you're outside of your element. We're usually in our office doing this, so you have to make sure you're creating those safeguards to keep your same decision-making principles."

MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Monday morning that talk surrounding Kluber had been intensifying among multiple teams, including the Dodgers, but both Chernoff and Antonetti downplayed the report.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: Corey Kluber trade talks have intensified. #Dodgers are among the teams involved. @MLBNetwork @MLB

"I think we were reading one of those [tweets] on the [television] screen," Antonetti said. "We were sitting here eating lunch by ourselves going, 'Oh, really. Who is intensifying those talks?' I'm not sure who is having those talks intensified."

The trade talks may not have "intensified," but Antonetti did say that the discussions are happening more often through text messages, phone calls and in-person meetings.

"I do think with all of us being in the same building and with everyone really focused on transactions, it does pick up the frequency of interactions between teams," Antonetti said. "And the calendar. We're later in the offseason than we were a few weeks ago, so teams are trying to check things off their lists."

Video: Francona talks trade rumors surrounding Kluber

Kluber, 32, pitched to a 20-7 record and a 2.89 ERA while valued at 5.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2018. Despite those numbers, the Indians are looking to trim their payroll and are seeking outfielders. The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner will make $17 million in 2019, with team options for $17.5 million in '20 and $18 million in '21.

"Ownership's invested incredible resources into our team over the course of the past few seasons to try to help push us to a World Series championship," Antonetti said. "At some point, you have to make sure you have sustainable finances that work for the long term. And we're in the process of working through exactly what that will be."

With the Dodgers among the clubs reportedly interested in Kluber, a trade involving the right-hander could get Cleveland some much-needed depth in the outfield.

The Dodgers are loaded with outfielders, and Alex Verdugo, the team's top prospect per MLB Pipeline, could be a perfect fit for the Tribe. The 22-year-old slashed .329/.391/.472 at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2018, is Major League-ready and, most importantly for the Indians, is cost-controlled.

"So we're cognizant of where we are age-wise," Antonetti said when asked if a younger roster was the team's goal. "I think oftentimes what happens is a roster gets older, it also comes with less control. So in a sense, one of our goals, as I think I've shared, is to make sure that we have a chance to contend for an AL Central title in 2019, but also position the organization for success beyond that. One way to do that is to infuse players with longer-term control into the organization. Typically, these players are going to be younger players than older players."

Video: Will the Indians trade a pitcher at Winter Meetings?

Morosi also reported that both the Yankees and Brewers could be contenders in a Kluber trade. In keeping with Cleveland's theme of wanting young talent and filling a necessary need in the outfield, New York's top prospect, Estevan Florial, and Milwaukee's second-ranked prospect, Corey Ray, could both be of interest, though neither is Major League ready. Florial hasn't been promoted past Class A Advanced Tampa, and Ray spent 2018 in Double-A Biloxi.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: If #Indians trade Corey Kluber, they would like to receive a young outfielder in the deal. So it is not a surprise that the #Dodgers (Alex Verdugo), #Yankees (Estevan Florial) and #Brewers (Corey Ray) all are potential landing spots for Kluber. @MLB @MLBNetwork

These early rumors do not mean that Trevor Bauer is off the market. Although Kluber is starting to make the headlines now, anything can change throughout the next few days at the Winter Meetings.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians, Corey Kluber

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

Chang makes AFL's Top Prospects team

MLB.com @wboor

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Of course, there's always room for more accolades and that's just what we have below as the Arizona Fall League announced its 2018 Top Prospects team on Monday morning.

The team, selected by league managers and coaches, recognizes players who distinguished themselves against other top prospects throughout the AFL. Voters were asked to consider not only a player's AFL performance, but also their Major League projectability.

Catchers

Daulton Varsho, D-backs No. 5 prospect: Varsho, who put together four multihit efforts over a five-game span, hit .262 and drove in nine runs in 18 games.

Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers No. 2 prospect (No. 39 on Top 100): Ruiz played in just 13 games, but left a strong impression on the league's managers and coaches. The 20-year-old hit .286 with six RBIs and also drew six walks while striking out just twice.

Video: Top Prospects: Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

First Base

Tyler Nevin, Rockies No. 11 prospect: Nevin hit a career-best .328 over 100 games during the regular season and carried that momentum with him into Arizona. Nevin got off to a fast start in the AFL, opening play with a 10-game hitting streak. From there, it was more of the same. The 21-year-old was the AFL's only .400 hitter and ran away with the batting title, slashing .426/.535/.593 and also finished third in the league with 20 RBIs.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Nevin recovers nicely to end the 3rd

Evan White, Mariners No. 5 prospectWhite, who collected 14 RBIs over 18 games, hit .257 with a pair of homers in the AFL. White put together a nine-game hitting streak from late October to early November and also stole two bases after stealing just four during the regular season.

Second Base:

Keston Hiura, Brewers No. 1 prospect (No. 30 on the Top 100): Hiura's ability to hit was no secret -- something his 70-grade hit tool clearly indicated. However, just because it was known that Hiura can hit doesn't mean that watching him do so was any less impressive. The Brewers top prospect went to Arizona to work on his defense and while he made strides in that department, it was his offense that led to him MVP honors. Hiura, who hit .323, led the league in hits (31), RBIs (33) and total bases (54). He also hit the only grand slam of the AFL, put together 11 multihit games and turned in two five-RBI performances.

Jahmai Jones, Angels No. 4 prospect: Jones, coming off a season during which he hit just .239 over 123 games, hit .321 with two homers and 11 RBI in 19 AFL contests.

Third Base:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays No. 1 prospect (No. 1 on Top 100): Guerrero entered the AFL as the most talked-about prospect and certainly didn't disappoint. Guerrero picked up a trio of hits on Opening Day and kept the hits coming as he began the season with a 13-game hitting streak. The 19-year-old also impressed on the league's biggest stage, hitting a 117 mph double in the Fall Stars Game and concluded his stint in Arizona with a .351 batting average.

Video: Chisholm on Vlad Jr.'s Fall League performance

Yu Chang, Indians No. 6 prospect: Chang, who also played in the 2017 Fall League, put together a strong offensive showing. The shortstop hit .337, thanks in large part to a stretch where he strung together eight multihit efforts over 12 games. Chang also finished tied for third in total bases (45) and fourth in hits (29).

Shortstops:

Cole Tucker, Pirates No. 5 prospect: Tucker's .370 average certainly jumps off the page, but the 22-year-old impressed defensively as well. Tucker's 11 multihit games tied for the league lead (Hiura) and his 30 hits left him tied for second. Tucker also impressed off the field, reguarily staying after the game to take photos and sign autographs and was honored with the league's sportsmanship award.

Video: Cole Tucker talks about his Fall League experience

 Lucius Fox, Rays No. 9 prospect: Fox, who hit .326 over 21 games, put together an eight-game hitting streak in mid-October and tied for second in the league with 10 multihit games. Fox also drew 16 walks and stole seven bases.

Outfielders:

Luis Robert, White Sox No. 4 prospect (No. 44 on Top 100): Robert missed a little bit of time with a minor injury during the AFL, but still hit .324 over 18 games. The winner of the week five Player of the Week Award, Robert put up a 14-game hitting streak from Oc. 9 to Nov. 9. The hitting streak was the longest in the AFL since 2014.

Cristian Pache, Braves No. 6 prospect (No. 68 on the Top 100): Pache hit .279 and turned in four straight multihit games in late October, but the 20-year-old may have been even more impressive defensively. Pache showed off his 60-grade arm and his 70-grade speed on numerous occasions in the outfield and also used that speed to steal three bases.

Ryan McKenna, Orioles No. 12 prospect: McKenna hit .315/.410/.457 over 127 games during the regular season, his best season since the Orioles picked him in the fourth-round of the 2015 Draft, and continued the breakout campaign in Arizona, where he hit .344/.474/.590.

Sam Hilliard, Rockies No. 9 prospectHilliard played in just 16 games, but the small sample size didn't keep him from producing. Hilliard had multiple hits in nearly half (seven) of the games he played and finished with two homers and a .328 average.

Daz Cameron, Tigers No. 8 prospectCameron stole 24 bases in the regular season and then swiped nine bases, which tied him for fourth, during the AFL. The son of former Major Leaguer Mike Cameron hit .342 over 20 games.

Nick Heath, Royals: Heath posted a .427 on-base percentage and once he got on base, he made the most of the opportunities. The Royals prospect led the AFL in stolen bases (13) and runs scored (21), while batting .338 over 21 games.

Designated Hitters:

Peter Alonso, Mets No. 2 prospect (No. 58 on the Top 100): Alonso tied for the Minor League home run lead with 36 during the regular season and then tied for the AFL lead with six. In addition to his six homers, Alonso also hit seven doubles and often showed off his power with eye-popping exit velocities.

Video: EAST@WEST: Alonso lays out for impressive diving stop

Will Craig, Pirates No. 16 prospectCraig tied with Alonso and Davidson for the home run title, while also hitting .304 over 21 games.

Starting Pitchers

Nate Pearson, Blue Jays No. 4 prospect (No. 90 on the Top 100): Pearson racked up 23 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings and although his ERA sat at 6.20, he did spin three scoreless outings. What's more, Pearson garnered plenty of attention during the Fall Stars Game when his fastball was clocked at 104 mph.

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

Erick Leal, Cubs: Leal nearly finished the AFL with a perfect 0.00 ERA, but gave up seven runs (six earned) in his final start. The right-hander began the AFL with a 19 1/3-inning scoreless streak and finished 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA over six starts.

Relief Pitchers:

Melvin Adon, Giants No. 19 prospect: Adon, a hard-throwing right-hander, was consistently missing bats out in Arizona. Adon notched 21 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings and limited opponents to a .163 batting average against. He was particuarily tough on right-handers as they managed to hit just .091 against him.

Justin Lawrence, Rockies No. 16 prospect: Lawrence tied for the AFL lead with three saves and used a nasty fastball-slider combo to strike out 13 batters in 10 2/3 innings.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.