CLEVELAND -- The Indians loaded their Spring Training trucks on Friday morning and watched them depart for the four-day trek across the country to Goodyear, Ariz. Now that camp is less than two weeks away, the Indians will need to make some final decisions on their roster and start focusing in on the position battles that could occur during their six-week stay in Arizona. What does this mean? Let's take a look in this week's Inbox:
The Indians probably have no issues with hearing any offer that comes their way, but if we’re using that scale to determine how likely they are to actually make the trade, the answer would be one.
Although the rumors have been out there, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Thursday that he expects Ramírez to be the club’s starting third baseman on Opening Day. That’s the same statement he used multiple times in previous winters about Francisco Lindor. This winter was the first offseason Antonetti hadn’t said that line about Lindor, which resulted in a trade. So, it seems safe to believe that Ramírez will remain with the Tribe.
As of right now, no. The Indians will need to determine what their outfield will look like before figuring out if Naylor will be better in the grass or at first base. When Antonetti was asked on Thursday who is competing at first, he said, “I think Jake Bauers, Bobby Bradley and depending on how the outfield shakes out, potentially Josh Naylor.”
So, for now it appears as though Bauers and Bradley are the leading candidates to be the Opening Day starter at first.
Are they going to give Bradley a real shot?
Yes. It seems like this is the year that Bradley will get a real chance at earning the everyday job. How he performs during Spring Training will determine whether that opportunity will come at the beginning of the year or later in the season. However, the Indians have indicated that it’s time for Bradley to get a stronger look at first base than he has in the past.
“Like with a guy like [Jesús] Aguilar,” Indians manager Terry Francona said in December. “We were kind of in that mode where there wasn't really a chance to get to see him play, and we weren't sure if he could play or not. And so right now, there's a few guys, we want to see if they can do it. And sometimes, unfortunately, the answer is no. And we've all seen that. You know, not everybody that attempts to play the game is going to be a Major League everyday player. But finding out is important, especially the guys that we think have the ability to do it. We need to find out.”
Reyes will see the majority of his time as the Tribe’s designated hitter like he has the past two seasons. However, Reyes believes that he can be an everyday outfielder and he even posted videos on his Instagram of him getting reps at first base earlier this offseason. The more that he can hone his defensive skills, the better the chances are that he’d be able to move out of his DH-only role.
"The way we look at that is the more versatility Franmil has, the more options he can create for Tito to get him into the lineup beyond DH is a net plus,” Antonetti said. “So if that's being able to play the field in a National League city, great, if it's more than that, even better.”
Here’s where the puzzle gets challenging. We know that Eddie Rosario will get one of the corner outfield spots. From there, everything is still up in the air. Jordan Luplow will likely be penciled into the other corner whenever a left-hander is on the mound. With Antonetti’s comments about Naylor being factored into the outfield before he’d get a look at first base, it’s likely Naylor would be the leading candidate to take a corner spot when a righty is on the mound.
Amed Rosario gives the Indians a few options, which includes starting Giménez in the Minors to get an extra year of control, or he could be tried in the outfield. The early guess is that Oscar Mercado will get a chance to reclaim his starting role in center, however it wouldn’t be out of the question to see Amed Rosario get a chance to try playing center field, if needed.
Let’s just say the Indians have a lot to figure out in their six weeks in Arizona.
Out of Mercado/Bauers/Bradley Zimmer/Bradley, who steps up and has the biggest impact in 2021?
It would be nice to have a crystal ball just to be able to have a quick glimpse of where the Tribe will sit closer to the end of the season. However, Mercado would be a solid early guess to have the biggest impact in ’21 simply because the 26-year-old demonstrated what he can do during his rookie campaign in ’19, but is coming off a frustrating season at the plate. When he left for the offseason, he laid out a plan to Francona and the Indians front office as to how he was going to get back into his regular habits and hopefully carry those into this upcoming season. The club seemed optimistic that his mindset and his plans would be enough for him to return to Spring Training in a much better place than he ended the 2020 season.