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Inbox: Who's on first? Santana or Bauers?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from fans
January 16, 2019

With Spring Training officially under a month away, let's take a look at some of the questions that still surround the Indians heading into 2019 in the latest Inbox.

With Spring Training officially under a month away, let's take a look at some of the questions that still surround the Indians heading into 2019 in the latest Inbox.

The Indians are planning to "blend" Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers at first base this season, but they haven't said who would get the majority of the starts. Spring Training will obviously help determine that, but my best guess is it will also depend on the rest of the team's offseason moves in the next few weeks.
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As of now, it seems safe to assume that when Santana is at first base, Bauers will be penciled in as the designated hitter and vice versa. This rotation between the two could work out for the Indians, especially if Bauers gets off to the same hot start at the plate that he did in 2018. But if Bauers is needed in the outfield, then things will start to get tricky.
With Bauers in either corner outfield spot and Santana at first, there aren't many other big bats that the Indians have on their current roster to fill in as a designated hitter. If the team can add another bat via trade or free agency before Opening Day, that could make this process a little easier, especially if Cleveland doesn't pick up another outfielder. Santana could then be an everyday first baseman to allow Bauers to assist in the grass.
Now, if the team does add at least one outfielder and doesn't get a bat, then that could result in Santana and Bauers splitting time or just having Santana shift into more of a DH role, leaving Bauers to man first.

It will most likely be a year too soon. But Bobby Bradley is definitely a big bat to keep an eye on. The 22-year-old hit 27 homers with 83 RBIs between 97 games in Double-A and 32 in Triple-A last season. In 2016, he launched 29 long balls and knocked in an impressive 102 runs at Class A Advanced Lynchburg.
There's no doubt Bradley has the power that the Indians' lineup needs, however, the young infielder will most likely need some more time at Triple-A before making his debut. In 2018, he struck out 148 times and hit .224 in 483 Minor League at-bats. Once Bradley reduces his number of strikeouts and gets his average up -- while hopefully maintaining his power numbers -- then he could get the call to the Majors. The question that remains is whether Bradley will be able to do so by the end of this season or if Indians fans will need to wait until 2020 to get their first glimpse of him.

If a Corey Kluber trade would happen, which is still a big "if" at this point, no matter which team he'd end up going to, the return would need to be quite large. It's been said plenty of times, but with Kluber being a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner who has placed in the top three in voting in four of the last five years, the Indians need to get their money's worth.
If Kluber wound up in San Diego, yes, I think they would need at least one of the Padres' top prospects to complete the deal. When the rumors involving the Padres began last month, both Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe were mentioned as options for the deal, but in recent trade talks there has been no mention of who the Indians would receive in return.
There's a reason a deal has yet to be made when plenty of teams have shown interest. The Indians want to get what they feel they deserve, which is most likely going to be a lot (and should be when dealing with a player of his caliber), including both Major League-ready talent and prospects.

I'd definitely skip asking about Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but don't give up hope for a couple of reasons. One, both Harper and Machado are still on the market. Until they are signed, I wouldn't expect many other big-name signings to occur. Once they are officially off the board, then everything else will most likely get moving.
Secondly, last offseason we saw more free-agent signings during Spring Training than in previous years. At Tribe Fest last weekend, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff noted in a question and answer session that we could see the same this season.
"We really saw a major change last year, working under a new collective bargaining agreement," Chernoff said. "With some of those changes, what I think happened is teams started to delay their decisions a little bit and they had certain amounts of money or certain assets they wanted to allocate and didn't want to jump the gun too quickly. … Last year, that was the first time that happened and we're seeing signs of that happening again this year."

With the amount of second basemen on the free-agent market, it's very unlikely that the Indians would be able to move the $14.7 million that's owed to him in 2019.

Bradley Zimmer isn't quite a contender just yet in the outfield, so that would probably be why you haven't seen his name as often as others when discussing the Tribe's current need beyond the dirt. Zimmer is recovering from right shoulder surgery and has been hitting off a tee and throwing to 75 feet with no issues, according to the Indians. How he feels throughout Spring Training will determine how quickly he can rejoin the big league club.
As of now, Tyler Naquin is a likely candidate to get a lot of playing time in the outfield (I even have him penciled in as the Indians' Opening Day right fielder), so he is definitely still viewed as a valuable piece.

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