Indians keeping coaching staff intact for 2016
CLEVELAND -- Given what he saw throughout last season, Chris Antonetti never felt any changes were needed for the Indians' coaching alignment. As the team's president of baseball operations plans for the offseason and looks ahead to next year, he still sees no need to alter manager Terry Francona's staff.
"One of the things that we get the benefit of seeing," Antonetti said, "that our fans don't get the benefit of seeing, is the work that goes on behind the scenes."
Immediately following the conclusion of the regular season, Antonetti offered a succinct, four-word reply when asked if Francona's staff would return: "Yes, that's our expectation."
Nothing has changed over the past three weeks, meaning that bench coach Brad Mills, pitching coach Mickey Callaway, hitting coaches Ty Van Burkleo and Matt Quatraro, bullpen coach Jason Bere, first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh are in the plans for the 2016 season.
Alomar, who has interviewed for a handful of managerial jobs in recent years, was contacted by the White Sox about their bench-coach vacancy this month, but he declined the opportunity. Instead, the Indians re-signed Alomar to a two-year contract extension, including an option for a third year. Alomar's previous contract expired at the end of this past season.
The entire coaching staff has been signed through at least 2016, though Antonetti declined to delve into the specifics of which coaches were signed beyond next year.
"Some had expiring contracts. Some had various terms remaining on their deal," Antonetti said. "But everyone's back."
This past season, Van Burkleo and Quatraro took the most heat publicly due to Cleveland's offensive struggles over the first four months. Rather than react to the criticism and lineup issues with a midseason change to the coaching staff, Antonetti and Francona opted to defend the hitting coaches and stick with them for the duration of the campaign.
The Indians' offense -- helped by a handful of trades before and shortly after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline -- then showed dramatic improvement through August and September. The lineup improved with the additions of rookie Francisco Lindor, center fielder Abraham Almonte and a resurgent Lonnie Chisenhall, while veterans Brandon Moss, David Murphy, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were all dealt.
Before the trade that sent Swisher and Bourn to Atlanta on Aug. 7, the Indians hit .248/.319/.382 overall with a .687 OPS with runners in scoring position while averaging 3.81 runs per game. Following that deal, Cleveland turned in a .274/.336/.436 slash line with an .827 OPS with runners in scoring position while averaging 4.83 runs per game.
"All of our coaches, and Ty and Q specifically, are incredibly dedicated, hard-working coaches," Antonetti said. "They're the guys who are at the ballpark early, looking at video, looking at information to try to prepare our hitters for that night and that are constantly in the cages working with our guys. That work doesn't always pay immediate dividends, where it's immediately obvious on the field.
"But if you have people that go about their jobs that way, more often than not, over time, that impact will show over the long run. We did see a lot of improvement from our players in the second half. In fact, we played and hit much better in the second half -- or at least the at-bats were better -- in the second half than in the first half, especially for players who will be returning this year."
Antonetti added that he has enjoyed watching how Quatraro -- brought into the fold as the Indians' assistant hitting coach prior to the 2014 season -- and Van Burkleo have worked together over the past two years.
"It's been really fun to see, because they were two guys that didn't have a pre-existing relationship," Antonetti said. "But they have built a really strong bond between the two of them, where they are a team in working with our hitters. I think that's been really fun and healthy to see, and I expect that relationship to continue to grow over time."