Although the deal wasn’t close to coming to fruition back in December when Indians manager Terry Francona last met with local media, he knew that it was likely going to take place. And despite the hurdles the team will have to overcome with a more inexperienced roster than it has had the last few seasons, Francona was adamant that the goal for the upcoming season will not change.
“The one thing you'll never hear me say is that we're going to make an excuse for not winning,” Francona said. “Regardless of what we -- again, we may have to change our philosophy a little bit or develop more at the Major Leagues, however you want to say it -- but we're never going to make an excuse for not winning. Our goal every day is to win, and that'll never change. Ever.”
The club will have to figure out how to replace a four-time All-Star shortstop and one of its most consistent arms for the past 11 years.
“A big part of the success we've had as an organization over the last decade or so is because we've been willing to make difficult choices to position our team to be successful,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “Hopefully, this will be -- as painful as it is right now -- a trade that positions us to be successful moving forward.”
The Indians will soon learn if this was a move that could put them back on the path of success. What are their remaining needs heading into the 2021 season, and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.
An outfield bat
There has been a clear need in the outfield for the Indians in recent years. They rotated through several outfield combinations last year, hoping to find the perfect recipe for success. Instead, the outfield crew posted the second-worst batting average (.194) and the lowest slugging percentage (.300) in the Majors. Cleveland certainly has internal options, especially Daniel Johnson and top prospect Nolan Jones, who has been receiving more reps in the outfield as he nears his debut, but another impact bat wouldn’t be the worst thing to throw into the mix.
It would be easy to assume that the Indians need some additions to their bullpen after parting ways with closer Brad Hand. However, the Tribe still has choices in James Karinchak (the early favorite to take over Hand’s role), Emmanuel Clase and Nick Wittgren at the back end of the ‘pen. But it never hurts to add some more arms. Along with Hand, Cleveland is also losing Oliver Pérez to free agency.
Before the Lindor trade became official, the Indians’ biggest glaring hole on the roster was at second base after Cesar Hernandez entered free agency at the end of the 2020 season. But the deal with the Mets may have solved the Indians’ problems at second and the newly created vacancy at short. While the prospects Cleveland got in return are still a few years away from making their MLB debuts, both Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez will make an immediate impact on the big league roster. Though both are primarily shortstops, they each have the versatility to move to the other side of the diamond and likely will be the team’s duo up the middle.
Dec. 22: Avoided arbitration with Wittgren
A source told MLB.com's Mandy Bell that the club agreed to a 2021 contract worth $2 million with reliever Nick Wittgren, who was eligible for salary arbitration for the second time. The 29-year-old right-hander has been a solid part of the Cleveland bullpen for the past two seasons, posting a 2.99 ERA over a combined 80 appearances.
Nov. 18: Signed Gose with a non-roster invite to Spring Training
Hard-throwing left-hander Anthony Gose will remain in the Tribe's system for another season. The Indians inked him to a Minor League contract and already handed him a non-roster invitation to big league Spring Training.
Nov. 1: Activated right-hander Rodriguez
Jefry Rodriguez was activated from the 45-day injured list after missing the 2020 season due to a lower back injury.
Oct. 31: Freeman elects free agency
The Indians placed Mike Freeman on outright waivers, and after the utility player cleared waivers, he elected free agency.
Oct. 30: Exercised Roberto Pérez’s option; declined the options of Hand, Carlos Santana and Domingo Santana
The Tribe had four options on the table and picked up just Roberto Pérez’s $5.5 million option for 2021. The team decided against exercising the options of Hand ($10 million option, $1 million buyout), Santana ($17.5 million option, $500,000 buyout) and Domingo Santana ($5 million option, $250,000 buyout).
Oct. 1: Clase activated from restricted list
Clase missed the entire 2020 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He was added back to the 40-man roster at the conclusion of the season.