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Indians to exercise Kluber's club option

Otero, Kipnis options to be declined; Tribe parts ways with bullpen coach Atchison
@MandyBell02
October 2, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Indians wasted no time making decisions on their looming contract options for the offseason. In a meeting with the media on Wednesday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said that the club intends to exercise Corey Kluber’s $17.5 million option and decline the options of reliever

CLEVELAND -- The Indians wasted no time making decisions on their looming contract options for the offseason.

In a meeting with the media on Wednesday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said that the club intends to exercise Corey Kluber’s $17.5 million option and decline the options of reliever Dan Otero and second baseman Jason Kipnis.

Kluber will be entering his 10th Major League season and will turn 34 in April. The right-hander got off to a shaky start to the 2019 season, posting a 5.80 ERA in seven starts prior to fracturing his right forearm on May 1. Just as he was closing in on his return, Kluber strained his left oblique on Aug. 18 and was shut down for the remainder of the year. But despite the disappointing season, the two-time Cy Young Award winner will now build himself back up to be in the Tribe’s rotation next season.

“It's just trying to put a positive spin on a negative situation,” Kluber said last week. “Not focus on the fact that I was hurt for the majority of the year, but hopefully -- I have the entire offseason to work on stuff I want to work on and not necessarily worry about the recovery aspect as much. And hopefully it puts me in a better spot going into next year.”

After five consecutive seasons of Kluber tossing over 200 innings, Indians manager Terry Francona thought this injury-filled season could be viewed as a timely break.

“Good pitchers and good players they keep playing, they figure out a way,” Francona said. “But over the course of time, his arm was getting lower, his back knee was getting a little lower. You just keep competing, but it does things to your pitches. I think this is almost a blessing in disguise. Yeah, we missed the heck out of him, but come next year I bet you he has a chance to be the Kluber that we’ve seen and relied on.”

As expected, Antonetti said they will not be picking up Kipnis’ $16.5 million option. After the second baseman fractured his right hamate bone on Sept. 15, he knew that he likely played his final game in an Indians’ uniform. But both he and Antonetti have noted that they’d be willing to keep that door open to bring him back to the only organization he’s known for his nine-year big league career if they can settle on a reasonable number.

Without Kipnis, José Ramírez has informed the Indians that he’d be willing to play either second or third, so long as he’s not bouncing back and forth, which gives them some flexibility in their offseason strategy. Other options include Yu Chang, Mike Freeman, Christian Arroyo and Andrew Velazquez.

“Those are a few of the internal alternatives that were with us,” Antonetti said. “Beyond that, I don’t know if I want to single out guys from our Minor League system because it’s really going to be up to them to become options and force their way on our Major League team.”

The Tribe will also part ways with Otero (declining his $1.5 million option) after spending his last four years in Cleveland. The 34-year-old posted a 4.85 ERA in 25 games after missing a large chunk of the season due to right shoulder inflammation.

Coaching staff

Francona said that his entire coaching staff will return in 2020 except for bullpen coach Scott Atchison.

“Atch is as hard a worker, as good a guy,” Francona said. “It was not a fun conversation. He’s all of our friends. We all think he’s gonna be a Major League pitching coach. We just think there’s a certain skillset we are looking for to complement guys we have here and we will begin that soon.”

Payroll

While the story of the offseason last year was all of the team’s budget cuts heading into 2019, Antonetti said they haven’t reached the point where they are focused on what next season’s payroll will be.

“We have to work through the offseason to get a sense of what that will look like,” Antonetti said. “I don’t think it will change the way we build our roster. We’ve been pretty consistent in how we think about building our team and that will start with players that we acquire and develop. And I think when you look at our season this year and our success, we expected there to be a period of transition and we tried to patch it through with some veteran guys but we actually got better when we transitioned young players to our roster.”

Perez to get ankle checked

As of now, the Indians said that all of their injured players are expected have normal offseasons except for Tyler Naquin (torn right ACL) who has already begun his rehab process. The only other player who could need some extra time is Roberto Perez, who is expected to have his right ankle examined in Wisconsin.

“Depending on what the doctor sees there, he could have a minor procedure,” Antonetti said. “But he should have a relatively normal offseason as well.”

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