3 key offseason questions facing Indians

October 30th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- The World Series is over and once again the Indians were left watching another team sip champagne. Cleveland has been mapping out its offseason for the past few weeks, but the Hot Stove is officially on and the Tribe is moving forward with only one goal in mind: Winning a championship.
"We'll go into the offseason just like offseasons in the past, thinking about ways where we can get better," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said earlier this month. "If you look across the board at our team performance, we performed pretty well throughout the course of the year. We had the best run differential in baseball. If you look at our offense, our defense, our starting pitching, our relief pitching, it was all pretty good.
"That's a good foundation going into the offseason. But that doesn't mean we're not going to look to get better."
Here is a rundown of what lies ahead for Cleveland:
Free agents: LHP , OF , 1B , RHP , RHP Joe Smith
Arbitration-eligible: RHP , OF , RHP , OF , RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Dan Otero, RHP
Contract options: OF ($12 million team option or $1 million buyout), LHP ($7 million team option or $1 million buyout), RHP Josh Tomlin ($3 million team option or $750,000 buyout)
Should Santana get a qualifying offer?
The one-year qualifying offer for this offseason has been set at $17.4 million, and Santana is the most likely of Cleveland's free agents to be presented with that scenario. Accepting the offer would keep the switch-hitting first baseman around for one more year. If Santana were to reject the offer and then go on to sign a contract with another team worth at least $50 million in total, the Indians would be able to net a compensatory pick between the first round and Competive Balance Round A in next summer's MLB Draft.
Santana has said repeatedly that he wants to stay in Cleveland, and the team has expressed mutual interest in keeping him in the fold. That said, the first baseman has a clear opportunity to seek a multiyear contract. Over the past seven years, Santana has averaged 24 homers, 58 extra-base hits, 79 runs, 81 RBIs and 98 walks with an .808 OPS. This year, his defensive play earned him a spot as an American League Gold Glove finalist for first base.
Is Brantley still a part of the picture?
The chances of the Indians retaining all three of Brantley, Bruce and Santana seem slim, but Brantley's situation is a little more complicated than the others. The All-Star left fielder has been productive when healthy, but injuries have limited him to only 101 games in the past two years combined. Brantley also recently underwent surgery on his right ankle and is expected to be sidelined for at least four to five months. Brantley has meant a lot to the organization over the years, but the team has to weigh whether his team option makes sense given all the injury issues. Cleveland might also consider declining the option in favor of trying to work out a more incentive-based contract.
Where will play in the field?
This is a decision that could have a ripple effect throughout Cleveland's roster. If the Indians plan on putting Kipnis back at second base, then would slide back to third. If Cleveland feels Kipnis should stay in the outfield -- where he finished this past season -- that could impact the decision on Brantley. That might also mean Ramirez would stay at second base, creating some questions about third. Kipnis' place on the field will also help shape what players the Indians try to target via free agency or trade.