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Inbox: Could Indians bring back Melky?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell fields questions from fans
January 23, 2019

The Indians are less than three weeks from the start of Spring Training. What's still unanswered about the Tribe at this point in the offseason? Let's take a look in this week's Inbox.

The Indians are less than three weeks from the start of Spring Training. What's still unanswered about the Tribe at this point in the offseason? Let's take a look in this week's Inbox.

Like I've said in a previous Inbox, I wouldn't rule out Cleveland re-signing Melky Cabrera. The Indians need another quality outfielder and, in a year when the team has experienced plenty of turnover, it may not be the worst thing to bring back a familiar face. He hit .280 in 78 games for the Tribe last season with a 102 wRC+, which is slightly above league average. It wouldn't be surprising if the Indians continue to wait until Spring Training to make a splash in the free-agent market if they choose to do so.
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Like you said, Carlos Gonzalez or Adam Jones are other free agents Cleveland could look into. Gonzalez, 33, had a 1.7 Wins Above Replacement in 2018 and hit .276 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs in 132 games. Jones, 33, had similar numbers with a .281 average, 15 home runs and 63 RBIs. Both outfielders could be a solid addition to the Tribe's lineup and add a veteran presence to the young roster. It may not be for a few more weeks, especially with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still on the market, before more free-agent signings occur.
Now to your question regarding Jake Bauers. He will definitely spend some time in the outfield during Spring Training. The Indians will weigh all of their options during camp and when Carlos Santana is at first base, Bauers could easily see some time in the corner-outfield spots. Depending on whether the Indians make more moves prior to Opening Day, Bauers could split his time between first base and the outfield. My guess is he will make at least a few appearances in the grass this season.

I'm not sure if we can say that it was the strategy all along, however, it's how the offseason has played out. Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said at Tribe Fest earlier this month that last season was the first he had seen teams wait to make decisions closer to, if not during, Spring Training.
"I think you used to get here in January and a lot of the work was done," Chernoff said. "…Throughout the game, I think you're seeing a lot more free agents are still unsigned, a lot more trades are still being talked about. So we're going to be working the phones. That may continue through Spring Training, but at the very least, for about the next month, before we head out to Arizona."

The Indians have extended non-roster invitations to Spring Training to the following players:
Brandon Barnes, 32, OF
Trayce Thompson, 27, RF
Mike Papi, 26, RF
Daniel Johnson, 23, RF
Mike Freeman, 31, SS
Mark Mathias, 24, 2B
Li-Jen Chu, 24, C
Josh D. Smith, 29, P
Brooks Pounders, 28, P
R.C. Orlan, 28, P
Henry Martinez, 24, P
Rob Kaminsky, 24, P
James Hoyt, 32, P
Justin Grimm, 30, P
Shao-Ching Chiang, 25, P

If you ask Bradley Zimmer, he'll tell you he's ready for Spring Training. But the Indians said about two weeks ago that the outfielder would have some restrictions at the start of camp. The last update was that he had been hitting off a tee and was throwing up to 75 feet without any issues. Once the team arrives in Goodyear, how he responds to activity will determine how quickly he can get into game action.
The original timetable was that Zimmer would be ready to rejoin the club mid-season (probably around July), but at Tribe Fest he said he could be ready much sooner. If all goes well with the remainder of his rehab from his right shoulder surgery and he has a successful camp, Zimmer said he should be ready by "early in the season."
When is Cody Anderson set to return? Same question for Danny Salazar, and if they return, what happens to the rotation?
-- Andrew D., Akron

Cody Anderson is expected to be ready at the start of Spring Training, but Danny Salazar is still a little bit of a question mark. Salazar (right shoulder) was throwing from 90 feet without any symptoms two weeks ago. He was projected to be throwing long toss by the end of January and throwing bullpen sessions around the start of Spring Training. How he reacts to that will determine when he will resume game activity.
Anderson will be in consideration for the rotation from the start, but after missing the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, it may be best to ease him back in by using him out of the bullpen. Because of that, my starting rotation prediction is Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Once Salazar is ready to rejoin the club, the Indians will evaluate their needs, but it could also be likely that he works his way back into action through the 'pen as well.

As of now, it looks like Jose Ramirez will be heading back to the hot corner and Jason Kipnis will play second base. The Indians still have plenty of time to make more moves prior to Opening Day that could shake up the projected lineup. Whether they will add a third baseman to move Ramirez to second and Kipnis to the outfield, or acquire a second baseman and keep Ramirez at third and shift Kipnis to the grass, or just pick up an outfielder and leave the infield intact, remains to be seen. For more breakdown of the Indians' options at second base, check out the last "Around the Horn" installment that focused on the middle infield.

Pitchers and catchers report to camp on Feb. 12 and the rest of the team arrives Feb. 16, prior to the first full-squad workout on Feb. 18. Let's get all the countdowns started:
Days until pitchers and catchers report: 19
Days until the first Spring Training game: 30
Days until Opening Day: 63
Days until Indians' home opener: 67

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