The Indians re-signed left-hander Oliver Pérez last Friday to bolster the bullpen heading into Spring Training. Could the Tribe make more moves prior to Opening Day? What will the starting outfield look like?Beat reporter Many Bell answers those questions and more in the latest edition of the Inbox.
The Indians re-signed left-hander Oliver Pérez last Friday to bolster the bullpen heading into Spring Training. Could the Tribe make more moves prior to Opening Day? What will the starting outfield look like?
Beat reporter Many Bell answers those questions and more in the latest edition of the Inbox.
Let's first address Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti's comments from last Friday, so that everyone is on the same page. When asked whether the team will try to acquire more Major League free agents or, instead, focus on non-roster type of players, Antonetti said the majority of their attention will be turned toward the latter.
"We feel good about the guys that we have," Antonetti said. "We do feel an important element for our team moving forward is to provide young players an opportunity to contribute at the Major League level. And we're hopeful that there are places on our roster, whether that's in the bullpen, the back part of our rotation or even our position-player club, that some young players will take advantage of the opportunities in front of them."
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Since the beginning of the offseason, the Indians have had the goal of getting their finances in order. They were successfully able to do so by trading Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes, Yandy Díaz and Erik González. Will this leave enough room to sign someone like Adam Jones? My guess is no. Considering Cleveland's two most recent additions signed for $2.5 million (Perez) and $1.1 million (Kevin Plawecki) for 2019, I don't see Jones signing a deal in that price range. The veteran outfielder will end up getting much more than the Indians would be willing to spend, which is why Antonetti has said that the club's focus is now mostly on non-roster players.
The Indians have 16 players with guaranteed contracts for the 2019 season, totaling roughly $101 million. Once the rest of the roster is filled out, including Trevor Bauer's arbitration case, Cleveland is projected to have a payroll of approximately $120 million.
Yes, that's under the luxury-tax threshold of $206 million, however not every team is able to get to that number financially. The Tribe has been more focused on cutting down from the previous franchise-record payrolls, including $135 million in 2018, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
"We had franchise-record payrolls the last few seasons, and ownership invested a lot in the team and the path that we were on was unsustainable," Antonetti said. "So we did need to reposition ourselves financially, which we were able to do with a series of moves earlier in the offseason and provide ourselves that necessary financial flexibility that we needed."
The Indians made some moves at the 2018 non-waiver Trade Deadline, picking up Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the Padres and Leonys Martin from the Tigers, and it looks like the team could be active around that time again this year.
While Cleveland may decide to roll with the talent that it currently has for now, Antonetti said that there may be more moves if the Indians are in a good position come July.
"I think the other thing that we've demonstrated over time as we've gone through each of the seasons in which we've been competitive is we will look at opportunities to fine-tune and adjust our roster as the season moves on," Antonetti said. "And I'd expect that to be the case this year if we're, again, in the position of being a contender around the Trade Deadline or later in the season."
I don't think we can have "realistic" and "hypothetical" in the same question. The Indians have been clear that their payroll is a main focus and signing either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper would completely demolish those plans. So unless the Tribe clears out almost every sizable contract on its current roster, the club won't be involved in the Machado/Harper hunt.
I think Greg Allen and Jordan Luplow have very good chances of making the Opening Day roster and even earning a starting position. My guess has been that Luplow could start in left field on Opening Day. Allen -- who played in 78 games in center, 16 in right and three in left for the Indians last season -- has a shot at earning a starting spot as well. Oscar Mercado doesn't have the Major League experience just yet, but after his first full season in Triple-A (split between the St. Louis and Cleveland organizations), hitting .278 with 26 doubles, eight homers and 47 RBIs, Mercado will get a good look during camp.
The Indians will want to get a look at newly acquired Daniel Johnson in Goodyear, Ariz., this spring, but with his highest level of experience coming at the Double-A level, the 23-year-old outfielder may need some more time in the Minors before joining the big league club. Bobby Bradley is in a similar boat. The power-hitting first baseman has played in 32 games for Triple-A Columbus and may need some more experience before getting the call.
What is the likelihood Yu Chang will be called up as a third baseman and the Indians use Jose Ramirez as DH when Carlos Santana is playing first? That would definitely give us consistent power at DH.
-- Michael H., Wadsworth, Ohio
Chang had a solid Arizona Fall League season, but he may need more time working on his defense at Triple-A prior to making his Major League debut. If he would play the hot corner at some point for the Indians this year, Ramirez would likely move to second base more often than he'd DH. Jake Bauers, at this point, could serve as the designated hitter when Santana is at first.
Hand will be the Tribe's closer. Toward the end of 2018, the closer role was a bit of a question mark in Cleveland, as Cody Allen and Hand traded off the majority of the duties. Now that Allen has signed with the Angels, the role will belong to Hand, who has become one of the game's elite late-inning arms. In his time with the Padres and Indians last season, the two-time All-Star recorded a 2.75 ERA with 32 saves and 106 strikeouts against 28 walks in 69 outings (72 innings).
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.