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Tribe loaded with early MLB award suitors

Francona, Kluber among those who could bring home hardware
March 29, 2017

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The only hardware the Indians want when this season is over is the Commissioner's Trophy for winning the World Series. Cleveland came agonizingly close to bringing it home last fall, creating a clear sense of unfinished business for the team this spring.Ask Francisco Lindor, and the shortstop

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The only hardware the Indians want when this season is over is the Commissioner's Trophy for winning the World Series. Cleveland came agonizingly close to bringing it home last fall, creating a clear sense of unfinished business for the team this spring.
Ask Francisco Lindor, and the shortstop would say that he'd turn in both his Glove Glove Award and Platinum Glove Award in exchange for a World Series ring and the game's top trophy. The preseason prognosticators have pegged the Indians as an early favorite to contend for a World Series title again this season, and the roster remains full of players who could also take home some year-end accolades.
Here is a look at the Indians players who could be in the mix for baseball's major awards this year.
Cy Young Award

Corey Kluber took home the American League's Cy Young Award in 2014 and finished third in the balloting for the annual award last year. As the leader of Cleveland's staff, and one of the game's true aces, it's a safe bet that Kluber will once again be in the hunt for the top pitching honor. And if he is in that discussion, Kluber would surely be in the running for the Esurance Pitcher of the Year Award, too.
The Indians' rotation is led by Kluber, but it has other Cy Young-caliber arms in the fold. Hard-throwing righties Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco have yet to reach their full potential, but they boast the kind of talent it takes to contend for hardware. Salazar, specifically, was in the mix to start the All-Star Game for the AL last year after a stellar first half, but injuries marred his campaign after the break.
Most Valuable Player

The most obvious Indians candidate for this award -- along with the Esurance Player of the Year -- is probably slugger Edwin Encarnacion. The first baseman signed the biggest free-agent contract (three years, $60 million) in Cleveland history, and offers the kind of power and offensive consistency that could put him in the running for an MVP and a Silver Slugger Award.
That said, Cleveland's best all-around player is Lindor, and he likely will garner MVP votes for years to come. Lindor has already established himself as one of the game's elite defenders -- as his Gold and Platinum Gloves in 2016 show -- and he has developed into an offensive threat, too. If the Indians repeat as division champs and are poised for a World Series return, Lindor figures to be a big reason why.

Rookie of the Year
Lindor finished as the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and outfielder Tyler Naquin was third in voting last year. Do the Indians have another former first-round pick ready to compete for the award this year? Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland's top pick in the '14 Draft, will not be on the Opening Day roster, but he could reach the Majors this summer, especially if the Tribe's outfield has any setbacks. Beyond Zimmer, the Indians have an intriguing prospect knocking on the big league door in Yandy Diaz.
Manager of the Year
Indians manager Terry Francona won this award in both '13 and '16, and should again be in the mix if the Tribe is as good as everyone thinks it will be this year. Francona is a master at communication and has a keen ability to blend analytics with pure feel. Now that he has been in Cleveland for several seasons, he also has formed a strong bond with his players, who have completely bought in to his approach to the game.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.