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2019 Indians: In For A Penny, In For A Pennant

Discussion in 'Adopt-a-Team' started by Ford Frick's Asterisk, Jan 5, 2019.

  1. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    For a team that sleepwalked to a division title in 2018 and expect to reign again in 2019, the Indians are looking at a lot of upheaval. Beyond Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis, every position on the field is likely to be held down by a different player than last season, and even Ramirez and Kipnis could be holding down new positions. They'll fill a lot of holes (after creating some of them for purely budget minded reasons), all with an eye on Larry Dolan's profit margins. Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley, Yonder Alonso and Yan Gomes are out. Only Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers have replaced those vacancies, and Bauers at least formally has to earn the starting job. Roberto Perez, a catcher who hasn't hit his weight since his rookie year, and Leonys Martin, who was the starting center fielder for one week in July before he nearly died, are the next closest things to known commodities.

    The starting rotation is the one thing that still looks the same, and likely guarantees another division title against a mixed bag of rebuilding teams that all failed to post a winning record last year. After surviving two rounds of trade rumors, it seems Corey Kluber is likely to stay and anchor a rotation that also includes Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. After surgeons rooted around in Danny Salazar's shoulder last summer to see what they could find, he's likely to return sometime in the first half, but any future is probably in the bullpen. All of these pitchers are under team control through at least the 2020 season, after which Bauer and Salazar could reach free agency.

    The back of the bullpen is as much of a mystery as the outfield at this point, with Brad Hand as the only late-inning guy under contract. Andrew Miller left via free agency without any negotiations. However, the lack of rumors surrounding Cody Allen lead me to believe there's at least a 50% chance he remains with the club. He sabotaged his free agency with the worst season of his career, but much of that was identified as mechanical issues (front shoulder flying open). Still, it placed him well outside the group of Kimbrel, Miller, Robertson, Britton and Ottavino the big spenders have been jockeying for. Unless one of those teams comes up with nothing from that group and overreacts, it seems doubtful Allen's market will ever rise above what Cleveland would be comfortable spending to keep him. Adam Cimber, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero and a healthy Nick Goody are expected to help the front of the pen, and there's mutual interest in the return of Oliver Perez, giving them three lefties. Goody has the stuff to earn a larger role, whereas Otero, in the last year of his contract, has to be on shaky ground.

    Although there are a lot of questions to be answered in Cleveland between now and April, I expect the team to remain relatively quiet until late January. They've freed up some spending money, but still aren't going to jump into negotiations with the top tier free agents or get in a bidding war with more aggressive large market teams. They'll wait for the market to start crumbling on some of the second tier players. Their problem is that the second tier outfielders just aren't that enticing. However, I think their advantage here is the positional flexibility already on their roster, plus an uncompetitive division. While Kipnis isn't an ideal outfielder, it's something he can handle, and they could give him a 2-month trial in left field while seeing if this is going to be one of the years when he actually hits. Then they can reassess the situation before the trade deadline. Moving Kipnis and Ramirez around the diamond allows the Indians to take advantage of an undervalued free agent in either the outfield or infield. Just as an example, they could sign Mike Moustakas to play 3B, shift Ramirez to 2B and Kipnis to LF without much impact to team defense.

    I could prattle on awhile, but I'll come back later to take a closer look at the current outfield situation, the trades that went down, and NRIs who might be a factor.

    #1 Ford Frick's Asterisk, Jan 5, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019

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