The Cleveland Indians have done a pretty good job at manipulating their roster this season and they normally do, but because of the injuries they’ve had to make some sensible decisions.
Hopefully within the next two or three weeks their disabled list, which currently might feature better core talent than some full Major League rosters this year, will see a drop in names. That will help the Indians make easier decisions come September when rosters expand to up to 40. That begs the question of who might the Indians call-up in September when rosters do expand?
AAA Columbus is out of the playoffs and AA Akron is two games from elimination, which in theory opens up the list of players who could come up.
I wrote earlier this month about the possibility of the Indians calling up Francisco Mejia. On Tuesday the Arizona Fall League rosters were announced and Mejia is on them and reportedly will play some third base in addition to catching during the October season. This probably takes him out of the conversation to be called up.
The Indians do like to add a third catcher in September and in the past as I wrote, they haven’t shown a ton of trust in Adam Moore to be that third catcher, however, he has been a September call-up before. Erik Kratz is probably a better bet given his reputation as a good defender.
On our podcast this week we did talk about Eric Haase’s situation.He would have to be protected in the offseason or the Indians could risk losing him to the Rule 5 draft or minor league free agency. It’s possible the Indians could add him ahead of that for September because of Haase’s good reputation as a defender, teammate and his exceptional season where he is setting Akron records for home runs at cavernous Canal Park and overall (26 homers currently). The Indians could reward him for a big league call up and maybe the idea that Mejia will play some third base in the fall league leads to some speculation that Haase is in their future plans at catcher, even with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez locked up.
I think the strong bet is Kratz gets the call, but the Indians would need to make a 40-man move to get him up here or Haase. They could just get Kratz on the roster for September and DFA him in November to protect Haase as well.
It would appear that Giovanny Urshela, Yandy Diaz and Erik Gonzalez are all going to stick on the roster ahead of September 1, so we don’t have to worry about the 10-day rule (which does apply still even when rosters expand) and sending them down and getting them back up. That leaves the following infield candidates: Michael Martinez, Ronny Rodriguez, Eric Stamets and Josh Wilson.
All four are not on the 40 man roster and given that the Indians will likely need to make a roster move to add a third catcher if they choose not to call up Mejia, there may not even be room for one of these.
You should never be surprised if Martinez is called back up because Terry Francona loves his defensive versatility, impact on his teammates and as a pinch running option. If the Indians add any of the four, don’t be surprised if he’s the one.
Ronny-Rod is having a career year in Columbus (.294/.325/.466, 17 HR, 12 steals) and has played every position except catcher now and pitched now. He supposedly had an outside shot at the utility infielder role in spring training, but that was short lived and probably never a true possibility. He’s another that the Indians could lose via Rule 5 or minor league free agency, so maybe that’s enough to motivate them and unless they re-sign him this offseason or add him to the 40 man roster, there’s a good possibility he’s not back with the organization.
Stamets has had a bit of an offensive breakout this year in AAA (15 homers, previous career high seven) and plays a good shortstop but could also play third base or second base He’s another good glove the Indians may appreciate having down the stretch as backup utility option, but once again, he’s another guy who has to be added to the 40 man roster and could be a Rule 5/minor league free agent situation next year.
Wilson was added via a trade for cash considerations earlier in the year from Texas. He’s 36, not much of a hitter but has seen time at third base, second base and first base this year. If the Indians prefer an emergency utility option to add to the 40 man roster that will likely just ride the bench and that they can quickly DFA in November to open up spots for others, he could do that.
Tyler Naquin is the most obvious candidate to be called up in September. Michael Brantley won’t be back from injury yet and Lonnie Chisenhall and Abraham Almonte will just be activated on September 1 and with the way they’ve had injuries this year, the Indians will likely have Naquin on the bench as a pinch running option if nothing else. He’s had a good year at AAA, which is no surprise. The Indians potentially could not call up Naquin, as they’ll have Chisenhall, Almonte, Austin Jackson, Bradley Zimmer, Brandon Guyer and Jay Bruce as outfield options as it is, there won’t be any at bats for Naquin. But for emergency purposes, pinch running ability and that he’s on the 40 man roster, he will likely get the call.
Richie Shaffer and Daniel Robertson are the only two other names worth mentioning. The Indians claimed Shaffer on waivers during an offseason where he was claimed several times and the Indians DFA’d him and they got lucky he cleared waivers the last time. He has 30 homers in AAA this year and 178 strikeouts, plus his .581 slugging at home vs. his .396 slugging on the road makes his power look a little inflated by Huntington Park. He does play third base, first base and the outfield, but Chisenhall is expected to fill that role on the team when he comes back, taking Shaffer, who is not on the 40 man roster, out of the equation.
The Indians seemed to like Robertson enough when he was up for injuries (maybe too much) earlier in the year. He plays good outfield defense and can be a good pinch runner. It’s hard to see him being added to the 40 man roster though given that they’ll have a lot of outfield options to sort through and Naquin is already on the 40 man roster.
We know Tito loves bullpen options. You could probably expect Ryan Merritt to be on the roster when his 10 days expire to be called up next week to remain on the September roster. Shawn Morimando and Adam Plutko are options as well to give the Indians some emergency arms in the bullpen. I wouldn’t guarantee either will be up as neither has had a particularly notable year but it’s possible one at least gets a locker in September.
Shawn Armstrong will undoubtedly be up as he has served as Mr. I-71 this season. Aside from if Morimando or Plutko get September calls, the only real question is Kyle Crockett. That Tyler Olson was added to the 40 man roster and called up ahead of Crockett when Miller went down and that Craig Breslow was signed as a minor league free agent then added to the 40 man roster as well and called up too, ahead of Crockett, really sends a bad message about how the Indians feel about him, sadly. They hold an affordable option on Boone Logan next year and also have contractual control of Olson in 2018, so the Indians have left handed relief options along with even potentially moving Morimando into a bullpen role someday. It doesn’t seem likely the Indians will add Crockett next month and there’s even a good chance he is a DFA candidate to add a third catcher or Martinez to the roster.
Along with Crockett, Dylan Baker is also a DFA candidate to add someone to the 40 man roster as well. Baker was added to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He throws up to 100 and has a hard biting slider but continues to have issues staying healthy and probably would go unclaimed at this point. It would be a surprise to see the Indians call him up too but he is on the 40 man. The Indians could DFA Plutko if they feel he is no longer part of their future rotation plans, but seeing how they continue to go through rotation injuries the last two years, that seems unlikely.
Either way, the Indians figure to add 1-2 players off the 40 man roster along with Naquin and a few pitchers this coming weekend.