Are the Indians Already Done this Off-Season?


This was a an odd off-season for the Tribe as the current front office has never had such a complete team going from one season to the next or the short turn around of being in the World Series, then quickly moving on to next year. This hasn’t phased Chris Antonetti or Mike Chernoff as they quickly used Carlos Santana‘s option and said all the right things about Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli while allowing them to search for employment elsewhere.

In all, the hot stove season was anything but and free agency has been a particularly slow burn with only nine players signing deals longer than three years and multiple big name free agents yet to sign. The Indians only splash was one of the largest financially and in impact as Edwin Encarnacion signed for three years and $60M, more than all but five players in total value and all but Yeonis Cespedes in annual value.

The problem of first base being fixed, the Indians have a fairly concrete roster. Four of the five starting spots are essentially guaranteed with multiple good options for fifth starter, five of seven bullpen spots are taken with a tough competition for the last two and with five outfielders looking to make the roster, there will be room for just one real positional battle in spring, for infield utility man.

That being said, it doesn’t mean the Indians couldn’t improve. There are still questions around Michael Brantley‘s health and the rest of the outfield is made up of players who are all essentially just half of a platoon. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Brandon Guyer is the only one among them who can hit left handed pitching with any consistency. The problem extends further when considering the fact that the Indians still don’t have a player capable of playing consistent defense in center field.

The perfect solution would have been Jarrod Dyson, who is essentially a more talented and younger version of Davis who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Unfortunately for the Indians, he was traded this week to Seattle for Nate Karns. The Indians have multiple pitchers they could have moved that have had more success in recent years than Karns, including Cody Anderson, but it’s very likely that one or both teams were unwilling to trade within the division.

With their funds likely tapped out after signing Encarnacion, it is unlikely that the Indians would hit the free agent market further, although there are few answers there. The team shouldn’t need to add anymore offense and that is mostly what is left in Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista, two sluggers who should be relegated to 1B/DH for the rest of their careers.

What is surprising is that the front office hasn’t aggressively added the role players they usually invite to Spring Training. Michael Martinez was resigned as was Guillermo Quiroz, but only Daniel Robertson and Chris Colabello provide any interest in the Indians five invitees to this point. Usually, the Indians have a tendency to sign every reliever they can get on a MLB minimum deal in hopes one will work, but this year they haven’t signed a single one to a minor league deal.

This could be a positive, it’s just surprising. With the bullpen mostly set and Hoby Milner coming in as a rule five pick who has to make the roster or be given back, there are few spots to go to internal options like those we saw last September in Joe Colon, Perci Garner, Shawn Armstrong and Kyle Crockett. The lack of invitees could even help revitalize the Clippers, allowing actual prospects to field the team in Columbus rather than Major League drop outs. It will also allow those players who often sign with the team only to be cut at the end of March to find a team where they actually have a chance of making the roster.

Another surprisingly quiet part of this off-season has been the lack of internal contracts. Every arbitration eligible player except Jeff Manship was tendered a contract prior to the deadline, but with multiple players hitting the prime period for extensions, the Indians have signed none. This doesn’t mean they have offered none as there was talk in the beginning of the off-season of trying to lock up Danny Salazar long term along with a look at Francisco Lindor, just that nothing has happened yet.  This isn’t necessarily a bad sign, the extensions of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco both came as the season was starting in 2015 and the front office has proven willing to negotiate up until the point the season begins. There could still be time to work a deal with Salazar (entering his first year of arbitration), Cody Allen (a free agent after 2018) as well as Bryan Shaw and Carlos Santana, who will both be free agents after 2017 should the two sides be amenable.

Even in announcing minor league invites to Spring Training the Indians have been a little behind. Many teams have already announced who will be joining the big league squad in Spring, but the Indians have only extended invites to those already on the 40 man roster to this point, despite pitchers and catchers reporting on February 12th.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but my guess as of now is that the Indians won’t break camp with a single rookie on the roster and if they do have one, it will be Milner. Barring injuries, the roster may already be set in the minds of the front office and they are deep enough that they should be able to cover for any inevitable injuries that do pop up. They may add one or two depth options to help out in AAA before Spring Training begins, but don’t expect them to be big names or for them to deal from a depleted upper minor league system. One or two extensions could be coming, but as far as the construction of the roster is concerned, adding Encarnacion could very well be the only move the Indians make this off-season. Given their success in 2016 despite the decimation of the starting rotation, it may be the only move they need to make.


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