Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Projecting the Offseason Plans for the Cleveland Indians

This offseason is lining up to be an eventful one for the Tribe. After an early playoff exit against the Yankees and individual successful seasons from Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and MVP runner up Jose Ramirez, the Indians have to make some critical decisions to decide the fate of their future success. I’ll dive into what I think should happen and what will realistically happen.

Francisco Lindor

First, we have to tackle the elephant in the room, the future of 4 time All-Star Francisco Lindor. Signs are pointing to a blockbuster trade within the next couple months, since his contract is up after this year. It’s believed that Lindor was willing to talk about an extension, but the front office was not willing to fork over the money needed.

Lindor is by far the biggest name available on the trade block this offseason, and it will take a big package for the Indians to move him. Suitors for his services will likely be teams in a win now mindset or a team with a lot of space on their payroll, due to there being only one year left on his contract and the likelihood of him testing free agency rather than resigning. So far, some potential teams interested in Lindor have been the Mets, Yankees, and the Blue Jays.

So what would it take to complete a trade? It’s likely that the primary focus of a trade would be established, young, and affordable talent, similar to the Mookie Betts trade last winter. It’s also likely that the Indians would focus on getting outfielders specifically, after a horrendous combined .558 OPS from all their outfielders in 2020. Some notable names from the interested teams include Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Brandon Nimmo, and Clint Frazier. However, that’s not going to be enough for a trade. It’s likely they’d also ask for an additional outfielder or two high level prospects. A deal is imminent, and it will likely be the biggest news of the offseason, so the front office does not want to mess it up.

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First Base and Second Base

As of right now, the right side of the infield is completely vacant, with Carlos Santana and Cesar Hernandez being free agents. So what is the solution for filling these spots in the lineup?

I find it highly unlikely that the Indians will re-sign Santana for his age 35 season, as he had a down year at the plate and will probably be asking for more money than the front office is willing to spend (which has been a common theme with the Indians year after year). I expect 24 year old prospect Bobby Bradley to be the starting first baseman come opening day in 2021. Bradley had a brief stint in Cleveland in 2019 after a solid 125 wRC+ performance in 107 games at AAA that same year. He didn’t do much in his 15 games at the major league level, slashing .178/.245/.356 in 49 PAs. His scouting report shows that while he’s average to below average with the glove, he has lots of natural power, and could be a formidable force in the middle of the lineup.

As for Hernandez, I would hope that the Indians would at least offer him a 1-2 year long deal. Hernandez was the Indians’ most notable acquisition last offseason, after he signed to a 1 yr/6.25 million dollar contract. He lived up to expectations, winning a gold glove at second base and doing a solid job in the leadoff spot, slashing .283/.355/.408 with 108 wRC+. While the price for his services will likely be higher, it should still be within the ideal price range for the front office’s budget. If not, they could possibly look into other free agents like Kolten Wong or give an in house player like Mike Freeman or Yu Chang a chance.

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Outfield

As mentioned earlier, the outfield was horrendous last year and has lots of room for improvement. While it’s likely there will be one or two outfielders acquired for Lindor, there are lots of solid, cheap outfielders available on the free agent market. Don’t expect the Indians to sign a big name like George Springer or Marcell Ozuna, but someone more on the line of Joc Pederson or a Yasiel Puig reunion. Last offseason, I wrote an article on how Pederson would be a perfect fit for the Indians, and that statement still stands today. With a down year this year, his value has gone down, which is perfect for the Indians’ cheap mindset. Joc Pederson and Jordan Luplow could be a solid platoon option in one of the corner outfield spots. As for Puig, I could possibly see the Indians avoiding re-signing him after his subpar performance in the second half of 2019 and the fact that he didn’t play at all in 2020. But as of right now, Puig would likely be the best outfielder we have if he was on the roster right now. I could also see the Indians looking into Jackie Bradley Jr., but since there seems to be multiple teams interested in Bradley, I don’t see the Indians outbidding anyone to get him.

Conclusion

The Indians face a lot of question marks for next season, but this is not the first time. This offseason is very similar to last year, with a star up on the trade block but still looking to compete for the playoffs. It’s feasible, especially with the package for Lindor bound to be better than the packages for Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber (not hard to beat that package). We’ll likely have to wait until the Winter Meetings for anything to actually happen, so for now all we can do is speculate. It will be interesting to see how far they’re looking into the future, especially with some of the best young talent like Nolan Jones and Triston McKenzie looking to establish themselves on the big league roster next year. I see them going a similar path of what the Arizona Diamondbacks have done the past two years, by trading their big names (Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt) for young, MLB ready players that will help them compete. While it hasn’t really worked for Arizona so far, hopefully it’ll work out for the Tribe.