Let the Roster Questions Begin as the Indians Enter the Offseason
To say this off-season is monumental for the Cleveland Indians is truly an understatement. Yes, the Indians made the playoffs in the shortened regular season, and only five key players on the roster are over 30 years old, but it feels like a shift in the franchise is at hand.
Will Terry Francona still be the manager or will his health issues cause him to take another role within the organization.
Roster wise, you can feel confident that only three regulars will be in their same positions when the Tribe reconvenes in Goodyear next February: 3B Jose Ramirez, DH Franmil Reyes, and C Roberto Perez.
The biggest elephant in the room is the status of SS Francisco Lindor, who can be a free agent after the 2021 season. The most likely scenario is president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff will see what they can get for their star player and trade him.
To us, that could signal in a rebuilding phase, albeit maybe a short one.
The Indians struggled to score runs all season long, so on the surface, it would seem like dealing one of your few dependable hitters (yes, we know Lindor didn’t have a great season, but he was one of four players with an OPS+ over 100) would not be a way to help the offense.
Carlos Santana will turn 35 around Opening Day 2021 and is coming off the worst year of his career, and has a $17.5 million club option, that the Indians will surely not pick up. Will they be willing to bring him back on restructured deal? If they do, they need a back up plan.
Could that be Josh Naylor or perhaps Jake Bauers?
Cesar Hernandez was a great pick up from the Phillies, but he will be 31 in ’21 and had one of his best years, so we would imagine he is looking for more than the $6.25 million he earned this past season. If that’s true, does that put him out of the Indians’ range?
And Brad Hand will also turn 31, and seems to have lost some velocity off his fastball. He has a $10 million club option for 2021, but with Emmanuel Clase coming back, we would predict the only reason the organization picks it up is to trade the closer and get something back.
It’s pretty clear to everyone the outfield needs to be overhauled. Cleveland’s OF ranked lowest in the AL in WAR this season, and two of the starters, Delino DeShields Jr. and Tyler Naquin could wind up being non-tendered. We find it improbable that next year’s OF will be comprised of three unproven youngsters.
That leaves the Lindor situation, and we can all get ready for a winter filled with speculation on where the shortstop will spend next season. We feel a deal involving Lindor would likely signal the closing of the contention window.
We know the organization has tremendous pitching, but can they survive a 162 schedule struggling to score runs.
However, the safe bet is Lindor will be dealt in the off-season, but we say why not play it out, especially since the Collective Bargaining Agreement end after the 2021 season.
It is unlikely the Indians will get a fair return for their star shortstop. Keep him, try to win and make the post-season next season, and see what the new rules for baseball will be following the season.
For all we know, there could be a “franchise player” clause. Or revenue sharing might be more prominent, or what about a salary cap with a corresponding salary floor.
All might be more advantageous to keep Lindor, and the added benefit is another chance to make the playoffs.
Without a doubt, this is a very important fall and winter for the Cleveland Indians’ organization. What this team will look like in February is anyone’s guess.