MLB Offseason Preview: Cleveland Indians

MLB Offseason Preview: Cleveland Indians

by November 5, 2020 1 comment

The Cleveland Indians finished the 2020 season with a 35-25 record, which was good for second in the AL Central. They secured the 4th seed in the American League playoffs but were promptly swept in the Covid-19 wild-card format by the New York Yankees. While they were competitive for the majority of the season, Cleveland never seemed like a true threat to make a World Series run. They finished 23rd in total offense and could never find a consistent lineup outside of Jose Ramirez and Cesar Hernandez. The biggest question surrounding this team is the future of Francisco Lindor, as he now has only one year of club control remaining.

It was not all bad; Shane Bieber picked up where he left off in 2019 and is going to win the AL Cy Young award. Pitching was always the team’s strength and they had an embarrassment of riches. In fact, they still do even after they traded Mike Clevinger to the Padres for a plethora of young players and prospects. The Indians were also able to get some well-needed innings from their young arms, including the long-awaited debut of former top prospect Triston McKenzie.

Cleveland has some work to do in order to make another postseason run, but they have tough decisions to make this offseason.

Offseason Strategy

They declined the options on Carlos Santana, Brad Hand, and Oliver Perez, all of which have been key players since 2018. While Hand and Perez will most likely never wear a Cleveland uniform again, Santana is a different story. He left the Indians in 2017 for the Phillies and was traded back to Cleveland the following year. He proceeded to put up the best year in his career, including starting at first base for the American League in the All-Star Game. Santana has said that he just feels more comfortable in Cleveland and loves being there. The Indians would likely prefer to bring him back as he is a great player and a veteran that knows and loves the city, but it was a no-brainer to decline his $17.5 million option.

Find Inexpensive Players

Outside of who they have already let go, the Indians do not have much room (or willingness) to do anything major. Owner Paul Dolan has already made it known that they will not be giving out big-time money at any point. The top free agents will not be in play for Cleveland. Instead, they will look for club-friendly deals much like the one they gave to Hernandez, who just won his first gold-glove.

Unload Aging Talent

The Indians will always trade away players too early rather than too late ( see Corey Kluber). They have to look at players like Carlos Carrasco, Roberto Perez (whose option they just picked up), and Lindor. Cleveland is playing Moneyball under this ownership and are hoping to find good, young talent to make another World Series run, as they did in 2016.

Get Their Young Talent Ready

The Indians already brought up McKenzie, but now is time to look at Nolan Jones, Bobby Bradley, Daniel Espino, and maybe Tyler Freeman. They have a good enough farm system with players prepared to play in Cleveland and not tank post-Lindor, but they need these players to make their debuts.

Offseason Targets

Steven Souza Jr., 31, OF

The team has been active in trying to find a key free agent for the outfield. They brought in Domingo Santana last year and Carlos Gonzalez in 2019. Souza could fit that role. The Indians outfield is thin with talent, and they could use a player that has some proven success in this league. This would be a similar contract to the Hernandez one from last year. Wherever he goes, it will be a one-year prove-it deal.

Jake Marisnick, 29, OF

Signing Marisnick would align with the same logic as signing Souza. The Indians love finding a “fourth outfielder.” His small sample size with the Mets did not prove anything and he has never panned out to his potential, which makes him a perfect candidate for the Indians. This would be another one-year deal as the Indians have some real problems in their outfield.

Andrelton Simmons, 31, SS

The expectation is that Lindor will be traded this winter. The Indians cannot afford him or they just don’t want to pay him, which is more likely. They will get a big package for Lindor that will help build a bright future for the club, but a replacement will be needed in the meantime. Simmons was a hot name at the trade deadline but stayed in Los Angeles with the Angels. At age 31 and coming off an ankle injury, the rumor is that the market has gone cold for Simmons. It is a safe assumption that he will seek a two to three-year deal, which is well within reason for the Indians to sign him.

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