About 18 hours removed from another postseason collapse by the Cleveland Indians and while the wound is still fresh in all of Indians fans minds, it’s time to move forward and focus on next year.
This team is going to look different by the time spring training rolls around in February and it’s likely necessary. Change is needed and it could be for the better.
Look back 20 years ago, after the Indians were eliminated by Baltimore in the ALDS, changes came to the organization. Albert Belle left for more money and the team shipped Kenny Lofton to Atlanta for Marquis Grissom and David Justice.
10 years ago after the Indians blew a 3-1 lead to Boston in the ALCS, the team tried to added some minor pieces thinking the team was good enough to win it all in 2008, they ended up going 81-81 and started a rebuild by mid-season with the C.C. Sabathia trade.
Heading into this offseason, you have your core already assembled with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Andrew Miller.
The rest is to be determined as of now.
Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana are both free agents and could likely both be gone once they officially hit the market.
Bruce was an excellent waiver deadline acquisition hitting 7 home runs and 26 runs batted in during his 43 game stretch. He also hit .278 with 2 home runs and 4 runs batted in during the postseason.
Spotrac.com says Jay Bruce’s market value could look at a contract worth $22.6 million per year which could be difficult for Cleveland to afford him but ownership has shown during the last several years to expand their payroll to compete.
Santana has spent all 8 years of his major league career with Cleveland. He’s been a solid professional whether it was behind the plate or his transition to first base hitting 174 home runs and a career .249 average at the plate.
He along with Bruce are both in their 30s and this will be their last chance to make significant money. Spotrac.com says Santana’s market value is around $17.4 million per season.
Santana told reporters Wednesday night following the game that he would love to stay in Cleveland because he’s comfortable here but we all know sports are also a business and if he gets a significant deal, I’m sure he’ll consider it but I also believe Cleveland will make an effort to retain him.
Other free agents for the Indians are relief pitcher Bryan Shaw and outfielder Austin Jackson.
Shaw has had his ups and downs throughout his five year run in Cleveland. This season he went 4-6 with a 3.52 ERA and also recorded 3 saves. He had a solid postseason series against the Yankees making three appearance giving up 1 run in six innings pitched.
Jackson was a minor league signing for spring training but he made the major league roster and showed he has plenty of game left in the tank hitting .318 with 7 home runs and 35 RBIs in 85 games.
The future of Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis
The best ability in sports is availability.
For two key players, it was tough to be counted on this season due to injuries.
Michael Brantley finally returned healthy at the beginning of the season and seemed like things were going good for the veteran, being selected to the All-Star game and had a solid first half hitting .304 with 5 home runs and 37 RBIs.
Then the second half came and Brantley only played in 24 games because of injuries including an ankle injury that for much of August and September. He made it back in time for the postseason.
Brantley made no impact for the team when asked to replace Edwin Encarnacion at designated hitter. In 12 plate appearances, he had one hit and one walk, accumulating a .091 batting average for the postseason.
The outfielder has an $11 million dollar club option for next season. Missing 223 games over the past two seasons really puts the front office in a difficult position when trying to decide to pay him or not.
If I was in their shoes, I’d decline the option and see if Brantley would come back at a lesser amount of money that way the Indians have payroll flexibility to add pieces to help win.
As for Jason Kipnis, this was his worst season statistically and it was tough all around due to injuries that started all the way back to training camp.
He played in only 90 games, hitting .232 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs. Much like Brantley, he also struggled in the postseason hitting .182 with eight strikeouts against the Yankees.
Kipnis has at least two seasons left on his contract with a guaranteed $28.2 million in salaries through 2019 before a 2020 team option worth $16.5 million.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the team tries to unload that salary in a trade this offseason especially if they’re trying to retain Santana and/or Bruce.
Terry Francona’s staff may look different heading into next season as well.
Pitching coach Mickey Callaway will interview for the Philadelphia Phillies managerial position.
First base coach Sandy Alomar and bench coach Brad Mills have been linked to the Boston Red Sox managerial position.
There’s also the Detroit Tigers position as well which I’m sure those guys will be candidates for that role too.
I think you’re spot on with your assessment.