Complete Offseason Guide, Predictions for the Cleveland Indians
As Milli Vanilli once sang, "Blame It On the Rain."
OK, maybe Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan never actually sang those words, but the short rain delay heading into the 10th inning of Game 7 in the World Series robbed the Cleveland Indians of the momentum it had picked up thanks to a fabulous eighth-inning rally to tie things up with the Chicago Cubs.
It's not an excuse, it's a fact—and it may be the only reason the Cubs, and not the Indians, emerged victorious when play resumed.
While it was a disappointing ending to a terrific season, Cleveland is in terrific shape to make another playoff appearance, and perhaps another deep run, heading into the 2017 season. Of course, the roster won't be exactly the same as some changes are inevitable.
What follows is an overview of some of the decisions that the team will have to make and how the roster might look when Opening Day rolls around roughly five months from now.
Only twice in Cleveland history have the Indians had an Opening Day payroll over $90 million: 2001 ($93.36 million) and 2016 ($96.3 million). They'll be able to make that three times come 2017, when the Tribe may very well exceed the $100 million mark for the first time.
|Player||Pos||2016 Salary||2017 Salary|
How is that possible?
With a total of 12 players under contract for roughly $51 million, including ace Corey Kluber, all-world reliever Andrew Miller and the double-play combination of Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, surely the Indians can fill out a 25-man roster for less than $49 million, right?
On the pages that follow, the answer to that question is a resounding no.
*Note: Players with renewable contracts, such as Lindor, are listed with estimated salaries of $600,000 due to the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining process and how that will impact their earning power.
Two-fifths of Cleveland's rotation and a pair of key bullpen arms, including closer Cody Allen, are among the players set to receive raises through arbitration during the offseason.
In the table below, projected salaries are loosely based on what the players listed for comparison received, either as a one-year deal or through the arbitration process, at similar points in their careers. You can find the exact figures for those players by clicking on the links included.
Proj. 2017 Salary
Allen figures to emerge as the most expensive of the bunch, while Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Bryan Shaw won't be the bargains they once were. Though you could certainly argue that they're all still relative bargains compared to what they'd likely command as free agents.
Taking these projected salaries into account, Cleveland's Opening Day payroll now sits at $82.775 million. And we've yet to tackle players with options or any of the team's free agents.
Players with Options and Cleveland's Free Agents
Cleveland wasted little time in picking up Carlos Santana's option for 2017, bumping the team's expected Opening Day payroll to $94.775 million.
Suddenly, cracking the $100 million threshold not only seems likely, but also unavoidable—especially if the club has any intention of bringing back any of its free agents.
|Coco Crisp||OF||$14,000,000||Free agent; $13M vesting option did not vest|
|Carlos Santana||1B/DH||$8,450,000||$12M team option, $1.2M buyout|
We know Marlon Byrd isn't going to be welcomed back after being suspended 162 games for using performance-enhancing drugs, leaving the Indians to decide between Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis as veteran fourth outfielders if they want one on the roster.
Of the two, Davis is the more likely to return, as he can platoon with Tyler Naquin in center field and provides the team with speed off the bench. A two-year deal in the neighborhood of $16 million sounds about right for the 36-year-old.
While there's mutual interest to get a new deal done with Mike Napoli, as Indians general manager Mike Chernoff recently told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, the veteran first baseman/designated hitter isn't going to come on a team-friendly deal like the one-year, $7 million pact he signed last winter.
With Santana capable of playing first base, Jesus Aguilar having little left to prove at Triple-A and Napoli likely looking for his last substantial multi-year deal, the two sides will likely part ways.
Being able to rotate players through the designated hitter spot throughout the year isn't a bad thing, especially with the team trying to limit the wear and tear that Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, both of whom are coming off injury-shortened years, put on their bodies throughout the season.
Potential Free-Agent and Trade Targets
Normally, this is where we'd identify four or five potential targets for the Indians, whether they be free agents or potentially available in trades.
But with the bulk of the team's roster returning for 2017, there's really not much room or need for Cleveland to be looking outside the organization for reinforcements.
If anything, the Tribe could look to add some veteran pieces on minor league deals to try to improve its depth around the diamond. But don't expect the Indians to make much noise during the winter. There's no reason for them to do anything but rest, recuperate and get at it again once spring training begins.
Unless otherwise noted/linked, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and all payroll and salary information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus). All player comparisons link to Baseball Prospectus.
Hit me up on Twitter @RickWeinerBR to talk Indians' offseason.