Cleveland Indians – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Indians Notes: Napoli, Merritt]]> 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z 2018-03-24T04:39:32Z
  • Mike Napoli is expected to decide shortly whether he’ll return to the Indians on another minor league contract, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). The presumption seemingly remains that he’ll return and open the year at Triple-A, as manager Terry Francona tells reporters including’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). But nothing has been formalized at this point, with Napoli evidently still holding out hope of finding a big league opportunity elsewhere. The veteran first baseman, who was released yesterday from a minors deal with Cleveland, has struggled to generate interest at the MLB level all winter long after a middling 2017 season.
  • Meanwhile, the Indians got a bit more clarity in their pitching plans with the decision to place Ryan Merritt on the DL to open the season, as Bastian reports. A combination of knee problems to open camp and a “tired arm” as it draws to a close have conspired to hold him back. The news also prevents the Cleveland organization from making a tough call on Merritt, an out-of-options hurler that the team would prefer not to expose to waivers.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Central Notes: Indians, Naquin, Refsnyder, Reds, Miley, Cabrera]]> 2018-03-23T02:39:14Z 2018-03-23T02:27:29Z Tyler Naquin and Rob Refsnyder are still competing for a potential spot on the Indians’ opening day roster, and Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets that manager Terry Francona has explained some details to them. Francona reportedly told the two players that the spot won’t simply go to the guy who gets the most hits over the last week, and that roster construction could be the biggest factor. For instance, if Brandon Guyer and/or Michael Brantley aren’t ready in time for opening day, Naquin and Refsnyder would stand a better chance to make the club out of camp. Whether the club chooses to carry seven or eight relievers will also affect their fates. It’s worth noting that Tyler Naquin has multiple options remaining, while Rob Refsnyder is an out-of-options player.

    More out of the midwest…

    • In a piece for The Athletic, Doug Gray details ten Reds prospects to keep an eye on for the coming season. The players in the article aren’t necessarily top prospects, but rather a group of under-the-radar players who Gray describes as “unheralded”. The list includes right-handers Nick Hanson and Ryan Hendrix, $10MM shortstop Jose Garcia, and Brandon Phillips’ cousin Montrell Marshall. Many of these players have significant upside and are worth the exploration by any Reds fan, or indeed any avid baseball follower.
    • Wade Miley’s opt-out date has been pushed back, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports on Twitter. The southpaw seemed likely to make the Brewers’ rotation before suffering a torn groin that’s expected to keep him out two to four weeks. Miley could have opted out of his contract tomorrow after being informed that he wouldn’t make the opening day roster, but GM David Stearns apparently worked out a deal with his agent. Miley’s opt-out date has been extended until the point at which he’s able to start pitching again.
    • Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera is stuck in “baseball purgatory”, says Scott Miller in an opinion piece for Bleacher Report. Miller describes Cabrera as “an island unto himself”, on a rebuilding Tigers team that will not likely be able to deal him and the $192MM remaining on his contract, particularly coming off the worst season of his career wherein he was plagued by back issues. For his part, Cabrera doesn’t seem to be focused on that aspect of his situation. “I’m here to play,” he says. “I’m not here to give my opinion of what’s going to happen. I’m here to do my job, to help win games and to help the process.” 
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians To Add Rajai Davis To MLB Roster, Release Mike Napoli]]> 2018-03-22T18:50:43Z 2018-03-22T18:50:43Z Indians skipper Terry Francona ran through a laundry list of roster moves today, as’s Jordan Bastian reports in a series of tweets. Of particular note, the club intends to add outfielder Rajai Davis to the active roster for the start of the season and has released first baseman Mike Napoli, with expectations of re-signing him if he cannot find a MLB opportunity elsewhere.

    Davis’s minor-league deal included an opt-out opportunity today, so it’s no surprise to see a decision come down. He’ll be slated to earn a $1.75MM salary with another $3.25MM possible through incentives.

    The 37-year-old did not hit much this spring but obviously left a positive impression on the organization, which is plenty familiar with him from his 2016 run in Cleveland. Presumably, Davis will supplement youngster Bradley Zimmer in center while also seeing some time in the corners and functioning as a pinch-runner.

    As for the 36-year-old Napoli, he’s slated to re-sign with the Indians on a new minor-league deal unless he finds a job elsewhere. Unless the market is suddenly more welcoming than it was just a few weeks back, he’ll presumably end up joining the Indians’ top affiliate to begin the season.

    There were some other roster calls made or at least addressed today, as Bastian further details. Veteran righty Alexi Ogando won’t make the MLB team but will return to rotation duties at Triple-A. Fellow non-roster relievers Matt Belisle and Carlos Torres are still awaiting their fates, which will be decided by Article XX(B) bonus decision day (this coming Saturday).

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Notes: Carrasco, Brantley]]> 2018-03-22T04:52:03Z 2018-03-22T04:51:35Z
  • In better news for the Indians, left fielder Michael Brantley isn’t ruling himself out for Opening Day (via Hoynes). “We shall see. But the old saying is take it one day at a time,” said Brantley, who’s working his way back from the right ankle surgery he underwent last October. Neither that procedure nor Brantley’s lack of availability from 2016-17, when injuries cost him a combined 223 games, were enough to stop the Tribe from exercising his $12MM club option early in the offseason. The 30-year-old appeared in 90 games in 2017 and slashed a solid .299/.357/.444 over 375 plate appearances.
  • Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco exited the club’s game Wednesday after taking a line drive off his left foot, Paul Hoynes of reports. Carrasco is now dealing with a contusion, and the Indians will further evaluate the star hurler Thursday, Hoynes tweets.  In the event Carrasco misses regular-season time as a result of the injury, it could help open the door for the out-of-options Ryan Merritt to claim a roster spot, at least temporarily. Merritt and Josh Tomlin have been vying for the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation this spring. Now, with Carrasco potentially injured and Danny Salazar set to miss the beginning of the year, the only sure things for the Indians’ season-opening starting staff appear to be Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger (depth chart).

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Notes: Napoli, Davis, Urshela]]> 2018-03-22T01:42:23Z 2018-03-22T01:42:07Z Indians first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli and outfielder Rajai Davis will be able to opt out of their minor league contracts Thursday, according to Paul Hoynes of It’s unclear whether one or both will vacate their deals, though Napoli has seemed especially likely to do so since his late-February signing with the Indians, who don’t have an opening for him in the majors. Asked Wednesday if Napoli could stay in the organization in a minor league role, manager Terry Francona said: “The next step is for him to talk to (president) Chris (Antonetti) a little bit more to figure out what he wants to do and what is available as far as the organization goes. Obviously, we think a ton of Nap and respect him a lot. There’s just a lot of unknowns.”

    • Indians infielder Giovanny Urshela will miss 10 to 14 days with a right hamstring strain, Hoynes tweets. Urshela may open the season on the DL, which would enable the Indians to delay their decision on him and Erik Gonzalez, who are each out of options and battling for the same bench role.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Ohio Notes: Lorenzen, Antonetti, Upton, Mesoraco]]> 2018-03-21T05:19:21Z 2018-03-21T05:14:52Z Here’s the latest from both Buckeye State teams…

    • Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen suffered a Grade 1 strain of the teres muscle near his throwing shoulder, and will be kept from throwing “for several days,” manager Bryan Price told media (including the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay).  Lorenzen’s injury isn’t as severe as the similar issue that kept Brandon Finnegan out of action for half of the 2017 season, though it does seem unlikely that Lorenzen would be ready to go by Opening Day.  The 26-year-old was attempting to win a spot in Cincy’s rotation but struggled to an 8.38 ERA over 9 2/3 Spring Training innings.  Between those poor results and now this injury, Lorenzen is sure to resume his old role as a late-inning weapon out of the Reds bullpen.
    • The Indians don’t have much payroll on the books beyond the 2019 season, but president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti tells’s Mark Feinsand not to expect the team to make any splashy signings next winter.  “That’s not the reality of our team-building,” Antonetti said.  “We are one of the smallest markets in professional baseball….We’ve had incredible support from our ownership in which we’ve spent well beyond our revenues as we’ve gone through this competitive period.  But we can’t build teams through free agency.  Our success model is we need to draft and acquire players that are younger and help provide the right environment for them to grow and develop because that’s going to be the nucleus of our team.  We’ll use free agency to complement that group, but not to build that group.”  The Tribe is poised to exceed the $100MM payroll mark for the third straight season (all record highs for the organization) in pursuit of a World Series, with the Edwin Encarnacion signing standing out as an uncharacteristic move for the smaller-market team.  Any future spending isn’t likely to reach nearly the heights of 2016-18, however, and it could be more internally-focused, such as trying to sign in-house players (i.e. Francisco Lindor) to extensions.
    • After releasing Melvin Upton Jr. yesterday, the Indians could potentially re-sign the outfielder to another minor league deal if he can’t find a contract elsewhere,’s Jesse Sanchez writes.  Manager Terry Francona said that the team chose to let Upton know prior to his opt-out date that the veteran wouldn’t be making the team, so Upton could have extra time to explore his options.  Cleveland already has several outfielders ahead of Upton on both the MLB and minor league depth charts, though there are enough question marks at the position that Upton could provide some extra experience at Triple-A.
    • In another piece from John Fay, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco said that he is finally feeling healthy after three injury-ravaged seasons.  “I feel great.  I don’t have to worry about health.  I work on my swing, work on my catching, play ball,” Mesoraco said.  After breaking out with a huge 2014 that earned him a four-year, $28MM extension after that season, Mesoraco has since played in just 95 total games due to hip, shoulder, and foot injuries.  The lack of durability cost Mesoraco the starting job as the Reds catcher, but he is prepared to contribute anyway he can as Tucker Barnhart’s backup.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Yankees Had Interest In Danny Salazar]]> 2018-03-21T02:20:56Z 2018-03-21T02:20:56Z
  • Indians right-hander Danny Salazar was one of several pitchers the Yankees considered as potential trade targets last winter, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  Salazar is controlled via arbitration through the 2020 season and he has shown excellent promise when healthy, posting a 3.82 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and 3.27 K/BB rate over 587 1/3 career innings with the Tribe.  Unfortunately, Salazar has also been bothered by shoulder and elbow problems over the last two years, and he looks to miss at least a bit of time at the start of the 2018 season due to rotator cuff inflammation.  Despite the health risks, Salazar has been a popular trade target for multiple teams, with the Cubs and Brewers both being linked to the righty this offseason.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Release Melvin Upton Jr., Ryan Hanigan]]> 2018-03-19T16:55:32Z 2018-03-19T16:31:33Z The Indians announced Monday that they have released outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and catcher Ryan Hanigan (via Jesse Sanchez of Both players signed minor league contracts with the Tribe over the winter.

    The Indians added the 33-year-old Upton with the hope that he’d experience a revival similar to the one Austin Jackson enjoyed a season ago. Cleveland signed Jackson to a minor league deal and saw him turn in an excellent campaign as a reserve outfielder. Upton, meantime, essentially endured a lost 2017. After the Blue Jays released Upton during the spring, he settled for a minors pact with the Giants, but late-April surgery on a torn thumb ligament kept him off the field for several weeks. He ultimately totaled just 49 plate appearances, all with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate.

    Upton, who had been competing to be a backup outfielder this spring, struggled mightily in exhibition action before Cleveland released him. Across an admittedly small sample size of 37 at-bats, he hit just .189/.250/.297. That was enough to seal his fate with the Indians, though fellow minor league signing and veteran outfielder Rajai Davis hasn’t been any better (.242/.265/.373 in 33 ABs). He’s one of four outfielders remaining on the Indians’ projected Opening Day roster, though, while Michael Brantley and Brandon Guyer could each start the season on the disabled list.

    Hanigan, 37, has a history of faring well defensively and getting on base (.344 lifetime OBP), but his production has gone backward in recent years. After combining to bat a woeful .218/.277/.291 in 225 PAs with the Red Sox and Rockies from 2016-17, he collected a meager 13 ABs this spring and hit .154/.214/.154. The Indians still have plenty of depth at catcher without Hanigan, as Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez, Francisco Mejia and Eric Haase remain on hand.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Indians Will Give Francisco Mejia Time In Outfield]]> 2018-03-15T21:17:51Z 2018-03-15T03:34:30Z
  • Another top prospect, Indians catcher Francisco Mejia, could actually end up seeing some action in the outfield as part of a plan to utilize him in the majors in the near term, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Mejia has previously been tried out at the hot corner, which Hoynes says “didn’t take,” so clearly the Cleveland organization isn’t fully committed to keeping him behind the dish. Regardless, he’s seen as a high-quality hitting prospect who could soon make an impact. The impression made by outfielder Abraham Almonte was not quite as positive, Hoynes notes, as he is not in shape and has already been optioned despite toting a $825K arb contract into camp.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Andrew Miller's Contract A Game-Changer For Free Agency]]> 2018-03-12T05:09:09Z 2018-03-12T05:09:09Z Andrew Miller’s four-year, $36MM deal with the Yankees from the 2014-15 offseason has become one of the most influential contracts in recent baseball history, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman opines.  Miller’s contract set a new standard for non-closer relievers, and its value has only grown in import thanks to the Indians’ usage of Miller as a multi-inning fireman.  As teams have put a focus on deep and flexible bullpens, relievers have been increasingly well-compensated in free agency; even during this unusually slow offseason, several relief arms have scored hefty multi-year commitments.  The fact that many notable relievers out-earned several notable sluggers and starting pitchers this winter is of no small concern to Miller, who is also a Players Association Representative.  “We have to understand the economics of how this works.  If one position or one skill is valued more highly, you probably will have another skill valued not as highly,” Miller noted.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Central Notes: Escobar, Morrison, Robert, Merryweather, Mize]]> 2018-03-10T17:00:21Z 2018-03-10T17:00:21Z Alcides Escobar returns to the Royals with a not-so-lofty goal in sight, Rustin Dodd writes in a piece for The Athletic. Kansas City’s long-time shortstop wants to finish the season with an on-base percentage above .300 for the first time since the 2014 season. He says that he’s working on “taking a lot of pitches each at-bat” and trying to avoid swinging at bad pitches, both of which seem like obvious things to work on. Escobar owns a career OBP of just .294, and his .272 figure last year was the second-lowest among qualified MLB hitters (Rougned Odor’s .252 was the lowest, for those keeping track). That .272 mark for “Esky” was the result of drawing just 15 walks, his lowest full-season total ever.

    A roundup of some other news items out of the AL Central…

    • Recent Twins signee Logan Morrison reportedly suffered a right glute strain while running the bases on Wednesday, according to Rhett Bollinger of He was held out of Friday’s game, and is expected to miss today’s matchup as well. However, the injury isn’t considered serious. Minnesota brought the former Tampa Bay first baseman into the fold with a $6.5MM guarantee that includes a vesting option. He hit .246/.353/.516 last season with the Rays while smacking a career-high 38 home runs.
    • The White Sox are dealing with a more significant injury. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribute tweets that farmhand Luis Robert has a moderate thumb sprain. Daryl Van Schouwen provides further details on the situation with his own tweet, adding that GM Rick Hahn expects the young outfielder to be immobilized in a cast for six weeks, and to be held out of game action for ten. Robert hit a phenomenal .310/.491/.536 in Rookie ball last season; Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the South Siders’ fifth best prospect, and number 55 overall.
    • Continuing with injury news, Indians prospect Julian Merryweather will officially undergo Tommy John surgery after recently being diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, according to Jordan Bastian of The right-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Tribe during a 2014 draft in which the club also landed Bradley Zimmer, Triston McKenzie and Bobby Bradley. Merryweather had been solid at all levels of the minors before struggling to a 6.58 ERA across 16 starts at Triple-A Columbus last season, though his 3.89 xFIP suggests he dealt with some unfortunate homer/fly ball luck.
    • Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is “the name to watch” for the Tigers as we approach the 2018 June amateur draft, says Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. After skidding to a 68-94 record last season, Detroit owns the number one overall pick in the draft, and as Passan notes, the club loves big college arms. Mize threw a no-hitter last night and was throwing 96 MPH up through the ninth inning. Scouts in attendance say he was throwing a “filthy split” as well.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Julian Merryweather Diagnosed With UCL Sprain]]> 2018-03-07T03:31:46Z 2018-03-07T03:00:21Z
  • Indians right-hander Julian Merryweather is also dealing with a sprained UCL in his pitching elbow, reports’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). He’s been shut down from throwing for the time being and is getting a second opinion from renowned surgeon Dr. Keith Meister. Merryweather, 26, made 16 starts and totaled 78 innings for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus last season, though he struggled to an ERA north of 6.00 (thanks in large part to a near-.400 BABIP). That rocky performance notwithstanding, he ranks 16th among Indians prospects, per Merryweather is on the 40-man roster, so if he’s expected to miss significant time, he could eventually land on the 60-day DL and free up a 40-man spot in Cleveland.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Indians’ Rotation Plans]]> 2018-03-06T16:05:50Z 2018-03-06T04:46:58Z The Indians entered the offseason with enviable depth in their pitching staff, particularly among rotation hopefuls. While that led some to wonder whether trades might be considered, to this point the Cleveland organization has not shipped away pitching.

    Midway through Spring Training, it seems the situation is beginning to resolve itself — at least as to how things will look when camp breaks. Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer has the latest on the defending AL Central champs.

    Per Indians skipper Terry Francona, the current expectation is for Mike Clevinger to hold down a rotation spot to open the season. “He’s strong, and he should be able to be that innings-eater type pitcher,” says Francona.

    Of course, Clevinger did a good deal more than eat innings last year. 2017 was a breakout effort for a pitcher who entered the season with just 53 MLB frames under his belt. Over 121 2/3 innings, including 21 starts, he posted a 3.11 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.

    Suffice to say, such a campaign would secure most hurlers a starting job for the ensuing season. For the pitching-rich Indians, though, there are quite a lot of other arms to consider.

    At the onset of the offseason, the biggest question surrounded enigmatic righty Danny Salazar, who has long dealt premium stuff but suffered from injury and performance lapses. He wasn’t traded, but now there’s a shoulder injury to worry about. Though it’s possible Salazar will return to pitching off of a mound in a few days, says Francona, the pitcher is “not going to be ready” for the start of the season.

    That news more or less sews up a spot for Clevinger, though this organization still has some pitching decisions to make. As Hoynes writes, the club is still waiting to see how the competition plays out between Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt. The former has struggled with long balls in recent years but remains an elite control artist, while the latter — who is also more notable for limiting the free pass than for strikeouts — has produced good results in very limited MLB action.

    In addition to deciding the outcome of that battle, the Indians will be making some interesting bullpen decisions. Tomlin or Merritt could join the relief unit, but they’ll be contending with a long list of possibilities, including quite a lot of non-roster invitees (as shown in this Indians depth chart). All told, there’s still a good bit of potential roster intrigue in Cleveland.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Market Notes: Upton, Archer, Realmuto, Holland, Lynn]]> 2018-03-02T17:21:47Z 2018-03-02T06:09:17Z Over at The Athletic, Pedro Moura held a fascinating conversation with Angels slugger Justin Upton. (Subscription link.) There’s plenty of interest in the chat, though Upton’s comments on free agency are of particular interest and relevance. The thrust of his sentiment is that teams seem to be looking to score free-agent value rather than identifying and “courting” players they actively wish to employ. “Teams don’t value players as people anymore,” says Upton. “They value them as a number on a sheet of paper.”

    Of course, Upton forewent a chance at returning to the open market by agreeing to a deal with an organization he was comfortable with. Here’s the latest on the unusually high number of quality free agents still not in camp and other market notes:

    • The likelihood remains that the Rays will enter the season with Chris Archer on the staff, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports among other notes. That’s due in no small part to the team’s lofty asking price; one rival executive suggests that the Tampa Bay front office “wanted our whole farm system” to move Archer. The club has given that impression publicly, too. Senior VP of baseball ops Chaim Bloom reiterated that the expectation is to hang onto Archer and others in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). He added that the internal expectation is that it will begin to reap the rewards of an effort over recent years to bolster the farm depth while still trying to compete at the MLB level.
    • It has remained interesting to consider whether the Nationals might pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. But there isn’t much recent indication of serious talks, and Heyman indicates that’s due to what seems to be a big gulf in the sides’ valuations. Washington won’t give top prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto, per the report; while the club might part with young infielder Carter Kieboom or outfielder Michael Taylor, it seems Miami was asking for too much additional talent to be included in a package.
    • The outfield market has certainly delivered some surprises thus far. Heyman says Jarrod Dyson spurned an early two-year, $14MM offer, though a source tells MLBTR that is not accurate. Dyson ultimately signed for $7.5MM with the Diamondbacks. It remains to be seen what’ll happen with players such as Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay, each of whom were rated among the fifty best free agents this winter by MLBTR. Heyman says the Indians are still looking at right-handed outfield bats, though it would surely be a surprise for the team to plunk down any meaningful money to make an addition. Perhaps the trade route could still hold some surprises, though that’s pure speculation on my part.
    • Veteran reliever Greg Holland might have overplayed his hand in spurning the Rockies earlier in the winter. Colorado was willing to give him something approaching the three-year, $51MM deal the team ultimately inked with Wade Davis, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests in an appearance on the podcast of Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. It’s premature, perhaps, to declare that Holland won’t be able to top that number, though it’s frankly difficult to see where that level of interest might come from — as MLBTR’s Steve Adams has recently explained.
    • Holland’s list of suitors is in question at the moment. One thing that seems clear, per Heyman, is that the Cubs aren’t planning on making a surprise run at the closer. Rather, Chicago seems largely committed to utilizing Brandon Morrow in the ninth inning and is likely to hold back its remaining payroll reserves for potential mid-season additions.
    • So, how low could the remaining pitchers go? Presumably there’s a point at which some bidding would occur. But it’s notable that, per ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson (podcast link), the Twins expressed interest in Lance Lynn in the range of just $10MM to $12MM over two seasons. Just how that level of interest came about and was expressed isn’t clear. The team has also made some fairly notable recent commitments and may just not have much more payroll flexibility. And it certainly shouldn’t be taken as evidence of Lynn’s current market value. Still, it’s interesting to learn that’s the current extent of Minnesota’s interest.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Erik Gonzalez Being Evaluated For Leg Injury]]> 2018-03-01T00:17:33Z 2018-03-01T00:17:33Z
  • Indians infielder Erik Gonzalez left today’s game with an ankle/leg injury and is being further evaluated at the club’s Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., tweets’s Jordan Bastian. The versatile 26-year-old is attempting to make the club as a utility infielder, but he’s out of minor league options and would have to be placed on waivers before he could be sent to Triple-A early in the season. As such, any absence figures to complicate the decision and work to the benefit of his primary competition, Giovanny Urshela.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Napoli Unlikely To Crack Indians Roster]]> 2018-02-27T23:54:24Z 2018-02-27T23:51:47Z
  • While many Indians fans were happy to see Mike Napoli reunited with the organization earlier this morning when he agreed to a minor league deal, manager Terry Francona tempered expectations regarding Napoli’s chances of making the club (link via’s Jordan Bastian). “He wanted a chance to be in a Major League camp,” said Francona. “There’s a decent chance we’re going to get him ready to have him go on another team and help beat us. Saying that, I think we all felt like he deserved it. He’s such a pro, so special to us.” Francona added that he was extremely honest and forthcoming with Napoli about the lack of immediate opportunity, although as Bastian notes, the well-respected and well-liked Napoli provides a nice depth option in the case of an injury. And, Josh Tomlin raved to Bastian about the team’s excitement over having Napoli in the clubhouse, even if it’s only for a short time.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians Agree To Terms With Mike Napoli]]> 2018-02-27T21:32:03Z 2018-02-27T21:31:38Z 3:30pm: Napoli’s contract comes with a $1.75MM salary in the Majors plus another $3.25MM available to him via incentives, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman.

    9:08am: The Indians have a minor-league deal in place with veteran slugger Mike Napoli, according to’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). If he passes a physical, Napoli will join the organization’s major-league camp. He’s represented by Paragon Sports.

    This move reunites the first baseman/DH with the organization he helped lead to a World Series berth in 2016. With Edwin Encarnacion ensconced in the designated hitter role, it seems likely that Napoli — if he earns a roster spot — would most likely serve as a platoon mate for first baseman Yonder Alonso.

    Between Napoli’s quality season in Cleveland and his deal to re-join the organization today, the 36-year-old limped to a .193/.285/.428 slash in 485 plate appearances with the Rangers. While he still managed to launch 29 long balls, and was likely unfortunate to carry a .225 BABIP, Napoli’s walk (10.1%) and strikeout (33.6%) rates suffered in comparison to his levels in prior campaigns. He also dealt with a torn ligament in his right hand.

    Needless to say, it’s possible to put a positive or negative spin on the undeniably less-than-ideal results from 2017. In a limited role, though, there’s good reason to think that Napoli can still produce at the plate — especially against lefties, against whom he owns a lifetime .892 OPS. And while he’s a poor baserunner who is limited in the field, he has graded out as an average performer at first base over the past three seasons.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Tyler Naquin On Plans For 2018]]> 2018-02-27T05:34:49Z 2018-02-26T23:30:16Z The Twins made a splash by upgrading their DH slot with yesterday’s addition of Logan Morrison, but Anthony Castrovince of takes a look at the organization’s continued need for rotation help. While Minnesota has made one mid-level addition by picking up Jake Odorizzi, the team will be without Ervin Santana for as much as a month and still lacks certainty in the starting group as a whole. Castrovince points out that the Twins’ primary (and perhaps only) competition in the AL Central, the Indians, are hardly a flawless team. While Cleveland still seems an obvious favorite, it is certainly worth giving chase for the Twins given the state of the rest of the division.

    • Tyler Naquin became somewhat of a forgotten man for the Indians in 2017 despite a third-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, and he’s out to reclaim his spot with better health in 2018, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Naquin openly admits that he slowed in the outfield in 2017 as he battled back and knee injuries, and he understands how those ill-timed issues opened a door for Bradley Zimmer to step up and seize a spot in the big league outfield. “You could tell I’d lost that step because I was banged up or whatnot,” Naquin tells Hoynes. “But feeling good now and being able to run, you can tell it’s a lot different.”
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Indians, Bryan Shaw Talked Extension Last Summer]]> 2018-02-26T01:42:52Z 2018-02-26T01:42:52Z
  • Bryan Shaw’s decision to join the Rockies was helped by an endorsement from his former Indians manager Terry Francona, Shaw tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila.  “I talked to Tito a little bit about the teams that had interest in me.  I got his opinion of the organizations — the managers and others with roles within those organizations.  He had nothing but good things to say about Bud Black and the guys who are here,” Shaw said.  Cleveland’s front office also offered help with any questions Shaw might’ve had about other teams, a further sign of the good relationship between the right-hander and his former team.  Shaw said that he and the Tribe had talks about a possible contract extension midway through last season, “but from a numbers standpoint it never got there.”  In December, Shaw signed a three-year deal with Colorado worth $27MM in guaranteed money, plus a potential vesting option for the 2021 season that would pay him $7MM in additional salary.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Claim Ben Taylor]]> 2018-02-26T01:15:48Z 2018-02-25T18:52:25Z The Indians have claimed right-hander Ben Taylor off waivers from the Red Sox, Christopher Smith of tweets. Taylor had been in limbo since Boston designated him for assignment last weekend. To make room for Taylor, the Indians placed righty Cody Anderson on the 60-day disabled list, per a team announcement. Anderson is still recovering from a March 2017 Tommy John procedure.

    The 26-year-old Taylor is the second reliever the Indians have added on Sunday, joining minor league free agent signing Matt Belisle. Taylor, who had been with the Red Sox since they selected him in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, got his first taste of major league action last season. Over a 17 1/3-inning span, Taylor logged a 5.19 ERA with 9.35 K/9, 4.67 BB/9 and a paltry 26.4 percent groundball rate. He was more successful in his first Triple-A experience, albeit over just 13 1/3 frames, with a 2.70 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.38 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent grounder mark.

    Taylor has a pair of minor league options remaining, which means he could serve as Triple-A depth for the Indians if he doesn’t make their season-opening bullpen.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Sign Matt Belisle]]> 2018-02-26T01:19:15Z 2018-02-25T15:06:28Z 9:06am: Belisle will earn a $1.5MM salary with a chance for more via incentives if he makes the Indians, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. There are $1.75MM in bonuses, Buster Olney of ESPN adds (via Twitter).

    7:39am: The Indians have agreed to a minor league contract with reliever Matt Belisle, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. The deal includes an invitation to big league camp.

    The 37-year-old Belisle spent last season with Minnesota, one of the Indians’ AL Central rivals, and emerged as the Twins’ closer after they traded Brandon Kintzler in July. In all, the right-handed Belisle pitched to a 4.03 ERA, posted 8.06 K/9 against 3.28 BB/9 and recorded nine saves over 60 1/3 innings.

    While Belisle only induced ground balls at a 40.7 percent clip, he made up for it with a 15.6 percent infield fly rate – the 17th-best figure among qualified relievers and a significantly higher number than his career mark (7 percent). And even though Belisle’s velocity dropped from the low-90s to the high-80s as the season progressed, he was far more effective in the second half of the year (1.71 ERA, 3.08 FIP across 26 1/3 innings) than the first (5.82 ERA, 4.83 FIP over 34 frames). Belisle helped his cause by stifling both same-handed hitters (.243/.319/.377) and lefty-swingers (.160/.244/.351).

    Since debuting in the majors in 2003, Belisle has fared similarly against righties (.278/.322/.420) and lefties (.266/.333/.422), and has registered a 4.19 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 2.28 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent grounder rate across 894 1/3 innings. Also a former Red, Rockie, Cardinal and National, he’ll now attempt to join an Indians bullpen that was among the game’s elite in 2017. The Indians have since lost righties Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith to free agency, but Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Nick Goody and Tyler Olson remain on hand in a still-impressive group.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Central Notes: Santiago, Merritt, Liriano, Aybar]]> 2018-02-24T22:47:58Z 2018-02-24T22:47:58Z Hector Santiago, who came back to the White Sox this offseason on a minor-league deal, has come up with a strategy to combat the  fastball decline that often comes with aging, James Fegan of The Athletic writes. The southpaw plans to bring back the screwball he threw in his days as a rookie. “I have not gone a day this offseason or in spring training where I have not thrown a screwball,” he said. “I’ve thrown a screwball in both my BPs and my only bullpen. It’s almost taken over my changeup. Lot of people say it’s gone, but nah, I just substituted my changeup for my screwball and I throw a lot more screwballs than changeup.” Notably, his arm motion for the screwball is similar to that of his changeup, which could help with deception in his delivery as he uses both to play off his fastball. Fegan notes that Santiago could be at the “top of the heap” of the White Sox’ MiLB free agent arms, if he can return to health and effectiveness.

    A few other small items out of the AL Central…

    • Much has been made of the fact that young Indians lefty (and 2016 postseason hero) Ryan Merritt is out of options and faces an uphill battle to make the club’s rotation out of spring training. But the 26-year-old isn’t focused on that right now, writes’s Jordan Bastian. “I’m really not going to get caught up in what’s going to happen a month from now,” he said. “I can control today. And, when I show up tomorrow, I can control what I do that day.” Merritt has a career 1.74 ERA (albeit in just 20 2/3 major league innings), but is most famous for starting Game 5 of the 2016 ALCS for the Indians, allowing zero runs across his 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. Cleveland would go on to win that game, punching their ticket to the World Series.
    • New Tigers lefty Francisco Liriano will compete for a spot in the club’s rotation during spring training, GM Al Avila says (via Jason Beck of However, if he’s unable to make the club in that capacity, he’s willing to pitch out of the bullpen. It’s possible that the 34-year-old’s best days are behind him, as he’s posted consecutive seasons with an ERA north of 4.60. Even as a reliever with the Astros last season, he posted a 4.40 ERA down the stretch with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Still, if he can show some flashes of his peak performance with the Pirates from 2013-2015, he’d represent a solid option for a Tigers club that is largely devoid of secure rotation options outside of Michael Fulmer.
    • Erick Aybar recently signed with the Twins, but Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that the infielder had received interest from the Reds and Rangers as well. He reportedly chose the Twins because he liked their opportunity best. In a later tweet, Berardino reports that Aybar will make his spring training debut on Monday (though Aybar told manager Paul Molitor that he was ready to play in today’s matchup).
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians Sign Carlos Torres To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-02-22T17:44:53Z 2018-02-22T17:30:55Z Feb. 22: Cleveland announced the signing this morning. Torres would earn $1.5MM upon making the big league roster, Cotillo adds. He can also earn another $800K via incentives.

    Feb. 21: The Indians have agreed to a minors deal with righty Carlos Torres, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The KVA Sports client will receive an invitation to MLB camp.

    Torres, 35, will face a difficult task of cracking a Cleveland bullpen that has quite a few pieces in place and numerous competitors for whatever openings remain. Whatever starters miss on a rotation spot — Danny Salazar, Josh TomlinMike Clevinger, and Ryan Merritt are among those slated to do battle — could be considered in relief roles. And the slate of veteran non-roster hurlers is already fairly lengthy, including MLB veterans Alexi Ogando and Neil Ramirez.

    That said, the Indians surely offered Torres a reasonable shot at winning a job in order to entice him. He has been a workhorse for some time now at the game’s highest level, making 139 appearances over the past two seasons alone. The Brewers nevertheless elected not to tender Torres a contract; he was projected to earn $3.3MM in his final season of arbitration eligibility.

    Of course, Torres was not nearly as effective in 2017 as he was in the prior campaign — an 82 1/3 inning career year in which he ran up a 2.73 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Last season, Torres dropped back to 72 2/3 innings of 4.21 ERA ball with just 6.9 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9, though he did show a career-high 93.4 mph average velocity with his cutter — even as that heavily-used offering waned in effectiveness.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Indians Facing Decisions On Out-Of-Options Merritt, Gonzalez, Urshela]]> 2018-02-22T03:25:09Z 2018-02-22T03:25:09Z
  • The Indians will face decisions on a trio of out-of-options players this spring, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and southpaw Ryan Merritt figures to face the toughest path of them all. While Erik Gonzalez and Giovanny Urshela are both out of options as well, they’re vying for a presently vacant utility infield job; Merritt, on the other hand, is faced with a full rotation and a bullpen that, at best, has one open spot. While it’s certainly possible that an injury creates a more obvious spot for Merritt to break camp with the big league club, there’s also the possibility that he’s exposed to waivers or traded at some point, given the overall strength of the Indians’ pitching staff. The 26-year-old Merritt etched his place in Cleveland sports lore when he blanked the Blue Jays over 4 1/3 innings in a spot start during the 2016 ALCS, and he has a 1.71 ERA in 31 2/3 MLB innings in his career. But, he’s also struck out just 13 hitters in the Majors and averages just 87 mph on his fastball. Merritt has a career 3.48 ERA with 6.0 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in 289 1/3 Triple-A frames.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Sign Rajai Davis]]> 2018-02-19T17:53:15Z 2018-02-19T17:53:18Z Feb. 19: Davis would earn $1.75MM upon making the big league roster and has an additional $3.25MM available to him via incentives, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links). Davis can ask for his release on March 22 if he hasn’t been added to the Major League roster by that time.

    Feb. 17, 1:32pm: The signing is official, Bastian tweets.

    12:15pm: The Indians are set to sign outfielder Rajai Davis to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to spring training, Jordan Bastian of reports. The deal is pending a physical (Twitter links). Davis is repped by the Legacy Agency.

    There’s already familiarity between Cleveland and the 37-year-old Davis, who was a member of the Indians during their American League-winning season in 2016. Davis authored one of the most memorable moments in World Series history that year when he hit a two-run, game-tying homer off then-Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning of Game 7. Unfortunately for Davis and the Tribe, the Cubs went on to win the game.

    While Davis is known for that HR, the righty-swinger hasn’t been a major offensive threat during his career. The lifetime .264/.313/.384 hitter is coming off a year in which he batted a meager .235/.293/.348 across 366 plate appearances between Oakland and Boston. As has typically been the case, though, the speedster provided value on the base paths, with 29 steals (giving him 394 for his career) to go with solid reviews from FanGraphs’ BsR metric. Davis was less successful in the field, on the other hand, as he earned subpar marks in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-1) and Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-3.4) during a 117-game season divided among center field – his primary position – and the two corner spots.

    The Indians’ penciled-in starting outfield for 2017 consists of three left-handed hitters (center fielder Bradley Zimmer, left fielder Michael Brantley and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall), and righty Brandon Guyer is recovering from October wrist surgery. Davis could earn a spot with the Tribe as a platoon option, then, especially given his solid career line against southpaws (.284/.340/.432). However, he’ll face competition from fellow minor league signing and right-hander Melvin Upton Jr., among others.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[AL Central Notes: Abreu, Kipnis, Moustakas, Cuthbert, Sano]]> 2018-02-19T05:45:08Z 2018-02-19T05:45:08Z White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu shed over ten pounds already this offseason, James Fegan of The Athletic writes. The weight loss comes thanks in part to a diet with a lot more fish and white meat. But aside from eating healthier, the Cuban native has another, more surprising goal: to steal more bases. Abreu said he’ll be asking for the green light from manager Rick Renteria more often. “Just because I think I can do it,” he added. “I really believe I can do it and I like the challenge. I like to challenge myself and I think that’s a good challenge for me and I’m ready for it.” Renteria laughed a bit at the idea, but he did say that if Abreu ends up being able to take a base, “that would be awesome.” However, the skipper suggested that he’s more concerned about making sure his first baseman can swing the bat and catch a ball first. A full read of the piece provides some insight not only into the plans of Abreu and Renteria headed into 2018, but into their personalities as well.

    More notes about American League’s midwestern teams…

    • Indians manager Terry Francona held his individual meetings with position players on Sunday morning, Jordan Bastian of reports. One of those meetings was with Jason Kipnis, who’s faced a lot of uncertainty this offseason as to what position he’ll play in 2018 and which team he’ll be playing it for. Kipnis apparently told Francona he’d do whatever he was told to do, but Francona felt it was better for the two to make the decision together. Because of who he is and what he’s accomplished, and what he can accomplish, I think it’s better if we do it together.” Francona said. “Asking somebody to do something they don’t think they can do isn’t going to help us.” It was reported earlier this offseason that the Tribe planned to move Kipnis back to second base, and Francona confirmed those intentions on Sunday by telling reporters that “he’s a second baseman… the idea is for him to play second.”
    • In line with reports from earlier today, it seems as though the Royals are prepared to move on from Mike MoustakasJeffrey Flannagan of shares some eye opening notes from an impromptu news conference with GM Dayton Moore this afternoon, including a quote about third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert. “We like [Cuthbert] a great deal,” Moore said. “We feel it’s his time to become a consistently producing player. We also have Hunter Dozier, who can play third and corner outfield, and first base — he has some versatility.” Moore also expressed a desire to build the club’s farm system back to what it was in 2010-2011, also noting that “That period of time [of high payrolls], that phase of who we are, is over.” All of these points cast extreme doubt on any chance of Moose coming back to Kansas City.
    • Twins slugger Miguel Sano appears healthy, as Rhett Bollinger of reports that he’s working out in the Dominican Republic and “doing all baseball activities.” He’ll reportedly be eased into games, however, and there’s one more unresolved item that could affect Sano’s ability to take the field: he has yet to be interviewed by MLB about his alleged sexual assault of a photographer. Sano has vehemently denied the accusations, and there’s been little in the way of public updates on the situation. Still, there could yet be ramifications depending on the findings from a potential interview or investigation.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Notes: Salazar, C. Santana]]> 2018-02-17T20:56:46Z 2018-02-17T20:56:24Z
  • Before he joined the Phillies on a three-year, $60MM contract in November, longtime Indians first baseman Carlos Santana proposed a five-year, $75MM deal to Cleveland, the player told Anthony Castrovince of However, “the Tribe was never seriously engaged with him at all this winter,” Castrovince tweets. Shortly after Santana left the Indians, they added replacement Yonder Alonso on a much cheaper pact (two years, $16MM).
    • The Indians announced Friday that right-hander Danny Salazar “experienced an onset of right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation” last month during his offseason throwing program. The 28-year-old is “a couple weeks” behind the rest of the pitchers in Indians camp, per the announcement, though he has at least resumed throwing. It certainly doesn’t appear as if Salazar is presently dealing with a major injury, but the shoulder trouble isn’t entirely insignificant. Salazar missed roughly six weeks of the 2017 season due to shoulder troubles, and he has a history of right elbow issues as well. He’s also seen his name pop up in occasional trade speculation, most frequently being linked to the Brewers, though one would imagine that ongoing shoulder issues would temper some of the interest that other clubs may have in Salazar.There’s not yet any indication that Opening Day would be in jeopardy for Salazar, whom the Indians have penciled into a rotation spot alongside Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger are both on hand as options for the fifth spot. Injuries limited Salazar to just 103 innings last season, during which time he posted a 4.28 ERA with a gaudy 12.7 K/9 mark against 3.8 BB/9.
    • Before he joined the Phillies on a three-year, $60MM contract in November, longtime Indians first baseman Carlos Santana proposed a five-year, $75MM deal to Cleveland, the player told Anthony Castrovince of However, “the Tribe was never seriously engaged with him at all this winter,” Castrovince tweets. Shortly after Santana left the Indians, they added replacement Yonder Alonso on a much cheaper pact (two years, $16MM).
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Trevor Bauer Wins Arbitration Hearing]]> 2018-02-15T20:14:13Z 2018-02-15T19:47:24Z Right-hander Trevor Bauer has won his arbitration hearing against the Indians, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (via Twitter). Bauer’s arb case featured one of the most significant gaps between the player’s submitted salary and the team’s figure (as seen in the MLBTR Arbitraiton Tracker), and he’ll now be paid at $6.525MM instead of $5.3MM thanks to the win. Bauer is represented by Wasserman.

    Bauer, who recently turned 27, receives nearly a $3MM raise on last year’s $3.55MM salary with today’s ruling. The right-hander closed out the season with a 4.19 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 46.4 percent ground-ball rate through 176 1/3 regular-season innings. He went on to make one dominant postseason appearance against the Yankees before being clubbed for four runs in 1 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the ALDS.

    Bauer’s bottom-line run prevention numbers might not look especially impressive, but they’re marred by a dreadful start to the season. The former No. 3 overall pick was sporting an ERA north of 7.00 through his first six trips to the hill, but he turned in a strong 3.45 ERA through 143 1/3 innings to close out the regular season — including a pristine 2.42 ERA and 85-to-19 K/BB ratio in his final 13 appearances.

    Bauer will join Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the Cleveland rotation this season, with Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger both vying for the final spot in the starting five. Bauer, a Super Two player, has now gone through the arbitration process twice and will be eligible twice more before qualifying as a free agent following the completion of the 2020 season.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Indians, Ryan Hanigan Agree To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-02-12T14:40:13Z 2018-02-12T14:39:24Z The Indians are in agreement with veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan on a minor league contract, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links). The O’Connell Sports Management client will earn a $1.25MM base salary if he’s able to crack the Major League roster.

    Hanigan, 37, spent the 2017 season in the Rockies organization, logging 33 games in the Majors and another 17 in Triple-A. He hit .267/.324/.347 with a pair of homers through 112 plate appearances in the Majors last year — numbers that are fairly representative of his overall skill set despite the small sample size. Hanigan has long displayed solid on-base skills, especially for a catcher, as evidenced by a career .344 on-base percentage and 11.2 percent walk rate. That walk rate has trended downward in recent seasons as his strikeout rate has risen correspondingly, however, and he’s never displayed much in the way of power.

    The veteran Hanigan will give Cleveland a depth option, though he’s a ways down the depth chart. Both Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are under guaranteed contracts after signing long-term deals with Cleveland in recent years, and the Indians also have one of the game’s top catching prospects, Francisco Mejia, looming in the upper minors.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Michael Brantley]]> 2018-02-11T14:47:30Z 2018-02-11T14:47:30Z
  • Aside from keeping Brantley and signing Yonder Alonso, the Indians haven’t spent much this winter. Regarding the Tribe’s quiet offseason, one team’s vice president told ESPN’s Buster Olney, “They’re not spending, and that probably means they feel like they’re overextended [financially].” Even though the Indians have been among baseball’s elite in recent years, drawing fans to Progressive Field has still been a challenge. Thanks in part to that, Olney posits that small-market Cleveland may have difficulty maintaining its relatively high payroll going forward, which could soon force the team to engage in a sell-off similar to the one Pittsburgh has orchestrated this winter. The Indians will probably lose top relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to free agency next offseason, observes Olney, who writes that rising prices for their under-control core players could make it tough for them to adequately address other areas of their roster.
    • Indians outfielder Michael Brantley’s status for Opening Day is up in the air, Paul Hoynes of suggests on Twitter. Brantley underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in October, which came on the heels of a 90-game season for the 30-year-old. It was the second straight abbreviated campaign for Brantley, who missed all but 11 games in 2016 on account of right shoulder issues. To Brantley’s credit, he fared respectably across 375 plate appearances last year (.299/.357/.444), leading the Indians to exercise his $12MM option for 2018 early in the offseason.
    • Aside from keeping Brantley and signing Yonder Alonso, the Indians haven’t spent much this winter. Regarding the Tribe’s quiet offseason, one team’s vice president told ESPN’s Buster Olney, “They’re not spending, and that probably means they feel like they’re overextended [financially].” Even though the Indians have been among baseball’s elite in recent years, drawing fans to Progressive Field has still been a challenge. Thanks in part to that, Olney posits that small-market Cleveland may have difficulty maintaining its relatively high payroll going forward, which could soon force the team to engage in a sell-off similar to the one Pittsburgh has orchestrated this winter. The Indians will probably lose top relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to free agency next offseason, observes Olney, who writes that rising prices for their under-control core players could make it tough for them to adequately address other areas of their roster.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Trevor Bauer Had Arbitration Hearing Thursday]]> 2018-02-11T05:09:03Z 2018-02-11T05:09:03Z
  • Indians righty Trevor Bauer had his own arbitration hearing this past Thursday, per Paul Hoynes of Results should come out this weekend, Hoynes hears. Bauer, who’s in his second of four possible arb years, filed for $6.52MM – a healthy amount more than the $5.3MM the team offered.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians To Sign Stephen Fife]]> 2018-02-09T02:45:51Z 2018-02-09T02:45:48Z
  • Righty Stephen Fife is heading back stateside after signing on with the Indians, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). The 31-year-old, a third-round pick in 2008, hasn’t seen the majors since 2014 but does own a 3.66 ERA in 91 career frames. Fife made five starts last year for Japan’s Seibu Lions, but struggled to a 6.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts and 13 walks in just 21 frames. He’ll be looking to get back on track with the Cleveland organization, though he’ll certainly face very long odds to crack the roster out of camp.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians Discussed Encarnacion With Red Sox]]> 2018-02-07T21:18:19Z 2018-02-07T19:08:32Z
  • Notably, too, the Red Sox are perhaps still aware of other means of fulfilling their desire for right-handed power. Nightengale says the organization spoke with the Indians earlier in the offseason about a potential deal that would have brought Edwin Encarnacion to Boston. Whether or not there’s any plausible hope of reviving those discussions isn’t clear, though, and the Sox are said not to have been willing to send Jackie Bradley Jr. to Cleveland. Clearly, that’s no surprise, as Bradley is a much younger and more affordable player who still offers plenty of value to the Sox. Indeed, it’s amply arguable that Bradley is a more valuable overall performer than is Encarnacion.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Michael Martinez Out Six Months Due To Ruptured Achilles]]> 2018-02-01T05:24:28Z 2018-02-01T05:02:24Z The Indians announced today that non-roster invitee Michael Martinez suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during his offseason workout (specifically, agility exercises), which required surgical repair and will sideline the veteran utilityman for the next six months. The 35-year-old Martinez was a long shot to make the big league roster out of Spring Training, but he’s found his way onto Cleveland’s Major League roster in each of the past three seasons, helping to fill in for various injuries. He’s batted .257/.289/.331 over the life of 145 plate appearances with Cleveland. That six-month timeline will put Martinez on track for an August return, so it’s still possible that he could at least return to the club’s Triple-A team late in the season.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Mike Clevinger Aiming For 200-Inning Season]]> 2018-01-31T04:33:57Z 2018-01-31T04:33:57Z
  • After breaking out in 114 innings as a starter last year, when he pitched to a 2.84 ERA and recorded 9.99 K/9 against 4.23 BB/9, Indians righty Mike Clevinger has bigger plans for 2018. “I’m not even thinking about the bullpen. I want to throw 200 innings,” Clevinger told Jordan Bastian of Despite his excellent production in 2017, Clevinger isn’t guaranteed a starting spot heading into the spring, as Bastian notes. Rather, he’ll compete with Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt to join rotation locks Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Should Clevinger, 27, win a place in the Tribe’s rotation and achieve his 200-inning goal, he’d accomplish a feat that’s pretty rare nowadays. In each of the previous two campaigns, only 15 pitchers racked up at least 200 frames. Kluber did it in both seasons (as well as in 2014 and ’15), and Carrasco was also part of the group last year.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Freeman, LeVangie, NPB/KBO, Aces]]> 2018-01-29T04:01:31Z 2018-01-29T04:01:31Z Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman feels great about the strength of his left wrist; strength he believes he lacked at the end of last season. Mark Bowman of wrote a detailed article that includes plenty of confident words from Freeman, who told reporters he began hitting earlier than he usually does, and even took batting practice in 25-degree whether just to see if he experienced any pain. “I have had zero problems.” Freeman said. “Everything feels great and everything feels strong.” Though he doesn’t regret coming back early after being hit by a pitch in May, Freeman experienced some frustration when his wrist fatigued during August and September. Notably, the two-time All-Star also had Lasik surgery to help alleviate some eye irritation issues he experienced while wearing contact lenses. Freeman also expressed his excitement to see top prospect Ronald Acuna arrive at the MLB level.

    Some other interesting items from around MLB as we near the end of January…

    • Count Rick Porcello among those in the Red Sox organization who are excited about working with new pitching coach Dana LeVangie. A piece by Tim Britton of the Providence Journal gives some insight into a phone call between the two earlier in the offseason. “A couple of days after he got the pitching coach job, he called me and we talked for an hour on things he had mapped out for me coming into the season that I need to work on and get better with,” Porcello told reporters last week. Indeed, it seems as though relievers Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel have already had a great experience working with him during his time as the team’s bullpen coach.  As for LeVangie, he says his time as the Red Sox’ bullpen catcher allowed him to get a feel for movement and spin rate of pitches, as well as identify specifics of a pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses.
    • The pursuit of financial security causes a handful of players to give up MLB 40-man roster spots every year in order to pursue opportunities in the NPB and the KBO, writes Kyle Glaser of Baseball America. Glaser tells the short version of Seth Frankoff’s story, though he’s just one of more than 100 ex-major or minor leaguers who played in Asian baseball leagues in 2017. While minor-league players on a 40-man roster earn just over $40K per year, players can make nearly 20 times that amount playing overseas. Other benefits of playing in the NPB and KBO include luxury apartments for foreign players, exceedingly high energy levels from people in the crowd, and a potential path back to the majors if they can improve their skill sets.
    • Zach Crizer of lists right-handers Danny Salazar (Indians) and Jake Odorizzi (Rays), and left-hander Ariel Miranda (Mariners) as pitchers with the potential to reach “ace” status in 2018. Crizer uses some incredibly specific stats to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these three pitchers, showing a potential path to a breakout for each one. The piece includes videos and heat maps as well; it’s an intriguing read, particularly considering that Salazar and Odorizzi have been mentioned in trade rumors.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Rosenthal’s Latest: Mets, Domingo, Nationals, Kipnis]]> 2018-01-29T01:49:27Z 2018-01-29T01:49:27Z Here are some of the latest hot stove whisperings overheard by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, detailed in his latest column (insider subscription required and highly recommended)…

    • The Mets are “weighing” four players as potential solutions to their need at second and/or third base. They’re interested in free agents Eduardo Nunez, Todd Frazier and former Met Neil Walker, while also exploring the possibility of adding Josh Harrison via trade. The latter would require the Amazins to fork over young outfielder Brandon Nimmo, according to Rosenthal’s sources. Of course, the team has all of Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto under control for at least the next three seasons, and Rosenthal posits that they shouldn’t cling too tightly to a fourth outfielder if trading him could help improve their chances in 2018. Furthermore, pivoting to Walker could “spark justifiable criticism” that the Mets are reassembling a losing team; they’ve already re-signed Jose Reyes and Bruce.
    • Trade speculation surrounding Brewers outfielder Domingo Santana has spiked ever since the team acquired Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain just minutes later. But although he slugged 30 homers last season and is just 25 years of age, his trade value may not be as high as one might think. Rosenthal quotes rival executives saying that Santana is “a bad defender” and “not a winning player.” Those comments come off a bit extreme, but it’s worth noting that he struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances last season while being worth -5 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield.
    • While it’s been oft-reported that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo isn’t willing to part with top prospect Victor Robles in a trade, Rosenthal suggests that the club could be willing to give up Michael Taylor if his involvement in a deal would help the club net Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. On the other hand, some officials in the organization aren’t keen on giving up a player who’s a fairly safe option in the outfield while Adam Eaton is coming off a significant surgery and Bryce Harper is set to become a free agent next winter.
    • The Yankees reportedly showed some interest in Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis at some point this offseason. However, that interest has apparently cooled of late. While his contribution towards the luxury tax threshold isn’t significant ($8.75MM per season), his actual remaining salary ($30.5MM guaranteed over two years) might be considered somewhat of a risk for a bounce-back candidate; one rival executive says he’s worth a shot, but not at that price. The 30-year-old Kipnis spent significant time on the DL last season with shoulder and hamstring injuries, and hit just .232/.291/.414 last season when healthy.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Brewers Have Shown Interest In Danny Salazar]]> 2018-01-28T01:11:01Z 2018-01-28T01:10:31Z
  • The Brewers are loaded in the outfield in the wake of this week’s Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich acquisitions, and the club could mitigate the logjam by dealing one of its top trade chips, Domingo Santana. Doing so would presumably allow the Brewers to address their shaky rotation. With that in mind, the Brewers and starter-rich Indians seem like logical trade partners, Paul Hoynes of observes. A deal centering on Santana and Indians righty Danny Salazar would make sense for both clubs, Hoynes opines, and Anthony Castrovince of tweets that Milwaukee has shown interest in Salazar this offseason. The hard-throwing Salazar brings the more impressive big league track record of the two players, though age (25 to 28), team control (four years to three) and 2017 performance are all on Santana’s side.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On The Indians' Interest In Lorenzo Cain]]> 2018-01-27T15:44:39Z 2018-01-27T15:43:58Z The Indians felt they had a shot at signing Lorenzo Cain to a three-year deal, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, though they still would have needed to trade another notable contract off the roster to accommodate a Cain signing.  Management felt a pursuit of Cain was a risk worth taking, as the Tribe is very familiar with the center fielder’s abilities from his years as a division rival.  Cleveland was able to land Edwin Encarnacion on a smaller-than-expected three-year deal last winter due to a slow market, though while Cain’s market also took a while to develop, he still had multiple four-year offers on the table (and eventually landed five years from the Brewers).  It isn’t clear if the Tribe is still looking to make a notable outfield addition if they can clear payroll, or if the team was only willing to make such a big splash for Cain specifically.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Indians Sign Preston Claiborne To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-01-27T03:48:29Z 2018-01-27T03:45:15Z
  • The Cubs have elected to bring left-hander Michael Roth to the organization on a minor-league deal, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports (Twitter link). Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that Roth will be paid a $560K salary if he’s able to crack their big-league roster. The former ninth-round pick is entering his age-28 season; he’s made 22 total MLB appearances out of the bullpen for the Rangers and Angels, along with a single start for the latter. He owns a career ERA of 8.50, though run-prevention estimators such as xFIP (4.46) and SIERA (4.04) suggest his actual skill set isn’t quite in line with those disastrous results. Roth has also spent time at the Triple-A affiliates of the Rays, Giants and Indians.
  • The Indians announced that they’ve signed right-hander Preston Claiborne to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training. The 30-year-old Claiborne tossed two innings for the Rangers in 2017 and has a total of 73 1/3 innings of Major League work under his belt — all but last year’s two innings coming with the Yankees in 2013-14. The former 17th-round pick has a career 4.05 ERA with 7.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7 percent ground-ball rate. Claiborne owns a lifetime 3.09 ERA in 102 Triple-A innings, including a stellar 1.89 mark in 38 innings ith the Rangers’ affiliate last season.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians Set For Hearing With Trevor Bauer]]> 2018-01-24T16:18:32Z 2018-01-24T14:22:14Z
  • The Indians are readying for an arbitration hearing with righty Trevor Bauer, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Cleveland is utilizing a file-and-trial approach, says Hoynes, meaning a panel will decide whether the righty plays for $5.3MM or $6.52MM in the coming season. The results won’t just determine whether Bauer can pick up an additional $1.22MM for the coming season; his 2018 salary will also set a base rate for raises in his final two seasons of arb eligibility. As always, you can keep track of all the arbitration developments with MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/23/18]]> 2018-01-23T20:27:35Z 2018-01-23T18:59:02Z We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:

    • Outfielder Jacob May was outrighted by the White Sox after clearing waivers, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Likewise, Angels lefty Nate Smith is headed for Triple-A via outright. Both were designated for assignment recently.
    • Infielder Ty Kelly is returning to the Mets, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The 29-year-old first reached the bigs in New York and also spent time in the majors last year with the Phillies. He has hit well at times in the upper minors but has yet to translate that to the majors in limited opportunities.
    • The Tigers have purchased the contract of lefty Caleb Thielbar from the St. Paul Saints, per an announcement from the indy ball club. Soon to turn 31, Thielbar hasn’t seen the majors since 2015. In 98 2/3 total innings at the game’s highest level, though, he has pitched to a 2.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. He was released by the Marlins just before the start of the 2017 season after competing for a job in camp.
    • Righty Carlos Frias is re-joining the Indians on a minors pact, the club announced. The 28-year-old, who has not seen substantial MLB time since 2015, stumbled to an 8.05 ERA with an ugly 21:22 K/BB ratio at Triple-A last year with the Cleveland organization.
    • The Angels have re-signed lefty John Lamb, Cotillo tweets. Once a well-regarded prospect, the 27-year-old saw his career derailed by back issues. He did throw 139 innings at Triple-A last year with the Halos organization, though he managed only a 5.44 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
    • Reliever Bryan Harper has re-joined the Nationals on a minor-league deal with a spring invite, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Bryce’s older brother has never been seen as a major asset, but he’s an accomplished minor-league reliever. He missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but has allowed less than three earned runs per nine in over a hundred frames in the upper minors.
    • Outfielder Matt Lipka is joining the Giants organization on a minor-league deal, Cotillo also tweets. A first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Lipka has not yet shown that he can hand the bat in the upper minors. He posted a .754 OPS in 370 plate appearances last year at the High-A level, but limped to a .160/.216/.223 slash over his 102 trips to the plate at Double-A.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Jason Kipnis' 2018 Position]]> 2018-01-21T05:37:53Z 2018-01-21T05:37:53Z
  • The Indians reportedly plan to play Jason Kipnis at second base in 2018, but they haven’t yet informed him of that, Jordan Bastian of relays. It’s “more than likely” Kipnis will man the keystone, manager Terry Francona acknowledged, though Bastian notes that he may open the year in left field if Michael Brantley isn’t ready to return from the right ankle surgery he underwent in October. Kipnis, for his part, is “excited to play wherever they need me.” The career-long Indian, 30, also indicated he’s pleased to still be with Cleveland, despite offseason trade rumors.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/20/18]]> 2018-01-20T19:23:25Z 2018-01-20T17:42:42Z We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves in this post…

    • The Indians have inked a minors pact with lefty reliever Adam Wilk, who’ll receive an invite to spring training. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Wilk stands to make $560K if he makes the opening day roster, and can opt out of his contract if he doesn’t. The 30-year-old pitched 14 MLB innings last season with the Mets and Twins; he’s also played for the Tigers and Angels during his big-league career. Wilk averages just 88 MPH on his fastball, but boasts a five-pitch repertoire. He throws a four-seamer, sinker, slider, curve and change up; each makes up at least 10% of his pitch selection. For his career, the southpaw has a 7.36 ERA. Right-handed batters have hit .331/.380/.664 against him.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Indians Notes: Machado, Miller, Yelich]]> 2018-01-20T16:47:51Z 2018-01-20T16:47:51Z The Indians and Orioles were in contact last month about a trade that could have sent Manny Machado to Cleveland, Jon Morosi of writes, although he adds that the two teams are no longer actively discussing a deal. The O’s have a notable dearth of viable starting pitchers, while Cleveland is said to be willing to trade right-hander Danny Salazar. For their part the Indians are one of the few teams who could afford to deal from their rotation in order to add a premium position player like Machado. Morosi describes 2018 as a “pivotal year” for the Orioles franchise, while Dave Cameron (formerly of Fangraphs) wrote a piece a month ago detailing the Tribe’s limited window of eliteness as a reason to splurge on Machado now. A Machado acquisition would likely push Jose Ramirez to second base and push Jason Kipnis back to positional limbo, which complicates a hypothetical deal from a logistics standpoint.

    More news and rumors about the Indians…

    • Lefty fireman Andrew Miller is well-known as a force on the mound, but he’s also got a big voice in the MLBPA. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN discussed the subject of pitch clocks with the Indians reliever recently. One of four elected representatives of the association, Miller hopes that the pitch clock negotiations don’t lead to “some sort of ugly showdown.” He told ESPN that the players understand that they need to put out the best product possible from an entertainment standpoint, and that there’s certainly a need for an adjustment. However, he expresses that the lack of a ticking clock is “one of the things about the sport that makes us so appealing and so unique.” Miller’s viewpoint, while level-headed, reveals a polite distaste for the way MLB is going about the process.
    • Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal outlines his case for an Indians-Marlins trade involving outfielder Christian Yelich. Such a move, Lewis says, would help improve the Tribe’s competitive window through 2020, by which point they stand to lose the bulk of their core (Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Edwin Encarnacion and Jason Kipnis, to name a few). Lewis does take care to mention that the team already has a large surplus of left-handed-hitting outfielders, but also points out that Yelich would serve as an upgrade in 2018 regardless, and would fill what could be a potential hole in right field starting in 2019. From my own standpoint, it seems that while the Indians make sense as a potential fit (I mentioned them when I explored Yelich’s trade value last week), adding the 26-year-old Yelich to the fold would involve dealing heavily from their depth to add a player who seems more of a luxury than a necessity.