- Indians catcher Yan Gomes, too, is back earlier than expected, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports (Twitter links). Expectations are that he’ll only be available for the time being to play behind the plate, as he’s still regaining strength in his wrist after suffering a fracture. Manager Terry Francona says that Gomes is able to hit, but won’t do so in game action just yet. It’s unclear whether he’ll be under consideration for a spot in the ALDS roster, but given the limitations perhaps a return for the ALCS would be more plausible — if Cleveland can advance and decides to roll the dice on a player who has missed much of the year and has failed to produce at the plate when healthy.
The Indians hope to re-sign first baseman Mike Napoli this winter, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. It’s not known whether the club will issue the veteran slugger a qualifying offer, he adds.
There certainly seems to be mutual interest, and Cleveland still could use a first baseman/DH to pair with Carlos Santana — whose option seems all but certain to be exercised. Napoli has performed well, swatting 34 home runs in 631 plate appearances and compiling a .242/.338/.473 slash. And he seems to have taken up an important place in the clubhouse.
Still, there are limits to the veteran’s value. He certainly isn’t young, and his total output adjusts to a 116 wRC+ and 106 OPS+, which isn’t exactly world-beating for a player with his defensive limitations. When it comes to the glove, Napoli received negative ratings from both UZR and DRS after previously rating as a quality defender at first.
All said, it’s easy to see both the cause for the continued interest but also for the questions over how much to spend. At $16.7MM, the qualifying offer seems rather steep — particularly with numerous other slugging types set to reach the open market — and it’s not impossible to imagine him accepting.
The best case for Napoli, of course, would be to hit free agency without the necessity of draft compensation hanging over him, as that could significantly tamp down market interest. He will be seeking multiple years this winter, Heyman notes, after settling for a one-year, $7MM contract with the Indians — as well as up to $2MM in plate appearance bonuses that he may max out — following a disappointing 2015 campaign.
While there’s no indication that team and player have discussed a new contract at this point, it’s possible to imagine discussions taking place before the qualifying offer deadline (or while Napoli is mulling it, if issued). Ultimately, it may be that some kind of two-year accommodation to keep Napoli in Cleveland could make sense for all involved.
There were some conflicting indications today about what the Indians can expect from outfielder Michael Brantley in 2017. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag cited sources who suggested that Brantley was at risk of “miss[ing] significant time next year” after undergoing shoulder surgery, but that’s not quite how the team sees it.
Both Brantley and Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti contested the idea that such a scenario was likely, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. “I’m out again?” Brantley queried. “Maybe he knows something I don’t.”
Antonetti reiterated, as he had to Heyman, that the team has not learned anything that would change the initial timeline. Doctors have indicated that the star outfielder would need four to five months to recover from his mid-August surgery date, which would leave him ready to go for Spring Training.
Of course, there still seems to be a fair bit of uncertainty in Brantley’s situation. After all, it had been expected that he’d return to full health for the majority of the 2016 campaign, but the 29-year-old appeared in only 11 games. While it seems there’s hope that the full scope of his shoulder troubles have been identified and addressed, he isn’t exactly dealing with a straightforward issue.
Cleveland has rather remarkably succeeded without Brantley, arguably the team’s best position player, but that doesn’t make him any less important moving forward. He is guaranteed just one more season under his previous extension, with the Indians also possessing a $11MM option (with a $1MM buyout) over his 2018 campaign.
We’ll track today’s minor moves here:
- The Indians have outrighted southpaw T.J. House after designating him for assignment recently, the club announced. As the team notes, House is eligible to elect minor league free agency, meaning he could elect to test the open market. Though he has shown a fair bit of promise in his limited major league opportunities, House has struggled to return to form after losing much of his 2015 season to shoulder issues. He has pitched mostly at the Triple-A level this year, much of it out of the pen, with 72 1/3 innings on his ledger. Though House has posted a 3.98 ERA, he has done so while compiling just 6.2 K/9 against 5.4 BB/9.
- The Indians announced some relatively good news following an MRI for ace Corey Kluber. The test revealed a mild quad strain for Kluber, per the club, but the Cy Young candidate dodged a potentially more serious groin injury. He’ll be ready to return to game action in seven to 10 days, per the Indians, which obviously rules him out for the remainder of the regular season but gives him time to recover for the American League Division Series, which begins on Thursday, Oct. 6.
As if the Indians needed another rotation injury question mark, ace Corey Kluber left yesterday’s contest with a groin strain. Fortunately, the matter does not appear to be of major concern, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kluber was pulled mostly for precautionary reasons — with the division already in hand, Cleveland has little reason to push him. Instead, manager Terry Francona suggested, the aim is “to get him healthy” with the postseason beckoning.
TODAY: Both Picollo and McLeod have been informed that they are “out” of the race for the Twins’ top job, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. Minnesota has still not announced anything, though if Falvey is indeed the hire, the Twins may just be waiting for him to celebrate the AL Central crown with the Indians (which was locked up last night).
YESTERDAY, 11:43am: Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger both caution that the team’s executive search “is still ongoing” (links to Twitter), and the team has, of course, yet to make an announcement on the hiring.
10:34am: The Twins will indeed hire Falvey to oversee their baseball operations department, tweets ESPN’s Keith Law.
10:33am: Indians assistant general manager Derek Falvey has emerged as the “distinct favorite” to be named the new president of baseball operations for the Twins, reports Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). An official hiring could come soon, according to Passan. TwinsDaily.com’s Jeremy Nygaard first tweeted last night that he’d heard Falvey was going to land the job.
The Twins have been linked to a number of young executives as they look for a replacement for recently dismissed GM Terry Ryan. Among the other names known to be in the mix are Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom, Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and Cubs senior vice president of player development Jason McLeod. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that McLeod interviewed last week and was informed by the Twins on Friday that they planned to go in a different direction with their hire. Falvey, meanwhile, was said by Passan to be a “strong candidate” back on Sept. 15.
The 33-year-old Falvey will become one of baseball’s youngest executives and represents a significant departure from the status quo for Minnesota. His rise to the position of president is a surprise to say the least, as he’s spent less than one full season as an assistant GM. Falvey was promoted to that post last October in conjunction with the promotions of Chris Antonetti to president of baseball operations and Mike Chernoff to general manager. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as Cleveland’s director of baseball operations. The Boston native holds a degree in economics from Trinity College, where he also played baseball, and has contributed to the Cleveland front office in many capacities. In addition to his longstanding role in the team’s player development process, Falvey has overseen the advanced scouting department and worked with Antonetti and Chernoff on “financial, statistical and contractual dealings,” per the Indians’ media guide.
Falvey figures to be the first of multiple new hires for the Twins, who reportedly will allow their new president to hire a general manager to work underneath him as well. Beyond that, changes atop a baseball operations hierarchy often lead to personnel shuffling further down the pecking order, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if further new faces join the Minnesota front office. One name that won’t be changing, however, is manager Paul Molitor, whom owner Jim Pohlad has already stated will remain his manager in 2017.
- As part of a reader mailbag piece, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opined that the Indians probably aren’t likely to shop Giovanny Urshela this season now that Jose Ramirez looks like an answer at third base. Urshela is a gifted defender but he has posted just a .608 OPS over his 288 career PA in the majors and a .269/.302/.402 career slash line over eight minor league seasons. Other teams may not be willing to give up much in a trade for a player who has shown so little at the plate.
- Also facing postseason roster decisions with a key arm are the Indians, who are hoping that righty Danny Salazar can return — albeit as a reliever, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Salazar is still not ready for mound work, but has begun rebuilding arm strength in hopes that he can be ready for a possible relief role in the ALDS. For now, it’s still a measured process. “If he starts to feel real good, they can speed it up,” said manager Terry Francona.
House has provided useful innings at the major league level when called upon, but hasn’t received a full shot since his promising run in 2014. He dealt with shoulder injuries last year, and hasn’t exactly had a smooth year at Triple-A.
Over his 72 1/3 innings at the highest level of the minors in 2016, House carries a 3.98 ERA. That number isn’t concerning in its own right, but he may have been fortunate to limit the damage to the extent he has. House has coughed up 89 hits and 43 walks while retiring only fifty batters via strikeout. House also has spent significantly more time than ever before working from the pen (21 appearances) rather than the rotation (12 starts).
As for Plutko, 24, the 2016 season will now bring both his Triple-A and his major league debut. Over his 90 innings at Columbus, following a strong run early on at Double-A, Plutko caries a 4.10 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.