- Though indications had been that the Indians may be able to receive a contribution from righty Danny Salazar in the ALCS, it turns out he won’t quite be ready, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. “He’s doing pretty well, but he’s not back to throwing all his pitches or letting it go at 100 percent,” said manager Terry Francona. With the team’s “first priority being about getting him back healthy,” said the skipper, Salazar won’t be pushed.
The Indians continue to see progress from right Danny Salazar, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports. He is readying for a sim game today or tomorrow as he works to return from a forearm strain, after which Cleveland will determine whether he’s ready to work from the bullpen in the upcoming ALCS. That would provide the Indians with a notable boost to a bullpen that figures to be a key to the team’s chances.
- An important reinforcement could be on the way for the Indians, who will have a chance to sweep the Red Sox on Sunday to advance to the ALCS. Injured right-hander Danny Salazar threw a 35-pitch bullpen session in Arizona on Friday and is hoping to come back from a month-long absence if the Indians advance, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Salazar started in all 25 of his regular-season appearances before succumbing to a forearm strain in early September, but he’ll work out of the bullpen in the event of a return. As of now, Salazar is only throwing fastballs and changeups because his curveball was his main source of discomfort, per Bastian.
The Twins have officially announced that they’ve hired Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey as their executive vice president and chief baseball officer. Falvey will join the Twins once the Indians’ season is over. Rob Antony will continue as interim GM until then. Twins Daily’s Jeremy Nygaard and ESPN’s Keith Law were among the first to tweet that the Twins would hire Falvey, with Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweeting that Falvey had emerged as a favorite.
“I believe the addition of Derek Falvey to the Minnesota Twins will markedly enhance our organizational excellence and bring championship baseball back to Minnesota,” says Twins Owner Jim Pohlad.
“It’s a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the Twins baseball operation. This is a proud, resilient franchise, and I’m eager to return championship-caliber baseball to the Twin Cities,” says Falvey. “We will work diligently and collectively to select and develop top-performers, advance our processes, and nurture a progressive culture that will make fans across Twins Territory proud.”
The Twins had 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 have been in the mix were Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom, Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and Cubs senior vice president of player development Jason McLeod.
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.
Indians manager Terry Francona announced Saturday that Trevor Bauer, not Cy Young hopeful Corey Kluber, will start Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday (via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com). Kluber will then take the ball in Game 2 against the Boston. Those two would also start the fourth and fifth games of the series, if necessary, with Josh Tomlin handling Game 3. Kluber has been dealing with a mild quad strain, which the Indians think makes Bauer a better fit for both the first and fourth games – the latter of which would come on three days’ rest. Bauer wrapped up his regular season Saturday with a quality start in a win over the Royals, giving him a 4.26 ERA, 7.96 K/9, 3.32 BB/9 and 48.7 percent ground-ball rate in a career-high 190 innings.
- 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.