3:53pm: Bastian tweets that from an operational standpoint, little will change with the Indians. The new titles reflect the way in which the team has operated for several years, per Antonetti.
11:06am: The Indians have announced a widely-anticipated series of front office promotions. Chris Antonetti will move into the newly-minted position of president of baseball operations, with Mike Chernoff stepping into the general manager role.
To an extent, the move was precipitated by the departure of former president Mark Shapiro. But Antonetti will remain atop the baseball operations department rather than stepping into Shapiro’s broader, business-oriented role, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes on Twitter.
Antonetti, 41, served as the Indians’ GM for five years after a lengthy stint as Shapiro’s right-hand man. Among his most notable achievements are a series of appealing extensions, many of them with high-performing players that the organization acquired at a discount. Under Antonetti’s leadership, Cleveland has locked up Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, and Carlos Santana on the position player side as well as Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco among its pitchers.
The club that Antonetti compiled this year fell somewhat shy of expectations. After a 2013 playoff berth and 85-win campaign last year, the team’s array of excellent starters made it a popular pick to reach the post-season. Instead, the club landed at 81-80, though it did manage a late run at Wild Card relevance.
There’s still plenty to like about the team’s young talent, even if it didn’t reach its ceiling this season. In addition to those noted above, players such as Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Cody Allen are all controlled for the foreseeable future.
Tasked with turning that impressive core into a consistent winner will be the 34-year-old Chernoff. The Princeton grad has been with the organization since 2003, but drew plenty of interest from other organizations that were seeking general managers. But he and the team rebuffed those overtures, preferring instead to structure this internal promotion.
Cleveland also announced that it would account for the upward movement of Chernoff with another internal move. Former director of baseball operations Derek Falvey will become the assistant GM in the new front office structure.
The front office combination has some flexibility to work with despite a generally meager spending capacity. The organization has yet to crack $90MM in Opening Day payroll, but has a decent bit of uncommitted potential cash over the next several seasons — even after committing future salary to the significant players listed above.