It “sounds like” the Indians are done making significant moves this offseason, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. However, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told Hoynes that under the right circumstances, he would part with the team’s first-round pick in order to sign a free agent. Obviously, Cleveland doesn’t have a strong history of signing players with draft pick compensation attached to them, but Cleveland did surrender a pick when signing Michael Bourn to a four-year deal prior to the 2013 season (though clearly, the results of that move weren’t what the club had hoped). It’s difficult to envision the Indians surrendering a pick to pay top-of-the-market value for a free agent, but if a player’s asking price drops considerably (as was the case with Bourn, compared to early expectations that offseason), one can envision the Indians entering the mix. Remaining players that are tied to draft pick compensation include Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Chris Davis, Ian Desmond, Howie Kendrick, Dexter Fowler, Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy are tied to compensation. It’s difficult to envision any of the pitchers, Kendrick or Desmond as a fit, but any of the outfielders makes some sense on paper.
A few more notes on the Indians…
- Cleveland is still interested in veteran third baseman Juan Uribe, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney in his daily Insider-only blog post. The Indians currently project to use some combination of Giovanny Urshela and Jose Ramirez at third base now that Lonnie Chisenhall has transitioned to the outfield and Chris Johnson has been released. Uribe, though he’ll play next season at the age of 37, still graded out as an above-average defender at the hot corner in 2015 and posted a respectable .253/320/.417 batting line with 14 homers in 397 plate appearances between the Dodgers, Braves and Mets.
- Olney also notes that the Indians are still monitoring the free-agent market for relief pitching. Behind closer Cody Allen, the Indians will deploy some combination of right-handers Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister, Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong and lefties Kyle Crockett and Giovanni Soto. Cleveland also has some MLB veterans that will be in camp as non-roster invitees, including Joba Chamberlain, Joe Thatcher, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny and Felipe Paulino; that group will be in the mix for bullpen spots as well. But, given the lack of proven names that are locks for roster spots, there does appear to be room for another veteran arm on a Major League deal.
- In a full column, Hoynes breaks down the Indians’ 2016 payroll picture, given the current roster construction. Hoynes notes that the 25-man roster figures to come in around $70MM in terms of payroll, but the significant sums owed to Johnson, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn — none of whom are with the team anymore — will push Cleveland closer to $90MM. While that figure still rates as one of the lower team payrolls across the league, it’s also greater than the upper-$80MM marks that Cleveland has fielded on Opening Day for the past few seasons. Hoynes also notes that as the salaries of the team’s core players such as Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes escalate over the course of their guaranteed contracts, the team won’t be able to maintain payrolls in this range, unless they’re to trade players away from that core.
- Antonetti and Mike Napoli spoke to the Cleveland media today after the formal announcement of Napoli’s one-year deal, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. Napoli said he’s been told he’ll receive regular playing time at first base for Cleveland this season, meaning Carlos Santana’s role will be primarily designated hitter. Antonetti explained that the club did a good deal of research on Napoli’s poor start to the 2015 campaign. “There were some adjustments Mike made with his swing,” Antonetti said, “some small tweaks mechanically that he made once he arrived in Texas that got him back to the point where he’s had success in the past.” As Bastian notes, Napoli underwent a maxillomandibular advancement surgical procedure last winter in order to re-align his jaw, chin and sinuses in order to alleviate a severe case of sleep apnea that has plagued him for years. While that cost Napoli much of his offseason training regimen, the veteran wouldn’t use that as an excuse, noting that he was able to have a productive Spring Training before struggling once the season began.
- Jon Heyman reports the breakdown of Napoli’s one-year deal with Cleveland (Twitter link). Napoli will receive a $7MM base salary plus $500K bonuses for reaching 500, 550, 600, 625 and 645 plate appearances, meaning he can max out his contract at $10MM.
- Heyman also tweets the incentive structure of Rajai Davis’ contract with Cleveland. In addition to his $5.25MM base, Davis will earn $175K for every 25 plate appearances from 400 to 550, allowing him to earn a total of $1.225MM in incentives.