The Indians have informed several players, including three who aren’t currently on the 40-man roster, that they’ve made the Opening Day club, Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon-Journal tweets. Right-handers Dominic Leone, Cam Hill, James Karinchak and Phil Maton; infielders Mike Freeman, Yu Chang and Christian Arroyo; and outfielders Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer have all made the roster to begin the year. Leone, Hill and Freeman will each need to be added to the 40-man roster.
The team has also informed a quartet of players that they won’t open the year on the 30-man roster. That includes first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers and righties Jefry Rodriguez, James Hoyt and Hunter Wood. That Wood won’t be on the Opening Day roster is of particular note, as he is out of minor league options and thus cannot be sent down to alternate camp without first being run through outright waivers.
It seems likely, then, that some form of 40-man move involving Wood will help to pave the way for the three non-roster players who’ve made the squad. Cleveland currently has 39 players on the 40-man roster, and Delino DeShields isn’t counting against the group either while on the Covid-19 injured list.
The 28-year-old Leone has the most big league experience of the bunch, having logged 243 1/3 innings of relief dating back to his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2014. Leone’s past two seasons with the Cardinals went poorly, as he worked to a combined 5.15 ERA and 4.77 FIP in 64 2/3 frames, but the righty was excellent for the Jays as recently as 2017, when he pitched 70 2/3 innings with a 2.56 ERA and better than 10 punchouts per nine frames. In all, Leone joins the Indians’ bullpen with a career 3.92 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.15 HR/9 and a 43.6 percent grounder rate.
Freeman, who’ll turn 33 early next month, should be a familiar face for Cleveland fans after suiting up for 75 games there in 2019. Last year with the Indians, Freeman played second base, shortstop, third base, left field and even pitched two innings. Along the way, Freeman hit .272/.362/.390 with four homers and eight doubles — good for a 97 OPS+. That’s a solid showing from a part-time player, and although he had to work his way back on another minor league deal, Freeman clearly impressed the club enough to stick around as a depth piece.
Hill, meanwhile, has never pitched in the Majors, so this’ll mark the 26-year-old’s debut season. A 17th-round pick by the Indians back in 2014, Hill has just a 4.81 ERA in 43 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level but impressed the club with a strong effort this spring (five innings, one run) and summer. He ranked near the back of the organization’s top prospect list at FanGraphs this year, where Eric Longenhagen wrote that Hill has “nasty” stuff but sub-par control that causes some concern.
Wood, 26, has plenty of success with the Rays in his first season-plus at the MLB level before being traded to Cleveland alongside Arroyo last summer. He posted decent numbers with the Indians following the trade and carries a career 3.32 ERA and 4.04 FIP in 86 2/3 MLB frames, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see him on the outside looking in. It’s quite possible that another club with more questionable bullpen depth would have interest in swinging a deal for Wood, who has high-end spin and above-average velocity on his four-seamer. Barring that, he could generate interest on the waiver wire.