- Superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor is under Indians control for the next five seasons, including two pre-arbitration years, but Zack Meisel of cleveland.com wonders how much the Tribe would have to pay to keep him in the fold for longer. Noting that the Indians would like to buy out at least one free agent year, Meisel proposes a six-year extension worth between $65MM and $75MM. Such a deal would indeed keep Lindor with the Indians for an extra season, and it would make him the first shortstop with between one and two years’ service time to ink an extension since then-Brave Andrelton Simmons (1.125 years) signed a seven-year, $58MM deal that bought out two free agent years in February 2014. At that point, the defensive virtuoso was a .256/.304/.400 hitter who had swatted 20 home runs, stolen seven bases and accounted for 6.6 fWAR over his initial 840 plate appearances. Lindor, who has one year and 113 days of service time, owns a .306/.356/.454 line, 27 homers, 31 steals and 10.4 fWAR in 1,122 PAs. He’s also an elite-caliber defender.
While the image of father and son playing catch is a core part of baseball lore, it doesn’t always happen quite that way. Indians starter Carlos Carrasco penned an interesting post at the Player’s Tribune detailing how he got started in the game as a youngster — urged on by his mother. Carrasco traces his path — including a pizza binge driven by his still-developing English language skills — on the way to becoming a top-quality big leaguer with a nice contract. The culmination isn’t just his on-field success, though; it’s about his own young family and recent achievement of U.S. citizenship.
Indians right-hander Cody Anderson will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season, the team announced (Twitter link via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com). Anderson made the decision after a second opinion confirmed both a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and a mild flexor strain.
The unfortunate news for Anderson comes as an unexpected development, as manager Terry Francona indicated earlier this month that the 26-year-old would likely avoid surgery. Instead, Anderson will undergo the second procedure on his elbow since November, when he had arthroscopic surgery.
Anderson would not have cracked an Indians rotation that’s set to feature Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. However, he likely would have factored into the equation this year as either starting depth and/or in a long relief role. He made 19 appearances, nine of which were starts, for the American League champions last year and pitched to an unsightly 6.68 ERA in 60 2/3 innings, though he encouraged with his K/9 (8.01), BB/9 (1.93) and swinging-strike rate (12.2 percent). Anderson also saw his average fastball velocity jump from 92.1 mph in 2015 to 93.5 mph last year. That came after a 2015 debut in which Anderson pitched to a sparkling 3.05 ERA in 91 1/3 innings and 15 appearances (all starts), albeit with worse numbers in the other categories (4.34 K/9, 2.36 BB/9 and 7.8 percent swinging-strike rate).
Anderson, who’s in his penultimate season of pre-arbitration eligibility, will lose a year of service time as he spends 2017 recovering on the disabled list. Meanwhile, more opportunities could come this season for any of Hoby Millner, Mike Clevinger or 2016 postseason hero Ryan Merritt, among others (depth chart).
In another less-than-ideal development for the Indians, second baseman Jason Kipnis is roughly four to five weeks from returning to major league action. Kipnis went for a second opinion on his bothersome right shoulder, and Dr. Keith Meister concurred with Indians doctors that he’s dealing with inflammation. If the Kipnis-less Indians don’t venture outside the organization for help at the keystone, they could turn to in-house options Erik Gonzalez, Michael Martinez or Ronny Rodriguez. Alternatively, Francona said this week that third baseman Jose Ramirez could head to second, which would leave the hot corner to Gonzalez, Giovanny Urshela or Richie Shaffer (Twitter link via Bastian).
On a positive note, Michael Brantley will make his spring debut on Monday and play left field. An integral cog from 2014-15, when he slashed an outstanding .319/.382/.494 with 35 home runs and 38 steals across 1,272 plate appearances, Brantley totaled just 11 PAs last year on account of shoulder troubles. The 29-year-old underwent shoulder surgery in November 2015 and again last August.
- After a wild offseason that saw Richie Shaffer become property of five different teams, he may now be emerging as a candidate for the Indians’ Opening Day roster, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. Shaffer is hitting very well in spring action and his ability to play first base, third base and both corner outfield slots serves him well on a Cleveland team that is looking for flexibility with Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley both facing DL stints to start the season.
- The Indians received positive health updates on two critical players, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Carlos Carrasco is ready to begin throwing again, with the organization expressing optimism that his elbow soreness was little more than a blip. Meanwhile, outfielder Michael Brantley “feels good” after a five-inning appearance on the minor-league side of camp. His shoulder health remains a major variable for the defending American League champs.
In his latest notes column, FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports that while teams such as the Astros, Pirates, Rangers and Yankees were all linked to Jose Quintana in trade rumors this offseason, the best offer the White Sox received came from an unnamed club that is currently perceived as more of a rebuilding team. That could mean any number of teams — the Braves, Phillies, Twins, Reds, Brewers and Padres are all in the midst of retooling their organizations — and further context is seemingly unknown at this time. A trade of Quintana, at this point, seems far likelier to occur this summer than during the final days of Spring Training, though Heyman’s note is a reminder that Quintana would appeal to virtually any club in baseball. With four years and $36.85MM remaining on his contract, Quintana’s affordable level of excellence can help clubs looking to win now or those looking to contend more in 2018-19.
A few more highlights…
- The Braves have made “multiple” attempts to sign free-agent outfielder Angel Pagan, but the veteran has been holding out for a big league deal worth around $5MM. Heyman notes that Pagan has received some guaranteed offers, but they’ve come with very low base salaries. Atlanta has also been tied to another reunion with infielder Kelly Johnson, but Heyman notes that Johnson, too, is seeking a Major League contract.
- Zack Cozart is still available in trade talks, but the Reds haven’t gotten much in the way of appealing offers due to the fact that few clubs are looking for a shortstop right now. The Padres have talked to Cincinnati about Cozart, but Heyman notes that they’re not keen on giving up top-tier talent for a player with only one year of club control remaining before free agency. Heyman notes that San Diego is still on the lookout for a shortstop upgrade.
- The Rangers would want a Major League ready starting pitcher in any trade involving Jurickson Profar, Heyman notes. The Padres like Profar but wouldn’t be willing to surrender right-hander Luis Perdomo in order to obtain him, he adds. That may raise an eyebrow for some fans, but I’d point out that Perdomo has five years of control remaining (to Profar’s three) and posted a 4.47 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 61.4 percent ground-ball rate across his final 110 2/3 innings in 2016 after a dismal start in the bullpen. In that time, he posted a 3.84 xFIP and 3.88 SIERA. Profar hit .239/.321/.338 in 307 plate appearances last season.
- Right-hander Jered Weaver tells Heyman that he considered retirement this offseason following a career-worst year in 2016. However, Weaver began to feel stronger after a month of rest, ultimately landing with the Padres on a one-year, $3MM deal. Weaver says that he’s “10 steps above last year” in terms of how he feels physically at this point.
- The Indians made an offer to Jose Bautista that was for roughly the same $18.5MM guarantee he received with the Blue Jays, Heyman reports, and they weren’t entirely closed off to a multi-year deal. However, Bautista’s preference was to head back to Toronto.
- The Pirates sought right-hander Derek Law (among other pieces) in trade talks centering around Mark Melancon with the Giants at last year’s trade deadline, per Heyman. It seems that the Pirates were focused on adding an MLB-ready replacement arm for the bullpen in Melancon talks, which they received in the form of left-hander Felipe Rivero. San Francisco, of course, signed Melancon to a four-year deal this winter.
Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco underwent an MRI to check out some swelling in his right elbow, but the test revealed no structural damage, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter links). Nonetheless, manager Terry Francona informed reporters that Carrasco will have at least his next spring start pushed back. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway noted that Carrasco’s fastball was “really flat” in his most recent outing on Monday, Bastian adds, though it doesn’t seem as if there’s any major injury serving as a deterrent to the right-hander. Carrasco missed some time due to injuries last season, though nothing pertaining to his elbow. Rather, the 29-year-old was plagued by a broken hand and a strained hamstring. He hasn’t been on the DL due to an elbow injury since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011. Last year, Carrasco logged a 3.32 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 48.5 percent ground-ball rate in 146 1/3 innings.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been shut down for at least two weeks due to a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, as the team announced recently, and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Kipnis is slated to receive a second opinion on his injury at the end of next week. As Hoynes noted in an earlier column, Kipnis isn’t likely to be ready for the season opener, which has the team mulling possible alternatives at second base.
Manager Terry Francona acknowledged that the team could move Jose Ramirez from third base to second base while Kipnis is absent, playing Giovanny Urshela in Ramirez’s place at the hot corner. Ramirez, currently tabbed as Cleveland’s everyday third baseman on the heels of a breakout 2016 campaign, indicated that he’d be perfectly comfortable playing second base. “I’ll play anywhere,” the switch-hitting 24-year-old tells Hoynes.
Alternatively, any of the three options that’re currently vying for the utility infield job in Cleveland could serve as a short-term bridge. That includes young Erik Gonzalez and non-roster invitees Michael Martinez and Ronny Rodriguez. The 25-year-old Gonzalez, already on the 40-man roster, posted a strong .296/.329/.450 batting line in Triple-A last season, making him a seemingly appealing candidate if the team’s need is only short-term in nature.
Adding a player from outside the organization, Francona notes, isn’t necessary if Kipnis isn’t going to be sidelined more than a week or so to open the season. Hoynes notes that for the time being, the team’s top priority is to determine exactly how long the injury will keep Kipnis sidelined. Kipnis and Francona indicated that if this were midseason, Kipnis could potentially play through the injury, though the concern stems from the fact that Kipnis began feeling some discomfort even in non-baseball activities.
Renowned surgeon Dr. Keith Meister will be in camp next Thursday or Friday, according to Hoynes, at which point he’ll examine both Kipnis and right-hander Cody Anderson, who has previously been diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
If it’s deemed that the Indians do need to go outside the organization to add some infield depth, veteran Kelly Johnson remains unsigned this winter. Alternatively, Cleveland could look to any number of players that are out of minor league options and appear to be long shots to make their current organization’s roster at the end of Spring Training. Some of those players may become available on waivers later this month as well.
The sore right shoulder that has bothered Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis this spring will likely keep him out to begin the regular season, manager Terry Francona revealed Sunday (via Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer). Kipnis made his Cactus League debut as a designated hitter Thursday, before which he told Hoynes that throwing the ball – not swinging the bat – has caused him pain. However, on the heels of the Indians playing Kipnis in back-to-back games as a DH (the second of which took place Friday), they’ll shut him down for two weeks. While “nothing has gone haywire” in Kipnis’ recovery, according to Francona, the team is being careful because “it’s such a long season.”
- The Indians agreed to a $579,300 salary with star shortstop Francisco Lindor. A well-rounded performer at just 23 years of age, Lindor made his first All-Star team after landing just shy of Correa in the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year voting. It’ll be interesting to see whether the sides continue to talk money over the next few years in an effort to reach a long-term deal.