Cleveland Indians – MLB Trade Rumors https://www.mlbtraderumors.com Tue, 24 Apr 2018 15:15:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Indians To Sign Melky Cabrera https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/indians-to-sign-melky-cabrera.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/indians-to-sign-melky-cabrera.html#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2018 03:27:32 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120675 The Indians have reportedly agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera. Tenchy Rodriguez of ESPN Deportes Radio first tweeted the news.

Cabrera, 33, went unsigned over the just-completed offseason after a poor finish to his 2017 campaign with the Royals. But he had been an above-average offensive performer in the first half of the season and ended with an overall .285/.324/.423 slash line and 17 home runs for the year.

The switch-hitting Cabrera has turned in quality output at times with the bat, with approximately equal success against both left- and right-handed pitching, though he has rarely strung together good seasons in succession. In his thirteen total seasons at the game’s highest level, he carries a cumulative .286/.335/.418 batting line with 131 home runs. Cabrera has never been regarded highly for his glovework, though, and has also graded poorly on the bases in recent seasons.

Despite the inconsistencies, Cabrera’s most recent contract prior to this one paid him rather handsomely. On the heels of a quality 2014 effort with the Blue Jays, he inked a three-year, $42MM deal with the White Sox.

For the Indians, there’s little risk in giving Cabrera a shot at rediscovering his offensive form. While the club is pacing the AL Central, they have just three players currently sporting above-average overall work at the plate. Cabrera could provide an option as a DH or in the corner outfield, though he’ll surely need some time ramping up before he’ll be ready to join the MLB roster.

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Indians Acquire Jon Berti https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/minor-mlb-transactions-42118.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/minor-mlb-transactions-42118.html#comments Sat, 21 Apr 2018 23:58:49 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120510
  • The Indians have acquired utility player Jon Berti from the Blue Jays for cash considerations, according to announcements from both teams. Berti will join Triple-A Columbus with Cleveland, which will be his second organization since Toronto chose him in the 18th round of the 2011 draft. The 28-year-old Berti ascended to Triple-A in 2015 and has since hit .212/.282/.314 in 433 PAs at the minors’ highest level.
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    Quick Hits: BLA, Hernandez, Napoli https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/quick-hits-bla-hernandez-napoli.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/quick-hits-bla-hernandez-napoli.html#comments Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:56:35 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120480 Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently did a deep dive into the company known as Big League Advance, whose business model involves lump sum payments to minor-leaguers in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings. MLBTR readers might best know BLA as the company entrenched in a legal battle with top prospect Francisco Mejia of the Indians. Rosenthal’s piece goes into detail far beyond Mejia alone, and he notes at one point that BLA claims to have recently signed its 100th player. Players such as Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jose Osuna have benefitted from the lump sum payments BLA offers; the former is using the money to invest in his health, nutrition and conditioning, while the latter claims the money allows him to focus on baseball by reducing the stress of wondering how he’ll support his family. Others around baseball, however, claim that BLA uses predatory tactics to pressure young players into giving up significant money on the whole; indeed they’ve admitted to intentionally bypassing agents to talk with players directly. It seems that the major focus of Rosenthal’s piece is the upside and downside of BLA’s presence in baseball. My biggest takeaway from reading the piece is that there ought to be a serious discussion in the near future about how (or if) MLB ought to be involved in regulating companies like BLA.

    More from around the league…

    • It was widely assumed that Scott Kingery’s surprise extension and resulting presence on the Phillies’ MLB roster would sap at least some playing time from incumbent second baseman Cesar Hernandez. That hasn’t been the case, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki points out. Hernandez has actually started 18 of 19 games for the club this season, and while Kingery is a second baseman by trade, he’s played that position just twice so far at the MLB level. Instead, he’s spent time at shortstop, third and right field. Zolecki posits that while Hernandez may have seemed like an obvious trade deadline candidate at the season’s outset, it’s now difficult to see the Phillies dealing him due to his offensive impact and the uncertainty surrounding Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford. Manager Gabe Kapler’s comments certainly strengthen that line of thinking: “We knew how Cesar’s track record suggested that he’s one of the better second baseman in baseball,” he said. “And now we’re blessed to see it every single day. It’s really exciting to look out there and see a guy that consistent. It’s really nice for a manager to have Cesar at the top of the lineup.”
    • Mike Napoli’s season-ending surgery obviously doesn’t necessarily mean the end of his career. But Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal has some interesting comments from Terry Francona suggesting that he believes Napoli (who was playing with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate prior to the injury) will be an excellent coach if and when the time comes for him to hang up his spikes. “I’m not saying he’s done playing, I just mean if he chooses to start to be on this side of the field, my guess is he’ll be even better than he was as a player,” Francona said. It’s certainly a fair point; Napoli is well-known for his clubhouse leadership, and especially in Cleveland during their 2016 playoff run.
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    Mike Napoli Suffers Torn ACL, Meniscus In Right Knee https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/mike-napoli-suffers-significant-knee-injury.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/mike-napoli-suffers-significant-knee-injury.html#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:09:36 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120329 April 20: The Indians announced that Napoli has a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee that will require season-ending surgery. The procedure comes with an estimated recovery time of anywhere from 10 to 14 months, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link).

    April 18: The Indians announced that veteran first baseman Mike Napoli suffered a “significant” right knee injury while playing with their Triple-A club in Columbus last night. He’s expected to miss an “extended amount of time,” per the team, though specifics of his timeline or the nature of the injury remain unclear.

    Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Indians skipper Terry Francona in relaying that Napoli was injured when chasing down a foul pop early in the game (Twitter link). The injury sounds grim, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian adds that Francona suggested that if this proves to be the end of Napoli’s playing career, he has the ability to “make an impact” on the game in his post-playing days.

    The 36-year-old Napoli signed a minor league contract with Cleveland this offseason and agreed to report to Triple-A when he didn’t make the club in Spring Training. He’s gotten off to a 1-for-24 start, though his lone hit was a home run and he’s also drawn seven walks.

    Napoli was a fan favorite virtually everywhere he’s played later in his career and was especially popular in his first stint with Cleveland in 2016, when he hit .239/.335/.465 with 34 homers and helped the Indians reach the World Series. His 2017 season with the Rangers wasn’t as successful, as he posted a more tepid .193/.285/.428 slash with a career-worst 33.6 percent strikeout rate.

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    Indians Notes: Urshela, Gonzalez, JDM https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/central-notes-brewers-hader-indians-jdm-reds.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/central-notes-brewers-hader-indians-jdm-reds.html#comments Sun, 15 Apr 2018 17:28:05 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=120066
  • With Gio Urshela nearing a return from the disabled list, it’s likely the Indians will soon have to decide between him and fellow out-of-options infielder Erik Gonzalez, Ben Weinrib of MLB.com writes. Attempting to send either Urshela or Gonzalez to the minors would leave that player exposed to waivers. Cleveland has been able to put off an Urshela-Gonzalez choice since last month because of the right hamstring strain the former suffered, but he started a rehab assignment Friday and is on track to come back within the next couple weeks. If the Indians make this call based on career offensive production, the edge goes to Gonzalez. While he’s only a .250/.275/.386 hitter in 139 plate appearances, that easily outdoes Urshela’s .225/.273/.314 line in 453 PAs.
  • More on the Indians, who tried to bolster their World Series chances last year with a J.D. Martinez deadline addition. They were in on the slugging outfielder before the division-rival Tigers shipped him to Arizona in mid-July, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com reports. The Indians ultimately ended up getting fellow outfielder Jay Bruce a couple weeks later in a deal with the Mets, and while he was effective in Cleveland, Martinez was otherworldly in regular-season action with Arizona. Still, the Martinez-less Indians managed a ridiculous 22 consecutive victories from late August through mid-September en route to a 102-win campaign. Further, it’s anyone’s guess whether Martinez would’ve made a bigger difference in their five-game ALDS loss to the Yankees than Bruce, who slashed .278/.333/.667 with two home runs in 18 at-bats. Martinez, now with the Red Sox, ended his short D-backs career with a .267/.313/.467 line and a homer in 15 ABs in their four-game NLDS loss to the Dodgers.
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    Indians Prospect Francisco Mejia Embroiled In Legal Dispute Over Future Earnings https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/indians-prospect-francisco-mejia-embroiled-in-legal-dispute-over-future-earnings.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/indians-prospect-francisco-mejia-embroiled-in-legal-dispute-over-future-earnings.html#comments Sat, 14 Apr 2018 05:07:47 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119960 Indians prospect Francisco Mejia, who is generally considered one of the game’s very best prospects, has brought suit against an entity known as Big League Advance, according to a report from ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. The litigation seeks to set aside a series of contracts between Mejia and BLA.

    The precise nature of the agreements is itself evidently a subject of the lawsuit. Generally, though, the arrangement was for Mejia to receive a payment ($360K in this case) in exchange for a portion (10%) of his future earnings. Mejia clams the up-front money was in the nature of a loan, whereas BLA characterizes it as a no-strings-attached payment.

    This general scheme shares plenty in common with Fantex, which previously struck some notable bargains with young MLB players. Of course, that company originally sought to sell “shares” of its investments to the general public, a novel marketing concept that seems not to have worked in practice. The BLA approach appears to be more of a hedge fund model and is (per its website) focused on pre-MLB players. Unlike players who are already in the majors, many prospects’ earnings are somewhat less certain and presumably can, therefore, be secured for lesser investments.

    Unsurprisingly, Mejia’s allegations paint a less savory account of BLA’s business model than would the entity itself. CEO Michael Schwimer, a former MLB pitcher, denied that the organization utilizes abusive recruitment tactics and disputes certain elements of Mejia’s claims in particular. Crasnick ticks through some of the chief allegations. Whether or not the contract is enforceable will ultimately be decided by the pending court case, which is only just getting underway, unless the sides agree instead to a settlement.

    Whether or not Mejia will be bound by this agreement is itself of note, as he’s a significant player who is expected to have a chance at staking a claim to a regular MLB job in short order. (Indeed, he already touched the bigs last year, leading BLA to seek its first payment.) But the lawsuit is potentially also of broader consequences, as it could have implications for the still-uncertain development of this model of outside investment in professional athletes’ future earnings.

    Most notably, perhaps, is the simple fact that this sort of agreement was struck in the first place. Unlike the Fantex situation, BLA seemingly has not sought visibility. Indeed, it asks in a counterclaim for an injunction forbidding Mejia from publicizing his interactions with BLA. But it certainly seems this isn’t an isolated matter. The entity’s website claims that it has arrangements with at least three (anonymous) players who have reached the majors since originally signing with BLA. The site also quotes some unattributed statements of gratitude from those players.

    As all this is going on, the 22-year-old Mejia is trying to force his way into the Indians’ immediate plans. He’s off to a tepid start at Triple-A and still doesn’t have a clear position at the game’s highest level. (A catcher by trade, Mejia is also working in the outfield at Columbus.) But most evaluators expect the youngster to establish himself before long as a high-quality hitter at the game’s highest level.

    Prospect rankings — including Baseball Prospectus (#5), ESPN.com (#7), MLB.com (#11), and Baseball America (#20) — unanimously value Mejia as a top-end talent. He’s obviously already on the verge of drawing a major-league salary. Certainly, there’s every chance that ten percent of his eventual earnings will turn out to be quite a tidy return on the initial investment reputedly embodied in the contract that’s now in dispute.

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    Lonnie Chisenhall Out 4-6 Weeks With Calf Strain https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/lonnie-chisenhall-out-4-6-weeks-with-calf-strain.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/lonnie-chisenhall-out-4-6-weeks-with-calf-strain.html#comments Sun, 08 Apr 2018 15:52:55 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119519 Days after getting outfielder Michael Brantley back from the disabled list, the Indians have learned that they’ll be without right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall for four to six weeks. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com first tweeted the timetable, which came from the mouth of Indians manager Terry Francona. Chisenhall left Saturday’s game against the Royals early, and was officially placed on the disabled list early this morning (the club recalled Tyler Naquin to take his place in right field for the time being).

    It’s an upsetting development for the Tribe, who saw Chisenhall miss significant time last season with the same issue. The re-aggravation of the injury during a seemingly routine few innings in right field doesn’t bode well for Chisenhall’s 2018 season. The timing is also unfortunate for him financially, as he’s set to become a free agent this winter and would like to erase the injury concerns from the memories of potential suitors.

    Chisenhall was a notable beneficiary of the fly ball revolution last season, as he decreased his ground ball rate from 23.9% in 2016 to just 15.8% in 2017, and correspondingly increased his line drive rate and fly ball rate by four percentage points apiece. That adjustment resulted in a career-best .288/.360/.520 batting line. The Indians will certainly be hoping they can get his bat back in the lineup on the shorter end of the injury timetable.

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    Injury Notes: Powell, Ramirez, Blackmon, Rodriguez, Indians https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/injury-notes-powell-ramirez-blackmon-rodriguez-indians.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/injury-notes-powell-ramirez-blackmon-rodriguez-indians.html#comments Sun, 08 Apr 2018 13:58:38 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119511 Athletics outfielder Boog Powell is headed to the DL after suffering a knee sprain, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The left-handed-hitting Powell has hit just .167/.200/.292 in the first week of the season, though he did impress with a 135 wRC+ in limited action with the A’s last season. Powell beat out top prospect Dustin Fowler for the starting center field job during spring training, but he’ll now be absent for at least ten days while rehabbing.

    Other injury notes from around baseball…

    • Maria Guardado of MLB.com tweets that Angels righty J.C. Ramirez exited his most recent start with “forearm tightness”. It’s highly disturbing news for the Halos; Ramirez was diagnosed with a partially-torn UCL in his throwing elbow last season, but elected to go with stem cell surgery rather than opt for a Tommy John procedure. Ramirez has thrown 6 2/3 innings this season; he’s struck out four opposing hitters while allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and seven walks.
    • Rockies star Charlie Blackmon is dealing with some back spasms, but told reporters he is not injured (h/t Nick Groke of the Denver Post). “It was a little bit tight for most of the game and kept getting tighter. I’ve dealt with it before and been all right.” Blackmon, of course, just signed an extension with Colorado and is a key component to their contention plans this season.
    • The Red Sox have officially activated left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez from the 10-day disabled list. Right-hander Marcus Walden has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in a related move. Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes that Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson are expected to pitch out of the bullpen for the time being, as the Sox have a number of off days coming up; those days will eliminate the need for a fifth starter for the time being. The 25-year-old pitched to a 4.19 ERA last season in 137 1/3 innings last season, and is coming off a winter knee surgery.
    • Jordan Bastian of MLB.com has the latest updates on a number of Indians injuries. Right-hander Danny Salazar (shoulder) is still unable to throw off a mound with “full intensity”, so he’s still a few weeks away from game activity. Third baseman Giovanny Urshela (hamstring), on the other hand, is just a week away from possibly starting a minor-league rehab assignment. Left-hander Ryan Merritt (knee) has resumed throwing and is scheduled to pitch an extended spring game on Wednesday, while righty Cody Anderson (elbow) is finally back to throwing off a mound following Tommy John surgery in March of 2017; he’s “several week away” from potential game activity. Of these four players, only Anderson has a minor-league option remaining, meaning the Tribe will be facing a significant roster crunch in the near future. In other Tribe injury news, Lonnie Chisenhall has officially been placed on the 10-day DL. Tyler Naquin has been recalled from Triple-A Columbus to take his place (h/t Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal.
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    Lonnie Chisenhall Likely Headed To DL https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/quick-hits-duffy-melky-indians-brewers-giants.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/quick-hits-duffy-melky-indians-brewers-giants.html#comments Sun, 08 Apr 2018 03:26:19 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119505
  • Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall suffered a right calf injury Saturday and will likely head to the disabled list, manager Terry Francona told Joe Noga of cleveland.com and other reporters. Chisenhall previously missed 45 games last year with a right calf issue, notes Noga, who adds that the Indians could recall Tyler Naquin from Triple-A to take his place. Naquin went to the minors Friday to make room for the just-activated Michael Brantley.
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    Details On The Indians' Offer To Jay Bruce https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/heymans-latest-harper-rangers-bruce-lagares-cosart.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/heymans-latest-harper-rangers-bruce-lagares-cosart.html#comments Sat, 07 Apr 2018 20:02:39 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119449
  • Heyman provides some new details on Jay Bruce’s free agent market, reporting that the Indians offered Bruce a two-year, $18MM deal while the Blue Jays discussed a one-year deal in the range of $5MM-$7MM.  It’s interesting to note that both teams ended up signing somewhat similar veteran left-handed bats for similar price points — Cleveland inked Yonder Alonso for two years and $16MM in guaranteed money, while Toronto signed Curtis Granderson to a one-year, $5MM deal.  The Jays didn’t actually make Bruce an offer, however, and neither did the Astros, though they also had some talks with Bruce about a two-year deal.  Heyman speculates that Houston may have been considering Bruce only if top prospect Derek Fisher was dealt, and thus the Astros’ interest waned since they were able to acquire Gerrit Cole without parting ways with the young outfielder.  As it turned out, Bruce ended up landing a three-year, $39MM deal to return to the Mets.

    [SOURCE LINK]
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    Indians Activate Michael Brantley https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/indians-activate-michael-brantley-option-tyler-naquin.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/indians-activate-michael-brantley-option-tyler-naquin.html#comments Fri, 06 Apr 2018 15:51:27 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119360 The Indians announced that they’ve activated outfielder Michael Brantley from the 10-day disabled list. Fellow outfielder Tyler Naquin was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Brantley, who’d opened the year on the DL while finalizing his recovery from offseason ankle surgery.

    Durability has been a major concern for Brantley in recent years, as he’s undergone a pair of shoulder operations in addition to this offseason’s ankle surgery. Those ailments combined to limit the 30-year-old to just 101 games since Opening Day 2016.

    Given Brantley’s recent rash of injuries, it’s easy to forget just how great of a player he can be at full strength. Long a quality outfield piece in Cleveland, “Dr. Smooth” broke out as one of the American League’s best all-around players in a 2014 season that saw him finish third in the AL MVP race after posting a superlative .327/.385/.506 batting line with a league-leading 45 doubles, 20 homers and 23 steals. Brantley followed that up with a similarly excellent .310/.379/.480 slash the following season and looked to be an emerging star before initially injuring his shoulder while diving for a catch in the left-center gap at Target Field in Minneapolis that September.

    His injury troubles notwithstanding, Brantley saw his $12MM club option exercised by the Indians last November. Given the offseason surgery and the manner in which corner outfielders were further devalued in free agency this winter, the Cleveland front office may prefer a mulligan on that decision, though Brantley was worth more than $12MM in just 90 games last season when he hit .290/.357/.444 with 20 doubles, nine homers and 11 steals.

    The 2018 season will be a crucial one for Brantley, whose contract expires at season’s end. If he can steer clear of the DL for the first time since 2014 and convince clubs that his shoulder and ankle are largely healthy, then it stands to reason that a player with his ability and track record could land a nice multi-year deal in his first foray into the open market. If the 2018 season is again marred by injuries, however, that outcome seems decidedly less likely.

    As for Naquin, he’ll head back to Columbus and hope for yet another opportunity to prove that his terrific 2016 campaign wasn’t a fluke. The former first-rounder had seen his prospect star fade but was called upon in the wake of Brantley’s injuries and capitalized in surprising fashion. Through 365 plate appearances that season, Naquin slashed .296/.372/.514 with 14 homers — good enough to finish third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. That production, though, was accompanied by a sky-high .411 BABIP and 30.7 percent strikeout rate, so it’s perhaps not hard to see why the Indians remain unconvinced that he can replicate those numbers.

    [Related: Cleveland Indians depth chart]

    Naquin has since been leapfrogged by Bradley Zimmer on the team’s depth chart, and with Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer rounding out the big league outfield. Brantley, Chisenhall, Davis and possibly Guyer ($3MM club option) are all free agents after the 2018 season, though, so keeping Naquin on hand as depth makes sense for Cleveland.

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    Royals Claim Abraham Almonte, Designate Miguel Almonte For Assignment https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/royals-claim-abraham-almonte-designate-miguel-almonte-for-assignment.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/royals-claim-abraham-almonte-designate-miguel-almonte-for-assignment.html#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2018 18:50:54 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=119040 The Royals have claimed outfielder Abraham Almonte off waivers from the Indians and designated right-hander Miguel Almonte for assignment, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Cleveland had designated the former of the two for assignment when setting its Opening Day roster.

    Abraham Almonte, 28, was on the outside looking in of a jam-packed outfield mix in Cleveland. He’ll have a clearer path to playing time in Kansas City, where Jon Jay, Alex Gordon, Jorge Soler and Paulo Orlando comprise the primary outfield unit in the Majors in the wake of Jorge Bonifacio’s 80-game PED suspension. The switch-hitting Almonte had a strong half-season showing for the Tribe in 2015 but missed half the 2016 campaign due to an 80-game PED suspension and hit just .249/.304/.384 in 389 plate appearances from 2016-17.

    As for Miguel Almonte, who’ll turn 25 on Wednesday, the hard-throwing righty has long ranked as one of the Royals’ top organizational prospects, but his star has faded in recent seasons. He’s tossed 10 2/3 innings in the Majors between 2015-17, but he’s yet to establish himself at the game’s top level. Injuries have played a massive role in stalling the younger Almonte’s development. Last season, he threw just two innings with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate in Omaha, and Flanagan tweets today that Almonte had been ticketed for the minor league disabled list to open the season due to posterior shoulder soreness.

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    Is 2018 The Tribe's Best Chance At A Title? https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/al-central-notes-draft-pools-royals-pena-reyes-iglesias-tribe.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/al-central-notes-draft-pools-royals-pena-reyes-iglesias-tribe.html#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2018 03:11:59 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118996
  • “If the Indians were a high school team, this would be their senior year,” Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, acknowledging that this might be the Tribe’s best chance at a championship given how many key players are scheduled for free agency after the season.  Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Josh Tomlin are just a few of the prominent names set to hit the open market, and re-signing some or even any could be difficult given Cleveland’s small-market realities.  Despite this, Miller believes that “from an organization standpoint, I don’t think a window is closing” since the Tribe still has the likes of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and much of their rotation returning.  “There’s a track record here for the way they do things….The way they develop players, the way they prepare them, as long as you have Tito (Terry Francona) at the helm, they’re going to be good,” Miller said.
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    Danny Salazar Out For At Least The Next Few Weeks https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-notes-cobb-mariners-cruz-indians-salazar.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-notes-cobb-mariners-cruz-indians-salazar.html#comments Sun, 01 Apr 2018 00:46:15 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118864
  • It doesn’t look as if Indians righty Danny Salazar will return in the near future. He’s slated to stay in Arizona for the next month on a throwing program, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com suggests. The 28-year-old Salazar has been on the shelf since he suffered an onset of right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation in January. The hard-throwing Salazar also missed significant time last season (six weeks) because of shoulder issues.
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    Indians Designate Abraham Almonte, Ben Taylor https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-designate-abraham-almonte-ben-taylor.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-designate-abraham-almonte-ben-taylor.html#comments Thu, 29 Mar 2018 15:44:55 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118638 The Indians have designated outfielder Abraham Almonte and right-hander Ben Taylor for assignment in order to clear roster spots for veterans Matt Belisle and Rajai Davis, whose contracts have been selected from Triple-A Columbus. Michael Brantley, Giovanny Urshela, Danny Salazar and Ryan Merritt will open the season on the 10-day disabled list.

    Davis will return for a second tour of duty in Cleveland, where he’s already established himself in Indians lore thanks to his dramatic Game 7 home run off Aroldis Chapman in the 2016 World Series. Davis paced the AL with 43 steals for Cleveland that season, and he racked up 29 steals with just 366 plate appearances between the A’s and Red Sox last season. Now 37 years of age, he’ll give the Indians plenty of speed off the bench and an established bat against left-handed pitching.

    Belisle, meanwhile, gives manager Terry Francona a veteran bullpen arm that struggled early in the 2017 campaign with the Twins but rebounded to dominate over the season’s final four months. Over his final 38 1/3 innings last year, Belisle worked to a 1.41 ERA with a terrific 36-to-8 K/BB ratio and just four homers allowed. Following the trade of Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals, Belisle picked up nine saves as the closer in Minnesota.

    Almonte, 28, was on the outside looking in for a Cleveland outfield mix that features Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, Davis and, once he’s healthy, Brantley. The switch-hitting Almonte had a strong half-season showing for the Tribe in 2015 but missed half the 2016 campaign due to an 80-game PED suspension and hit just .249/.304/.384 in 389 plate appearances from 2016-17.

    The 26-year-old Taylor was a seventh-round pick of the Red Sox in 2015. He saw his first major league action last season and tossed 17 1/3 innings of 5.19 ERA, notching 9.35 K/9, 4.67 BB/9 and a paltry 26.4 percent ground-ball rate along the way. Taylor was more successful in his Triple-A debut in 2017, albeit over an even smaller sample (13 1/3 frames), as he worked to a 2.70 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 3.38 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent grounder mark.

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    Indians Had Extension Talks With Lindor, Bauer https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/quick-hits-lindor-bauer-rangers-ichiro-bae-boxberger.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/quick-hits-lindor-bauer-rangers-ichiro-bae-boxberger.html#comments Wed, 28 Mar 2018 04:55:40 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118474 It doesn’t look like the Indians will reach any extensions with Francisco Lindor or Trevor Bauer before the season begins, though the team did at least explore the possibility of long-term deals with both players, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.  It isn’t any surprise that the Tribe looked into gaining some cost certainty on either man even though Bauer is already controlled through the 2020 season and Lindor through 2021.  In the latter’s case, Lindor is still a year away from salary arbitration, though one wonders if Lindor may feel confident enough in his abilities to forego guaranteed money now and wait until free agency to chase an even bigger contract.  He already turned down an extension offer reportedly worth around $100MM last offseason, and his stock has only risen after a superb 2017 campaign.

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    Indians Claim Jack Leathersich, Trade Rob Refsnyder To Rays https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-claim-jack-leathersich-from-pirates-trade-rob-refsnyder-rays-return-jordan-milbrath-sign-adam-rosales.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-claim-jack-leathersich-from-pirates-trade-rob-refsnyder-rays-return-jordan-milbrath-sign-adam-rosales.html#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 20:07:31 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118416 The Indians announced a series of moves this afternoon, including a claim of lefty Jack Leathersich from the Pirates.  (The @RedSoxStats Twitter feed was first to report the claim earlier today.)  A 40-man spot for Leathersich was opened by shipping infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder to the Rays in exchange for cash.

    In other news, Cleveland announced that righty Jordan Milbrath — who was taken in the Rule 5 draft in December — was returned by the Pirates after clearing waivers. Finally, veteran infielder Adam Rosales is joining the Indians on a minors deal.

    Refsnyder was out of options, and thus the Tribe at least managed to get some money back for him rather than simply losing the utilityman if exposed to waivers.  Refsnyder had been battling for a backup infield job in camp, though it appears Erik Gonzalez has won that role.  Cleveland looks to be carrying five outfielders, with right-handed hitters Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer (if healthy) balancing out lefty-swingers Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer, with Michael Brantley eventually joining the mix once he returns from the disabled list.

    Once a well-regarded prospect in the Yankees’ system, Refsnyder has yet to produce much over parts of three MLB seasons, with just a .233/.306/.311 slash line over 320 career plate appearances.  He can offer a versatile glove capable of playing second base, first base, and both corner outfield slots, so he gives Tampa Bay another multi-position bench option next to Daniel Robertson.  The Rays had been looking for a right-handed outfield bat, so Refsnyder fills that need, even if he has yet to display much hitting stroke as a big leaguer.

    Rosales was recently released from a minor league deal with the Phillies and it didn’t take him long to catch on elsewhere, as Cleveland will replace Refsnyder with a more experienced utility infielder.  Rosales has extensive work at all four infield spots (plus the odd appearance in left field) over his 10 seasons and 638 big league games.  This versatility has helped Rosales stick around in the Show despite a lack of hitting (.227/.292/.365 slash line over 1786 PA), though he did burst out for 13 homers and an .814 OPS over 248 PA with the Padres in 2016.

    Pittsburgh placed Leathersich on waivers yesterday, as he may have been an expendable piece in a Pirates bullpen that already includes Steven Brault and Josh Smoker tossing from the left side, plus Kevin Siegrist in camp on a minor league deal.  Leathersich joined the Bucs via a waiver claim off the Cubs’ roster last September, appearing in six games wearing the black-and-gold.  The 27-year-old southpaw has a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 Major League innings, and both his brief MLB stint and his much more expansive sample size of 278 1/3 minor league IP exhibit indicate a penchant for racking up big totals in both the strikeout and walks departments.

    Milbrath was also waived along with Leathersich yesterday, and as per the regulations of the Rule 5 Draft, the righty had to first be offered back to his original team (Cleveland) after other teams had passed on claiming the 26-year-old.  A 35th-round selection for the Tribe in the 2013 draft, Milbrath has a 4.33 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.02 K/BB rate over 405 1/3 career innings in the minors, cracking the Double-A level in each of the last two seasons.

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    Offseason In Review: Cleveland Indians https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/offseason-in-review-cleveland-indians-10.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/offseason-in-review-cleveland-indians-10.html#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 01:04:44 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116898 This piece is part of MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

    A 102-win Indians ballclub let all seven of its free agents depart this winter, and gave out just one guaranteed contract. The Tribe will bank on a sustained breakout from Yonder Alonso and some reinforcements from the farm to supplement a core that’s won the division two years in a row, in hopes that they can end MLB’s longest championship drought.

    Major League Signings

    Trades and Claims

    Option Decisions

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Notable Losses

    Indians Depth Chart; Indians Payroll Information

    Needs Addressed

    One of the Indians’ most important decisions came right at the end of the 2017 season, as they elected to pick up their $11MM option over outfielder Michael Brantley. That call long seemed an easy one in the affirmative, but ongoing shoulder and ankle problems have added quite a lot of uncertainty to the 30-year-old’s outlook. It’s something of a risk for the Cleveland organization, but it seems Brantley is progressing well and he could still represent a significant value if he can make it back to full health and come anywhere near his peak level of production.

    Otherwise, the Cleveland brass entered the offseason with a simple to-do list: re-sign or replace their outgoing free agents in order to keep last year’s team as intact as possible. After a 102-win season in which the club won an AL record 22 consecutive games, there wasn’t any need for a significant overhaul. Most of the core was under control headed into 2018, so the organization’s tapestry of talent would likely require only minor patches to be successful in the coming season.

    It soon became evident that rival clubs valued the Tribe’s outgoing free agents far more than the team itself. Santana and Shaw both exceeded MLBTR’s expectations in terms of earning power, and departed for Philadelphia and Colorado, respectively. As each of their other five free agents found new homes, the Indians were forced to opt for the “replace” route.

    The club signed Alonso to fill Santana’s shoes, added Davis and Upton Jr. to battle for Jackson’s role, and snatched up Belisle and Torres out of the late-winter reliever bargain bin. Mission accomplished, right? Well, sort of. While each of those moves serves the purpose of patching a hole left by a free-agent departure, each serves as the equivalent of purchasing a $200 laptop because you can’t afford a Macbook. They’ll do the same job, but they don’t come with the same kind of reliability. That leaves some questions as to whether the club will be able to enjoy the same success; if one of their replacement options collapses, they’ll suddenly have a problematic hole on the roster.

    Alonso, for instance, is coming off a rare age-30 breakout season in which he became something of a poster boy for the fly ball revolution. Between the A’s and Mariners, he posted a strong .266/.365/.501 batting line with a career-high 28 home runs. That homer total far exceeded anything he’d ever done in the majors or minors, so there’s some understandable skepticism about whether or not he’ll be able to repeat such numbers as he enters an age in which baseball players typically begin to decline.

    Still, perhaps that’s not giving enough credit to Alonso. He did, after all, make some clear changes to his swing that we can point to as evidence for his breakout. And he also altered his approach at the plate; those changes were mentioned far less by both the media and respected baseball statistic outlets, but contributed just as much to his breakout campaign. As Alonso himself put it in an interview with MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian“For me, it’s about driving the baseball, using my legs, doing things that I do. My pitch sequence. My pitch location. What pitches I can handle. What pitches I can’t. And then after that, just going and compete.” Focusing on the pitches he could handle worked out well for his on-base ability, as his walk rate spiked to a 13.1% clip that far exceeded his previous career high of 10.4%. The resulting .365 on-base percentage falls exactly in line with Santana’s career average, meaning that he’d actually prove a suitable replacement for the long-time Tribe slugger as long as he can continue a seemingly repeatable improvement in patience and pitch selection.

    Additionally, it’s worth noting that even if Alonso doesn’t end up producing to his 2017 levels, the Indians have some reasonable backup solutions. It’s feasible that Edwin Encarnacion could shift out of the DH spot (though he certainly wouldn’t provide much value defensively), allowing someone like on-base machine Yandy Diaz to get at-bats as the team’s designated hitter. The club also has Bobby Bradley waiting in the wings, who ranks among the top first base prospects in baseball. Point being, if Alonso regresses significantly, the Indians can probably reshape their roster to accommodate without taking a sizeable hit to their run-scoring ability.

    As far as the outfield goes, it’s difficult to imagine Davis, who was recently added to the 25-man roster, producing to the level that Jackson did last season. (Of course, Jackson himself was acquired on a minor-league deal.) The 37-year-old Davis brings with him the nostalgia of a memorable game-tying homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. But after he hit just .235/.293/.348 last season between the A’s and Red Sox, he probably won’t provide any real offensive value with his bat. His biggest asset to the team will be his stolen base ability, which continues to inexplicably persevere even as the outfielder approaches the age of 40.

    Speaking of 37-year-old players, Belisle was also recently informed that he’s made the team. Though he’s not necessarily an exciting addition, he ’s a reliable presence for quality innings. Across the past three campaigns, the right-hander has posted a 2.96 ERA and has typically managed to out-pitch his peripheral statistics. Again, he’s not Shaw or Smith, but he’s certainly not a pushover. Considering the bullpen will still be led by Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, there’s not much to worry about, anyway. With an embarrassment of riches in the starting pitcher department, the Tribe will likely consider flamethrower Danny Salazar for a bullpen role if he continues to struggle in the rotation.

    Questions Remaining

    The club’s outfield crew isn’t likely to intimidate other contenders. While Lonnie Chisenhall and Brantley are terrific when they’re able to take the field, neither can seem to do so on a consistent basis. Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin have both shown great upside, but they’ve also had their weaknesses exposed; neither is a sure bet to find sustained success throughout the 2018 season. The even bigger overarching issue is that each of those four players bats from the left side of the plate. The Tribe’s only righty-hitting outfielders are Davis (see above) and Brandon Guyer, who was recently named to the Opening Day roster but struggled mightily last year and comes with injury concerns. While the team has some right-handed bats and switch-hitters elsewhere in the lineup, one has to imagine that such a severely lefty-heavy outfield puts them at a disadvantage against opposing southpaws.

    The organization’s dearth of vertical depth in the bullpen department is no small matter, either. The club has seven solid relievers on the active roster, but the relief corps at Triple-A is a gaggle of waiver claims and offseason minor league signees. Though they’ve lucked out in the past with waiver claims like Tyler Olson, it’s statistically unlikely that they’ll continue to win the lottery with players that other teams let go. Of course, it’s fair to note too that the rotation depth could filter down to the pen if and when more of the team’s starters are at full health.

    The health and production of second baseman Jason Kipnis is certainly up in the air after an injury-plagued age-30 season that ended up being one of the worst offensive showings of his career. His poor play resulted in a swirl of offseason trade rumors and uncertainty about his future in Cleveland, but he’s found his swing in training camp as evidenced by his six homers and .375 batting average in Cactus League play. It’s tough to know what to expect from Kipnis, but he’s an interesting bounce back candidate to watch.

    The Tribe’s catching tandem of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez isn’t what you’d call an offensive juggernaut, but they both provide plenty of defensive value and are likely to combine for another above-average performance in relation to the rest of the league. Beyond them, super-prospect Francisco Mejia is waiting in the wings, itching to prove himself in the event of an injury to one the aforementioned duo. Mejia’s more of a bat-first backstop, and his hit tool is one of the best in the minors. Indeed, the organization is even considering utilizing him in the outfield as a means of moving up his timeline to contribute in the majors (potentially offering another means of giving a boost to the uncertain outfield mix). While none of these three players is without his flaws, it’s hard to imagine catcher being a significant area of weakness for the Indians.

    It’s more likely than not that we’ll see some kind of offensive decline from Encarnacion as the slugger enters his age-35 season. What that will look like isn’t easy to predict. Some sluggers like Paul Konerko only experienced a modest power drop-off at 35, while others such as Mark Teixeira seemed to have the rug pulled out from under them entirely at that age. As one of the few intimidating right-handed hitters in the Tribe’s lineup, they’ll be counting on him to offer at least something close to his usual power output.

    Outside of that, the Indians appear well-poised to make another run at a championship. A rotation that produced the best fWAR of all time is back in its entirety, with reasonable depth options at Triple-A and a couple of impressive prospects in Triston McKenzie and Shane Bieber not far off. The left side of their infield sports two MVP candidates in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to once again see those two combine to top 60 homers while providing stellar defense. All in all, questions about this team’s composition are little else but nit-picking.

    Overview

    The front office didn’t do much this offseason, and as such this iteration of the Indians doesn’t look quite as strong as the one that finished the season with 102 wins last year. But if they did get weaker, it certainly isn’t by much. The most important pieces remain on hand, and they have some intriguing depth in the form of high-upside prospects. That likely means a third consecutive AL Central championship and a return to the postseason.

    How would you grade the Indians’ offseason work? (Poll link for app users)

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

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    Michael Brantley Headed To DL https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-notes-rays-rangers-rupp-bird-orioles-brantley.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-notes-rays-rangers-rupp-bird-orioles-brantley.html#comments Sun, 25 Mar 2018 17:13:41 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118099
  • Indians outfielder Michael Brantley will begin the year on the disabled list, paving the way for Tyler Naquin to make the team, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com tweets. Brantley has made progress in his recovery from the right ankle surgery he underwent last October, but he’s not quite ready for regular-season action.
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    Indians To Add Rajai Davis To MLB Roster; Mike Napoli Will Go To Triple-A https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-to-add-rajai-davis-to-mlb-roster-release-mike-napoli.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-to-add-rajai-davis-to-mlb-roster-release-mike-napoli.html#comments Sun, 25 Mar 2018 16:53:43 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117752 SUNDAY: Napoli will report to the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com tweets.

    THURSDAY: Indians skipper Terry Francona ran through a laundry list of roster moves today, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports in a series of tweets. Of particular note, the club intends to add outfielder Rajai Davis to the active roster for the start of the season and has released first baseman Mike Napoli, with expectations of re-signing him if he cannot find a MLB opportunity elsewhere.

    Davis’s minor-league deal included an opt-out opportunity today, so it’s no surprise to see a decision come down. He’ll be slated to earn a $1.75MM salary with another $3.25MM possible through incentives.

    The 37-year-old did not hit much this spring but obviously left a positive impression on the organization, which is plenty familiar with him from his 2016 run in Cleveland. Presumably, Davis will supplement youngster Bradley Zimmer in center while also seeing some time in the corners and functioning as a pinch-runner.

    As for the 36-year-old Napoli, he’s slated to re-sign with the Indians on a new minor-league deal unless he finds a job elsewhere. Unless the market is suddenly more welcoming than it was just a few weeks back, he’ll presumably end up joining the Indians’ top affiliate to begin the season.

    There were some other roster calls made or at least addressed today, as Bastian further details. Veteran righty Alexi Ogando won’t make the MLB team but will return to rotation duties at Triple-A. Fellow non-roster relievers Matt Belisle and Carlos Torres are still awaiting their fates, which will be decided by Article XX(B) bonus decision day (this coming Saturday).

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    Soon-To-Be Free Agent Andrew Miller Hopes To Stay With Indians https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/quick-hits-miller-tribe-conforto-ubaldo-cubs-rangers.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/quick-hits-miller-tribe-conforto-ubaldo-cubs-rangers.html#comments Sun, 25 Mar 2018 14:08:29 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=118054 Indians reliever Andrew Miller could be one of the faces of a star-studded class of free agents next winter, but he’d prefer to continue his career in Cleveland. “I’m focused on this season. But absolutely. If I have an opportunity to stay here, I would. I love it here. The city’s been great to us. I can’t imagine a better place to be,” Miller told Grant Segall of Cleveland.com. After combining for a 1.93 ERA with 14.7 K/9, 2.48 BB/9 and a 51 percent groundball rate from 2013-17, the 32-year-old Miller will attempt to turn in yet another elite campaign in 2018. He’ll earn $9MM in the process.

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    Indians Release Carlos Torres https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-release-carlos-torres.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-release-carlos-torres.html#comments Sat, 24 Mar 2018 19:27:03 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117992 The Indians have granted right-hander Carlos Torres his unconditional release, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com tweets.

    Over the past four seasons, only Dellin Betances has topped Torres’ 304 2/3 relief innings. In other words, he’s been a reliable workhorse out of the bullpen for the Mets and Brewers during that time. However, he was informed today that he won’t make the Tribe’s bullpen, as the seventh spot will go to fellow right-hander Matt Belisle.

    Torres owns a 4.00 ERA and 7.88 K/9 at the major league level, most of that coming in relief. Last season, however, his K/9 figure dropped below 7.00 for the first time since his rookie season, and his walk rate ballooned to 4.06 per nine. While his 4.21 ERA doesn’t seem disastrous, ERA estimators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA suggest that his true talent was close to that of a 5.00 ERA pitcher.

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    Indians Notes: Napoli, Merritt https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/brewers-rotation-napoli-indians-merritt-buxton-twins-extension-mercer-pirates-rumors.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/brewers-rotation-napoli-indians-merritt-buxton-twins-extension-mercer-pirates-rumors.html#comments Sat, 24 Mar 2018 04:39:32 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117831
  • Mike Napoli is expected to decide shortly whether he’ll return to the Indians on another minor league contract, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). The presumption seemingly remains that he’ll return and open the year at Triple-A, as manager Terry Francona tells reporters including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). But nothing has been formalized at this point, with Napoli evidently still holding out hope of finding a big league opportunity elsewhere. The veteran first baseman, who was released yesterday from a minors deal with Cleveland, has struggled to generate interest at the MLB level all winter long after a middling 2017 season.
  • Meanwhile, the Indians got a bit more clarity in their pitching plans with the decision to place Ryan Merritt on the DL to open the season, as Bastian reports. A combination of knee problems to open camp and a “tired arm” as it draws to a close have conspired to hold him back. The news also prevents the Cleveland organization from making a tough call on Merritt, an out-of-options hurler that the team would prefer not to expose to waivers.
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    Central Notes: Indians, Naquin, Refsnyder, Reds, Miley, Cabrera https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/central-notes-indians-naquin-refsnyder-reds-miley-cabrera.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/central-notes-indians-naquin-refsnyder-reds-miley-cabrera.html#comments Fri, 23 Mar 2018 02:27:29 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117786 Tyler Naquin and Rob Refsnyder are still competing for a potential spot on the Indians’ opening day roster, and Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets that manager Terry Francona has explained some details to them. Francona reportedly told the two players that the spot won’t simply go to the guy who gets the most hits over the last week, and that roster construction could be the biggest factor. For instance, if Brandon Guyer and/or Michael Brantley aren’t ready in time for opening day, Naquin and Refsnyder would stand a better chance to make the club out of camp. Whether the club chooses to carry seven or eight relievers will also affect their fates. It’s worth noting that Tyler Naquin has multiple options remaining, while Rob Refsnyder is an out-of-options player.

    More out of the midwest…

    • In a piece for The Athletic, Doug Gray details ten Reds prospects to keep an eye on for the coming season. The players in the article aren’t necessarily top prospects, but rather a group of under-the-radar players who Gray describes as “unheralded”. The list includes right-handers Nick Hanson and Ryan Hendrix, $10MM shortstop Jose Garcia, and Brandon Phillips’ cousin Montrell Marshall. Many of these players have significant upside and are worth the exploration by any Reds fan, or indeed any avid baseball follower.
    • Wade Miley’s opt-out date has been pushed back, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports on Twitter. The southpaw seemed likely to make the Brewers’ rotation before suffering a torn groin that’s expected to keep him out two to four weeks. Miley could have opted out of his contract tomorrow after being informed that he wouldn’t make the opening day roster, but GM David Stearns apparently worked out a deal with his agent. Miley’s opt-out date has been extended until the point at which he’s able to start pitching again.
    • Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera is stuck in “baseball purgatory”, says Scott Miller in an opinion piece for Bleacher Report. Miller describes Cabrera as “an island unto himself”, on a rebuilding Tigers team that will not likely be able to deal him and the $192MM remaining on his contract, particularly coming off the worst season of his career wherein he was plagued by back issues. For his part, Cabrera doesn’t seem to be focused on that aspect of his situation. “I’m here to play,” he says. “I’m not here to give my opinion of what’s going to happen. I’m here to do my job, to help win games and to help the process.” 
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    Indians Notes: Carrasco, Brantley https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-notes-tribe-carrasco-mariners-yankees-red-sox.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-notes-tribe-carrasco-mariners-yankees-red-sox.html#comments Thu, 22 Mar 2018 04:51:35 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117710
  • In better news for the Indians, left fielder Michael Brantley isn’t ruling himself out for Opening Day (via Hoynes). “We shall see. But the old saying is take it one day at a time,” said Brantley, who’s working his way back from the right ankle surgery he underwent last October. Neither that procedure nor Brantley’s lack of availability from 2016-17, when injuries cost him a combined 223 games, were enough to stop the Tribe from exercising his $12MM club option early in the offseason. The 30-year-old appeared in 90 games in 2017 and slashed a solid .299/.357/.444 over 375 plate appearances.
  • Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco exited the club’s game Wednesday after taking a line drive off his left foot, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com reports. Carrasco is now dealing with a contusion, and the Indians will further evaluate the star hurler Thursday, Hoynes tweets.  In the event Carrasco misses regular-season time as a result of the injury, it could help open the door for the out-of-options Ryan Merritt to claim a roster spot, at least temporarily. Merritt and Josh Tomlin have been vying for the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation this spring. Now, with Carrasco potentially injured and Danny Salazar set to miss the beginning of the year, the only sure things for the Indians’ season-opening starting staff appear to be Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger (depth chart).

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    Indians Notes: Napoli, Davis, Urshela https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/central-notes-indians-cards-pirates-royals.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/central-notes-indians-cards-pirates-royals.html#comments Thu, 22 Mar 2018 01:42:07 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117677 Indians first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli and outfielder Rajai Davis will be able to opt out of their minor league contracts Thursday, according to Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. It’s unclear whether one or both will vacate their deals, though Napoli has seemed especially likely to do so since his late-February signing with the Indians, who don’t have an opening for him in the majors. Asked Wednesday if Napoli could stay in the organization in a minor league role, manager Terry Francona said: “The next step is for him to talk to (president) Chris (Antonetti) a little bit more to figure out what he wants to do and what is available as far as the organization goes. Obviously, we think a ton of Nap and respect him a lot. There’s just a lot of unknowns.”

    • Indians infielder Giovanny Urshela will miss 10 to 14 days with a right hamstring strain, Hoynes tweets. Urshela may open the season on the DL, which would enable the Indians to delay their decision on him and Erik Gonzalez, who are each out of options and battling for the same bench role.
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    Ohio Notes: Lorenzen, Antonetti, Upton, Mesoraco https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/ohio-notes-lorenzen-antonetti-upton-mesoraco.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/ohio-notes-lorenzen-antonetti-upton-mesoraco.html#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2018 05:14:52 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117580 Here’s the latest from both Buckeye State teams…

    • Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen suffered a Grade 1 strain of the teres muscle near his throwing shoulder, and will be kept from throwing “for several days,” manager Bryan Price told media (including the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay).  Lorenzen’s injury isn’t as severe as the similar issue that kept Brandon Finnegan out of action for half of the 2017 season, though it does seem unlikely that Lorenzen would be ready to go by Opening Day.  The 26-year-old was attempting to win a spot in Cincy’s rotation but struggled to an 8.38 ERA over 9 2/3 Spring Training innings.  Between those poor results and now this injury, Lorenzen is sure to resume his old role as a late-inning weapon out of the Reds bullpen.
    • The Indians don’t have much payroll on the books beyond the 2019 season, but president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti tells MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand not to expect the team to make any splashy signings next winter.  “That’s not the reality of our team-building,” Antonetti said.  “We are one of the smallest markets in professional baseball….We’ve had incredible support from our ownership in which we’ve spent well beyond our revenues as we’ve gone through this competitive period.  But we can’t build teams through free agency.  Our success model is we need to draft and acquire players that are younger and help provide the right environment for them to grow and develop because that’s going to be the nucleus of our team.  We’ll use free agency to complement that group, but not to build that group.”  The Tribe is poised to exceed the $100MM payroll mark for the third straight season (all record highs for the organization) in pursuit of a World Series, with the Edwin Encarnacion signing standing out as an uncharacteristic move for the smaller-market team.  Any future spending isn’t likely to reach nearly the heights of 2016-18, however, and it could be more internally-focused, such as trying to sign in-house players (i.e. Francisco Lindor) to extensions.
    • After releasing Melvin Upton Jr. yesterday, the Indians could potentially re-sign the outfielder to another minor league deal if he can’t find a contract elsewhere, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes.  Manager Terry Francona said that the team chose to let Upton know prior to his opt-out date that the veteran wouldn’t be making the team, so Upton could have extra time to explore his options.  Cleveland already has several outfielders ahead of Upton on both the MLB and minor league depth charts, though there are enough question marks at the position that Upton could provide some extra experience at Triple-A.
    • In another piece from John Fay, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco said that he is finally feeling healthy after three injury-ravaged seasons.  “I feel great.  I don’t have to worry about health.  I work on my swing, work on my catching, play ball,” Mesoraco said.  After breaking out with a huge 2014 that earned him a four-year, $28MM extension after that season, Mesoraco has since played in just 95 total games due to hip, shoulder, and foot injuries.  The lack of durability cost Mesoraco the starting job as the Reds catcher, but he is prepared to contribute anyway he can as Tucker Barnhart’s backup.
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    Yankees Had Interest In Danny Salazar https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/yankees-notes-salazar-darvish-wade-ellsbury-machado.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/yankees-notes-salazar-darvish-wade-ellsbury-machado.html#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2018 02:20:56 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117556
  • Indians right-hander Danny Salazar was one of several pitchers the Yankees considered as potential trade targets last winter, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  Salazar is controlled via arbitration through the 2020 season and he has shown excellent promise when healthy, posting a 3.82 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and 3.27 K/BB rate over 587 1/3 career innings with the Tribe.  Unfortunately, Salazar has also been bothered by shoulder and elbow problems over the last two years, and he looks to miss at least a bit of time at the start of the 2018 season due to rotator cuff inflammation.  Despite the health risks, Salazar has been a popular trade target for multiple teams, with the Cubs and Brewers both being linked to the righty this offseason.
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    Indians Release Melvin Upton Jr., Ryan Hanigan https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-release-melvin-upton-jr-ryan-hanigan.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/indians-release-melvin-upton-jr-ryan-hanigan.html#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:31:33 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117402 The Indians announced Monday that they have released outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and catcher Ryan Hanigan (via Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com). Both players signed minor league contracts with the Tribe over the winter.

    The Indians added the 33-year-old Upton with the hope that he’d experience a revival similar to the one Austin Jackson enjoyed a season ago. Cleveland signed Jackson to a minor league deal and saw him turn in an excellent campaign as a reserve outfielder. Upton, meantime, essentially endured a lost 2017. After the Blue Jays released Upton during the spring, he settled for a minors pact with the Giants, but late-April surgery on a torn thumb ligament kept him off the field for several weeks. He ultimately totaled just 49 plate appearances, all with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate.

    Upton, who had been competing to be a backup outfielder this spring, struggled mightily in exhibition action before Cleveland released him. Across an admittedly small sample size of 37 at-bats, he hit just .189/.250/.297. That was enough to seal his fate with the Indians, though fellow minor league signing and veteran outfielder Rajai Davis hasn’t been any better (.242/.265/.373 in 33 ABs). He’s one of four outfielders remaining on the Indians’ projected Opening Day roster, though, while Michael Brantley and Brandon Guyer could each start the season on the disabled list.

    Hanigan, 37, has a history of faring well defensively and getting on base (.344 lifetime OBP), but his production has gone backward in recent years. After combining to bat a woeful .218/.277/.291 in 225 PAs with the Red Sox and Rockies from 2016-17, he collected a meager 13 ABs this spring and hit .154/.214/.154. The Indians still have plenty of depth at catcher without Hanigan, as Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez, Francisco Mejia and Eric Haase remain on hand.

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    Indians Will Give Francisco Mejia Time In Outfield https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-central-notes-jimenez-mejia-dozier-reyes-lynn-reyes.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-central-notes-jimenez-mejia-dozier-reyes-lynn-reyes.html#comments Thu, 15 Mar 2018 03:34:30 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117007
  • Another top prospect, Indians catcher Francisco Mejia, could actually end up seeing some action in the outfield as part of a plan to utilize him in the majors in the near term, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Mejia has previously been tried out at the hot corner, which Hoynes says “didn’t take,” so clearly the Cleveland organization isn’t fully committed to keeping him behind the dish. Regardless, he’s seen as a high-quality hitting prospect who could soon make an impact. The impression made by outfielder Abraham Almonte was not quite as positive, Hoynes notes, as he is not in shape and has already been optioned despite toting a $825K arb contract into camp.
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    Andrew Miller's Contract A Game-Changer For Free Agency https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/quick-hits-miller-kikuchi-cashner-cubs.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/quick-hits-miller-kikuchi-cashner-cubs.html#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2018 05:09:09 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116809 Andrew Miller’s four-year, $36MM deal with the Yankees from the 2014-15 offseason has become one of the most influential contracts in recent baseball history, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman opines.  Miller’s contract set a new standard for non-closer relievers, and its value has only grown in import thanks to the Indians’ usage of Miller as a multi-inning fireman.  As teams have put a focus on deep and flexible bullpens, relievers have been increasingly well-compensated in free agency; even during this unusually slow offseason, several relief arms have scored hefty multi-year commitments.  The fact that many notable relievers out-earned several notable sluggers and starting pitchers this winter is of no small concern to Miller, who is also a Players Association Representative.  “We have to understand the economics of how this works.  If one position or one skill is valued more highly, you probably will have another skill valued not as highly,” Miller noted.

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    AL Central Notes: Escobar, Morrison, Robert, Merryweather, Mize https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-central-notes-escobar-morrison-robert-merryweather-mize.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-central-notes-escobar-morrison-robert-merryweather-mize.html#comments Sat, 10 Mar 2018 17:00:21 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116625 Alcides Escobar returns to the Royals with a not-so-lofty goal in sight, Rustin Dodd writes in a piece for The Athletic. Kansas City’s long-time shortstop wants to finish the season with an on-base percentage above .300 for the first time since the 2014 season. He says that he’s working on “taking a lot of pitches each at-bat” and trying to avoid swinging at bad pitches, both of which seem like obvious things to work on. Escobar owns a career OBP of just .294, and his .272 figure last year was the second-lowest among qualified MLB hitters (Rougned Odor’s .252 was the lowest, for those keeping track). That .272 mark for “Esky” was the result of drawing just 15 walks, his lowest full-season total ever.

    A roundup of some other news items out of the AL Central…

    • Recent Twins signee Logan Morrison reportedly suffered a right glute strain while running the bases on Wednesday, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. He was held out of Friday’s game, and is expected to miss today’s matchup as well. However, the injury isn’t considered serious. Minnesota brought the former Tampa Bay first baseman into the fold with a $6.5MM guarantee that includes a vesting option. He hit .246/.353/.516 last season with the Rays while smacking a career-high 38 home runs.
    • The White Sox are dealing with a more significant injury. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribute tweets that farmhand Luis Robert has a moderate thumb sprain. Daryl Van Schouwen provides further details on the situation with his own tweet, adding that GM Rick Hahn expects the young outfielder to be immobilized in a cast for six weeks, and to be held out of game action for ten. Robert hit a phenomenal .310/.491/.536 in Rookie ball last season; Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the South Siders’ fifth best prospect, and number 55 overall.
    • Continuing with injury news, Indians prospect Julian Merryweather will officially undergo Tommy John surgery after recently being diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. The right-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Tribe during a 2014 draft in which the club also landed Bradley Zimmer, Triston McKenzie and Bobby Bradley. Merryweather had been solid at all levels of the minors before struggling to a 6.58 ERA across 16 starts at Triple-A Columbus last season, though his 3.89 xFIP suggests he dealt with some unfortunate homer/fly ball luck.
    • Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is “the name to watch” for the Tigers as we approach the 2018 June amateur draft, says Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. After skidding to a 68-94 record last season, Detroit owns the number one overall pick in the draft, and as Passan notes, the club loves big college arms. Mize threw a no-hitter last night and was throwing 96 MPH up through the ninth inning. Scouts in attendance say he was throwing a “filthy split” as well.
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    Julian Merryweather Diagnosed With UCL Sprain https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-central-notes-lynn-twins-hahn-jay-indians.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/al-central-notes-lynn-twins-hahn-jay-indians.html#comments Wed, 07 Mar 2018 03:00:21 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116408
  • Indians right-hander Julian Merryweather is also dealing with a sprained UCL in his pitching elbow, reports MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). He’s been shut down from throwing for the time being and is getting a second opinion from renowned surgeon Dr. Keith Meister. Merryweather, 26, made 16 starts and totaled 78 innings for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus last season, though he struggled to an ERA north of 6.00 (thanks in large part to a near-.400 BABIP). That rocky performance notwithstanding, he ranks 16th among Indians prospects, per MLB.com. Merryweather is on the 40-man roster, so if he’s expected to miss significant time, he could eventually land on the 60-day DL and free up a 40-man spot in Cleveland.
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    Latest On Indians’ Rotation Plans https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/latest-on-indians-rotation-plans-mike-clevinger-rotation.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/latest-on-indians-rotation-plans-mike-clevinger-rotation.html#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2018 04:46:58 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116333 The Indians entered the offseason with enviable depth in their pitching staff, particularly among rotation hopefuls. While that led some to wonder whether trades might be considered, to this point the Cleveland organization has not shipped away pitching.

    Midway through Spring Training, it seems the situation is beginning to resolve itself — at least as to how things will look when camp breaks. Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer has the latest on the defending AL Central champs.

    Per Indians skipper Terry Francona, the current expectation is for Mike Clevinger to hold down a rotation spot to open the season. “He’s strong, and he should be able to be that innings-eater type pitcher,” says Francona.

    Of course, Clevinger did a good deal more than eat innings last year. 2017 was a breakout effort for a pitcher who entered the season with just 53 MLB frames under his belt. Over 121 2/3 innings, including 21 starts, he posted a 3.11 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.

    Suffice to say, such a campaign would secure most hurlers a starting job for the ensuing season. For the pitching-rich Indians, though, there are quite a lot of other arms to consider.

    At the onset of the offseason, the biggest question surrounded enigmatic righty Danny Salazar, who has long dealt premium stuff but suffered from injury and performance lapses. He wasn’t traded, but now there’s a shoulder injury to worry about. Though it’s possible Salazar will return to pitching off of a mound in a few days, says Francona, the pitcher is “not going to be ready” for the start of the season.

    That news more or less sews up a spot for Clevinger, though this organization still has some pitching decisions to make. As Hoynes writes, the club is still waiting to see how the competition plays out between Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt. The former has struggled with long balls in recent years but remains an elite control artist, while the latter — who is also more notable for limiting the free pass than for strikeouts — has produced good results in very limited MLB action.

    In addition to deciding the outcome of that battle, the Indians will be making some interesting bullpen decisions. Tomlin or Merritt could join the relief unit, but they’ll be contending with a long list of possibilities, including quite a lot of non-roster invitees (as shown in this Indians depth chart). All told, there’s still a good bit of potential roster intrigue in Cleveland.

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    Market Notes: Upton, Archer, Realmuto, Holland, Lynn https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/market-notes-upton-archer-realmuto-holland-lynn.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/03/market-notes-upton-archer-realmuto-holland-lynn.html#comments Fri, 02 Mar 2018 06:09:17 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116083 Over at The Athletic, Pedro Moura held a fascinating conversation with Angels slugger Justin Upton. (Subscription link.) There’s plenty of interest in the chat, though Upton’s comments on free agency are of particular interest and relevance. The thrust of his sentiment is that teams seem to be looking to score free-agent value rather than identifying and “courting” players they actively wish to employ. “Teams don’t value players as people anymore,” says Upton. “They value them as a number on a sheet of paper.”

    Of course, Upton forewent a chance at returning to the open market by agreeing to a deal with an organization he was comfortable with. Here’s the latest on the unusually high number of quality free agents still not in camp and other market notes:

    • The likelihood remains that the Rays will enter the season with Chris Archer on the staff, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports among other notes. That’s due in no small part to the team’s lofty asking price; one rival executive suggests that the Tampa Bay front office “wanted our whole farm system” to move Archer. The club has given that impression publicly, too. Senior VP of baseball ops Chaim Bloom reiterated that the expectation is to hang onto Archer and others in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). He added that the internal expectation is that it will begin to reap the rewards of an effort over recent years to bolster the farm depth while still trying to compete at the MLB level.
    • It has remained interesting to consider whether the Nationals might pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. But there isn’t much recent indication of serious talks, and Heyman indicates that’s due to what seems to be a big gulf in the sides’ valuations. Washington won’t give top prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto, per the report; while the club might part with young infielder Carter Kieboom or outfielder Michael Taylor, it seems Miami was asking for too much additional talent to be included in a package.
    • The outfield market has certainly delivered some surprises thus far. Heyman says Jarrod Dyson spurned an early two-year, $14MM offer, though a source tells MLBTR that is not accurate. Dyson ultimately signed for $7.5MM with the Diamondbacks. It remains to be seen what’ll happen with players such as Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay, each of whom were rated among the fifty best free agents this winter by MLBTR. Heyman says the Indians are still looking at right-handed outfield bats, though it would surely be a surprise for the team to plunk down any meaningful money to make an addition. Perhaps the trade route could still hold some surprises, though that’s pure speculation on my part.
    • Veteran reliever Greg Holland might have overplayed his hand in spurning the Rockies earlier in the winter. Colorado was willing to give him something approaching the three-year, $51MM deal the team ultimately inked with Wade Davis, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests in an appearance on the podcast of Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. It’s premature, perhaps, to declare that Holland won’t be able to top that number, though it’s frankly difficult to see where that level of interest might come from — as MLBTR’s Steve Adams has recently explained.
    • Holland’s list of suitors is in question at the moment. One thing that seems clear, per Heyman, is that the Cubs aren’t planning on making a surprise run at the closer. Rather, Chicago seems largely committed to utilizing Brandon Morrow in the ninth inning and is likely to hold back its remaining payroll reserves for potential mid-season additions.
    • So, how low could the remaining pitchers go? Presumably there’s a point at which some bidding would occur. But it’s notable that, per ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson (podcast link), the Twins expressed interest in Lance Lynn in the range of just $10MM to $12MM over two seasons. Just how that level of interest came about and was expressed isn’t clear. The team has also made some fairly notable recent commitments and may just not have much more payroll flexibility. And it certainly shouldn’t be taken as evidence of Lynn’s current market value. Still, it’s interesting to learn that’s the current extent of Minnesota’s interest.
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    Erik Gonzalez Being Evaluated For Leg Injury https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-morrison-royals-gonzalez-white-sox.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-morrison-royals-gonzalez-white-sox.html#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2018 00:17:33 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116020
  • Indians infielder Erik Gonzalez left today’s game with an ankle/leg injury and is being further evaluated at the club’s Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., tweets MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The versatile 26-year-old is attempting to make the club as a utility infielder, but he’s out of minor league options and would have to be placed on waivers before he could be sent to Triple-A early in the season. As such, any absence figures to complicate the decision and work to the benefit of his primary competition, Giovanny Urshela.
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    Napoli Unlikely To Crack Indians Roster https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-sano-merrifield-mondesi-napoli.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-sano-merrifield-mondesi-napoli.html#comments Tue, 27 Feb 2018 23:51:47 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115942
  • While many Indians fans were happy to see Mike Napoli reunited with the organization earlier this morning when he agreed to a minor league deal, manager Terry Francona tempered expectations regarding Napoli’s chances of making the club (link via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian). “He wanted a chance to be in a Major League camp,” said Francona. “There’s a decent chance we’re going to get him ready to have him go on another team and help beat us. Saying that, I think we all felt like he deserved it. He’s such a pro, so special to us.” Francona added that he was extremely honest and forthcoming with Napoli about the lack of immediate opportunity, although as Bastian notes, the well-respected and well-liked Napoli provides a nice depth option in the case of an injury. And, Josh Tomlin raved to Bastian about the team’s excitement over having Napoli in the clubhouse, even if it’s only for a short time.
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    Indians Agree To Terms With Mike Napoli https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-agree-to-terms-with-mike-napoli.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-agree-to-terms-with-mike-napoli.html#comments Tue, 27 Feb 2018 21:31:38 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115876 3:30pm: Napoli’s contract comes with a $1.75MM salary in the Majors plus another $3.25MM available to him via incentives, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman.

    9:08am: The Indians have a minor-league deal in place with veteran slugger Mike Napoli, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). If he passes a physical, Napoli will join the organization’s major-league camp. He’s represented by Paragon Sports.

    This move reunites the first baseman/DH with the organization he helped lead to a World Series berth in 2016. With Edwin Encarnacion ensconced in the designated hitter role, it seems likely that Napoli — if he earns a roster spot — would most likely serve as a platoon mate for first baseman Yonder Alonso.

    Between Napoli’s quality season in Cleveland and his deal to re-join the organization today, the 36-year-old limped to a .193/.285/.428 slash in 485 plate appearances with the Rangers. While he still managed to launch 29 long balls, and was likely unfortunate to carry a .225 BABIP, Napoli’s walk (10.1%) and strikeout (33.6%) rates suffered in comparison to his levels in prior campaigns. He also dealt with a torn ligament in his right hand.

    Needless to say, it’s possible to put a positive or negative spin on the undeniably less-than-ideal results from 2017. In a limited role, though, there’s good reason to think that Napoli can still produce at the plate — especially against lefties, against whom he owns a lifetime .892 OPS. And while he’s a poor baserunner who is limited in the field, he has graded out as an average performer at first base over the past three seasons.

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    Tyler Naquin On Plans For 2018 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-twins-naquin-burger.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-twins-naquin-burger.html#comments Mon, 26 Feb 2018 23:30:16 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115820 The Twins made a splash by upgrading their DH slot with yesterday’s addition of Logan Morrison, but Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com takes a look at the organization’s continued need for rotation help. While Minnesota has made one mid-level addition by picking up Jake Odorizzi, the team will be without Ervin Santana for as much as a month and still lacks certainty in the starting group as a whole. Castrovince points out that the Twins’ primary (and perhaps only) competition in the AL Central, the Indians, are hardly a flawless team. While Cleveland still seems an obvious favorite, it is certainly worth giving chase for the Twins given the state of the rest of the division.

    • Tyler Naquin became somewhat of a forgotten man for the Indians in 2017 despite a third-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, and he’s out to reclaim his spot with better health in 2018, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Naquin openly admits that he slowed in the outfield in 2017 as he battled back and knee injuries, and he understands how those ill-timed issues opened a door for Bradley Zimmer to step up and seize a spot in the big league outfield. “You could tell I’d lost that step because I was banged up or whatnot,” Naquin tells Hoynes. “But feeling good now and being able to run, you can tell it’s a lot different.”
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    Indians, Bryan Shaw Talked Extension Last Summer https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/nl-west-notes-towers-kershaw-tribe-shaw-young-mitchell.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/nl-west-notes-towers-kershaw-tribe-shaw-young-mitchell.html#comments Mon, 26 Feb 2018 01:42:52 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115761
  • Bryan Shaw’s decision to join the Rockies was helped by an endorsement from his former Indians manager Terry Francona, Shaw tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila.  “I talked to Tito a little bit about the teams that had interest in me.  I got his opinion of the organizations — the managers and others with roles within those organizations.  He had nothing but good things to say about Bud Black and the guys who are here,” Shaw said.  Cleveland’s front office also offered help with any questions Shaw might’ve had about other teams, a further sign of the good relationship between the right-hander and his former team.  Shaw said that he and the Tribe had talks about a possible contract extension midway through last season, “but from a numbers standpoint it never got there.”  In December, Shaw signed a three-year deal with Colorado worth $27MM in guaranteed money, plus a potential vesting option for the 2021 season that would pay him $7MM in additional salary.
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    Indians Claim Ben Taylor https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-claim-ben-taylor.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-claim-ben-taylor.html#comments Sun, 25 Feb 2018 18:52:25 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115714 The Indians have claimed right-hander Ben Taylor off waivers from the Red Sox, Christopher Smith of MassLive.com tweets. Taylor had been in limbo since Boston designated him for assignment last weekend. To make room for Taylor, the Indians placed righty Cody Anderson on the 60-day disabled list, per a team announcement. Anderson is still recovering from a March 2017 Tommy John procedure.

    The 26-year-old Taylor is the second reliever the Indians have added on Sunday, joining minor league free agent signing Matt Belisle. Taylor, who had been with the Red Sox since they selected him in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, got his first taste of major league action last season. Over a 17 1/3-inning span, Taylor logged a 5.19 ERA with 9.35 K/9, 4.67 BB/9 and a paltry 26.4 percent groundball rate. He was more successful in his first Triple-A experience, albeit over just 13 1/3 frames, with a 2.70 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.38 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent grounder mark.

    Taylor has a pair of minor league options remaining, which means he could serve as Triple-A depth for the Indians if he doesn’t make their season-opening bullpen.

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    Indians Sign Matt Belisle https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-to-sign-matt-belisle.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-to-sign-matt-belisle.html#comments Sun, 25 Feb 2018 15:06:28 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115666 9:06am: Belisle will earn a $1.5MM salary with a chance for more via incentives if he makes the Indians, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. There are $1.75MM in bonuses, Buster Olney of ESPN adds (via Twitter).

    7:39am: The Indians have agreed to a minor league contract with reliever Matt Belisle, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. The deal includes an invitation to big league camp.

    The 37-year-old Belisle spent last season with Minnesota, one of the Indians’ AL Central rivals, and emerged as the Twins’ closer after they traded Brandon Kintzler in July. In all, the right-handed Belisle pitched to a 4.03 ERA, posted 8.06 K/9 against 3.28 BB/9 and recorded nine saves over 60 1/3 innings.

    While Belisle only induced ground balls at a 40.7 percent clip, he made up for it with a 15.6 percent infield fly rate – the 17th-best figure among qualified relievers and a significantly higher number than his career mark (7 percent). And even though Belisle’s velocity dropped from the low-90s to the high-80s as the season progressed, he was far more effective in the second half of the year (1.71 ERA, 3.08 FIP across 26 1/3 innings) than the first (5.82 ERA, 4.83 FIP over 34 frames). Belisle helped his cause by stifling both same-handed hitters (.243/.319/.377) and lefty-swingers (.160/.244/.351).

    Since debuting in the majors in 2003, Belisle has fared similarly against righties (.278/.322/.420) and lefties (.266/.333/.422), and has registered a 4.19 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 2.28 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent grounder rate across 894 1/3 innings. Also a former Red, Rockie, Cardinal and National, he’ll now attempt to join an Indians bullpen that was among the game’s elite in 2017. The Indians have since lost righties Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith to free agency, but Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Nick Goody and Tyler Olson remain on hand in a still-impressive group.

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    AL Central Notes: Santiago, Merritt, Liriano, Aybar https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-santiago-merritt-liriano-aybar.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-santiago-merritt-liriano-aybar.html#comments Sat, 24 Feb 2018 22:47:58 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115645 Hector Santiago, who came back to the White Sox this offseason on a minor-league deal, has come up with a strategy to combat the  fastball decline that often comes with aging, James Fegan of The Athletic writes. The southpaw plans to bring back the screwball he threw in his days as a rookie. “I have not gone a day this offseason or in spring training where I have not thrown a screwball,” he said. “I’ve thrown a screwball in both my BPs and my only bullpen. It’s almost taken over my changeup. Lot of people say it’s gone, but nah, I just substituted my changeup for my screwball and I throw a lot more screwballs than changeup.” Notably, his arm motion for the screwball is similar to that of his changeup, which could help with deception in his delivery as he uses both to play off his fastball. Fegan notes that Santiago could be at the “top of the heap” of the White Sox’ MiLB free agent arms, if he can return to health and effectiveness.

    A few other small items out of the AL Central…

    • Much has been made of the fact that young Indians lefty (and 2016 postseason hero) Ryan Merritt is out of options and faces an uphill battle to make the club’s rotation out of spring training. But the 26-year-old isn’t focused on that right now, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “I’m really not going to get caught up in what’s going to happen a month from now,” he said. “I can control today. And, when I show up tomorrow, I can control what I do that day.” Merritt has a career 1.74 ERA (albeit in just 20 2/3 major league innings), but is most famous for starting Game 5 of the 2016 ALCS for the Indians, allowing zero runs across his 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. Cleveland would go on to win that game, punching their ticket to the World Series.
    • New Tigers lefty Francisco Liriano will compete for a spot in the club’s rotation during spring training, GM Al Avila says (via Jason Beck of MLB.com). However, if he’s unable to make the club in that capacity, he’s willing to pitch out of the bullpen. It’s possible that the 34-year-old’s best days are behind him, as he’s posted consecutive seasons with an ERA north of 4.60. Even as a reliever with the Astros last season, he posted a 4.40 ERA down the stretch with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Still, if he can show some flashes of his peak performance with the Pirates from 2013-2015, he’d represent a solid option for a Tigers club that is largely devoid of secure rotation options outside of Michael Fulmer.
    • Erick Aybar recently signed with the Twins, but Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that the infielder had received interest from the Reds and Rangers as well. He reportedly chose the Twins because he liked their opportunity best. In a later tweet, Berardino reports that Aybar will make his spring training debut on Monday (though Aybar told manager Paul Molitor that he was ready to play in today’s matchup).
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    Indians Sign Carlos Torres To Minor League Deal https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-to-sign-carlos-torres.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/indians-to-sign-carlos-torres.html#comments Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:30:55 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115441 Feb. 22: Cleveland announced the signing this morning. Torres would earn $1.5MM upon making the big league roster, Cotillo adds. He can also earn another $800K via incentives.

    Feb. 21: The Indians have agreed to a minors deal with righty Carlos Torres, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The KVA Sports client will receive an invitation to MLB camp.

    Torres, 35, will face a difficult task of cracking a Cleveland bullpen that has quite a few pieces in place and numerous competitors for whatever openings remain. Whatever starters miss on a rotation spot — Danny Salazar, Josh TomlinMike Clevinger, and Ryan Merritt are among those slated to do battle — could be considered in relief roles. And the slate of veteran non-roster hurlers is already fairly lengthy, including MLB veterans Alexi Ogando and Neil Ramirez.

    That said, the Indians surely offered Torres a reasonable shot at winning a job in order to entice him. He has been a workhorse for some time now at the game’s highest level, making 139 appearances over the past two seasons alone. The Brewers nevertheless elected not to tender Torres a contract; he was projected to earn $3.3MM in his final season of arbitration eligibility.

    Of course, Torres was not nearly as effective in 2017 as he was in the prior campaign — an 82 1/3 inning career year in which he ran up a 2.73 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Last season, Torres dropped back to 72 2/3 innings of 4.21 ERA ball with just 6.9 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9, though he did show a career-high 93.4 mph average velocity with his cutter — even as that heavily-used offering waned in effectiveness.

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    Indians Facing Decisions On Out-Of-Options Merritt, Gonzalez, Urshela https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-mauer-hochevar-indians-chisox.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/02/al-central-notes-mauer-hochevar-indians-chisox.html#comments Thu, 22 Feb 2018 03:25:09 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115466
  • The Indians will face decisions on a trio of out-of-options players this spring, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and southpaw Ryan Merritt figures to face the toughest path of them all. While Erik Gonzalez and Giovanny Urshela are both out of options as well, they’re vying for a presently vacant utility infield job; Merritt, on the other hand, is faced with a full rotation and a bullpen that, at best, has one open spot. While it’s certainly possible that an injury creates a more obvious spot for Merritt to break camp with the big league club, there’s also the possibility that he’s exposed to waivers or traded at some point, given the overall strength of the Indians’ pitching staff. The 26-year-old Merritt etched his place in Cleveland sports lore when he blanked the Blue Jays over 4 1/3 innings in a spot start during the 2016 ALCS, and he has a 1.71 ERA in 31 2/3 MLB innings in his career. But, he’s also struck out just 13 hitters in the Majors and averages just 87 mph on his fastball. Merritt has a career 3.48 ERA with 6.0 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in 289 1/3 Triple-A frames.
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