Cleveland Indians – MLB Trade Rumors 2021-04-17T03:57:01Z WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[2020 Rule 5 Draft Update]]> 2021-04-16T03:55:07Z 2021-04-16T03:55:06Z An abnormal number of picks from the 2020 Rule 5 Draft survived Spring Training and made the Opening Day rosters with their new clubs. The Orioles and Marlins both broke camp with a pair of Rule 5 picks on the active roster, while the Pirates opened the season with one Rule 5 pick on the roster and one on the injured list. Most clubs that are carrying a Rule 5 pick, unsurprisingly, have little in the way of postseason aspirations. There are a few October hopefuls among those still clinging to Rule 5 picks, however, and it’ll take some uncharacteristically strong Rule 5 showings for those players to survive the season.

We’ll take a look at how the surviving Rule 5 draftees are faring periodically throughout the year. Here’s the first glance…

Currently in the Majors

  • Brett de Geus, RHP, Rangers (via Dodgers): Injuries throughout the Rangers’ bullpen might have helped the 23-year-old de Geus crack the Opening Day roster in Texas. He’s out to a shaky start, having walked three batters and hit another three against just two strikeouts through his first 5 2/3 innings. On the plus side, 13 of the 15 balls put into play against him have been grounders.
  • Akil Baddoo, OF, Tigers (via Twins): Baddoo is one of the best stories (maybe the best) of the young 2021 season. The 22-year-old homered on his first swing in the big leagues as his family rejoiced in the stands, and in less than two weeks’ time he’s added a grand slam, a walk-off single (against his former organization) a 450-foot dinger off Zack Greinke and a fourth homer. Baddoo has a ludicrous 1.342 OPS through his first 29 plate appearances in the Majors, and while he obviously won’t sustain that, he’s forcing a legitimate audition in the Detroit outfield. Baddoo missed nearly all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and didn’t play in 2020. Despite that layoff and the fact that he’d never played above A-ball, the Tigers called his name in December. It may have seemed like a stretch at the time, but it doesn’t look that way now.
  • Garrett Whitlock, RHP, Red Sox (via Yankees): The Sox would surely love for Whitlock to stick, having plucked him from their archrivals in New York. So far, so good. Better than good, in fact. Through 6 1/3 scoreless innings, Whitlock has yielded three hits and punched out nine batters without issuing a walk. He’s sitting 95.6 mph with his heater and has posted a hefty 16.9 percent swinging-strike rate. Whitlock also had Tommy John surgery in 2019, so even though he’s previously been a starter, it makes sense to monitor his workload ease him into the mix as the Sox hope to get through the year with him in the ’pen.
  • Tyler Wells, RHP, Orioles (via Twins): Wells has allowed a pair of homers and surrendered three total runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 frames. The O’s aren’t trying to win in 2021, but their bullpen also has four arms that can’t be optioned (Cesar Valdez, Shawn Armstrong, Adam Plutko, Wade LeBlanc). Keeping both Wells and Mac Sceroler (currently on the IL) brings them  to six and will hamper their flexibility.
  • Zach Pop and Paul Campbell, RHPs, Marlins (via Orioles and Rays): Pop was technically the D-backs’ pick in the Rule 5, but Arizona immediately flipped him to the Marlins for a PTBNL. The 24-year-old didn’t allow an earned run in five spring frames but as I was finishing this post, he served up a three-run homer, bringing his season line to seven runs on three hits, three walks and two hit batters in 3 1/3 innings. Campbell has struggled to a similar extent. He’s surrendered five runs (three earned) and given up four hits and three walks in just 2 2/3 innings. With the Marlins out of tank mode, it’ll be tough to carry both all year.
  • Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Rockies (via Dodgers): Sheffield was the No. 36 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, but control issues prevented him from being protected on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen gives Sheffield three plus pitches in his scouting report (fastball, curveball, changeup) but also pegs his command at a 30 on the 20-80 scale. Sheffield has walked or plunked 15 percent of the hitters he faced in the minors. He’s yet to walk anyone 13 batters he’s faced with the Rockies, but he did hit one and has also tossed a pair of wild pitches. That said, he’s also sitting 95.5 mph with his heater and is unscored upon in 3 2/3 frames.
  • Luis Oviedo, RHP, Pirates (via Indians): Oviedo was the Mets’ pick at No. 10, but they had a deal worked out to flip him to the Pirates in exchange for cash. Oviedo has been hammered for six runs on six hits (two homers) and two walks with five strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings so far. Even pitching for a tanking club, Oviedo will need to show some improvement in order to stick on the roster all season.
  • Will Vest, RHP, Mariners (via Tigers): The Mariners kept last year’s Rule 5 pick Yohan Ramirez for the whole season, but it’ll be tougher to do with a full schedule in 2021. The Mariners’ young core is also beginning to rise to the big leagues, and Vest will need to fend off some intriguing young arms. He’s done a decent job so far, allowing a pair of runs (one unearned) on five hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
  • Trevor Stephan, RHP, Indians (via Yankees): Stephan whiffed 16 of 44 hitters this spring to earn a spot on the Indians’ Opening Day roster, but he’s allowed four runs in his first four MLB frames. The 25-year-old has surrendered five hits (including a homer), walked a pair and hit a batter so far while facing a total of 21 hitters.
  • Ka’ai Tom, OF, Athletics (via Indians): Tom, 26, raked at a .310/.412/.552 pace with a homer, two doubles and a triple in 34 spring plate appearances. After that strong audition, however, he’s just 1-for-16 with six strikeouts through his first 16 trips to the plate with the A’s.

On the Major League injured list

  • Jose Soriano, RHP, Pirates (via Angels): It wasn’t a surprise to see Soriano open the year on the injured list. He’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in Feb. 2020 and didn’t pitch in a game with the Pirates this spring. He’ll be sidelined for at least the first two months, as the Bucs put him on the 60-day IL to open a 40-man roster spot when they signed Tyler Anderson. Soriano hasn’t pitched above A-ball, but the Pirates aren’t exactly a win-now club, so they can afford to stash him as a seldom-used bullpen piece in order to secure his rights beyond the 2021 season.
  • Mac Sceroler, RHP, Orioles (via Reds): Sceroler fanned six hitters in 3 2/3 innings early in the season but also yielded three runs on five hits (two homers), three walks and a hit batter. The Orioles recently placed him on the 10-day injured list due to tendinitis in his right shoulder, although it’s not expected to be too lengthy an absence.
  • Dedniel Nunez, RHP, Giants (via Mets): Nunez was hit hard in the Cactus League, surrendering four runs in 3 1/3 innings. He’ll now miss the entire 2021 season after sustaining a UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery this spring. Nunez will spend the season on San Francisco’s 60-day injured list and receive a year of MLB service, but he’ll still be subject to Rule 5 restrictions in 2022 once he’s healthy. He’ll need to spend at least 90 days on the MLB roster before he can be sent to the minors; if he doesn’t last that long, he’ll have to pass through waivers and, if he clears, be offered back to the Mets.

Returned to their original club

  • Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP, Angels (via Astros): The Angels didn’t take much of a look at Rivera, returning him to Houston on March 24 after just one inning of official work in Cactus League play.
  • Kyle Holder, SS, Reds (via Yankees): The Reds weren’t sure who their shortstop was going to be heading into Spring Training, but they ultimately settled on moving Eugenio Suarez back to that spot, sliding Mike Moustakas back to third base and giving prospect Jonathan India the nod at second base. A strong spring from Holder might have at least given him a bench spot behind that trio, but he hit just .219/.359/.250 in 39 plate appearances. The Reds returned him to the Yankees on March 30.
  • Gray Fenter, RHP, Cubs (via Orioles): The Cubs returned Fenter to the Orioles on March 12 after just one spring appearance. He hasn’t pitched above A-ball yet.
  • Dany Jimenez, RHP, Athletics (via Blue Jays): The 27-year-old Jimenez was a Rule 5 pick in consecutive offseasons — once by each Bay Area club. The A’s returned him to the Jays on March 15, however, after he yielded four runs (two earned) in three innings of work this spring.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Indians Sign Rene Rivera]]> 2021-04-14T18:27:42Z 2021-04-14T17:37:31Z The Indians have signed veteran catcher Rene Rivera to a minor league contract and assigned him to their alternate training site, per a club announcement. He’s represented by MDR Sports Management.

Rivera, 37, has spent the past two seasons with the Mets organization — a return to the organization with which he has spent the most time in the Major Leagues. He tallied just four plate appearances last summer and only 20 the previous year, however. He hasn’t reached 100 plate appearances in the big leagues since the 2017 season, which he split between the Mets and the Cubs.

Rivera doesn’t hit much and never really has. He’s the consummate glove-first, grizzled veteran backstop who draws praise for framing, throwing, calling a sound game and offering plenty of veteran insight to young pitchers and catchers alike. He’s a career .221/.272/.353 hitter in 1551 plate appearances at the MLB level.

Cleveland has Roberto Perez and Austin Hedges currently atop its depth chart for catchers, while fellow veteran Ryan Lavarnway is at the team’s alternate site as well. Perez is out to a fast start this season, while Hedges is 1-for-8 with a solo homer (and just 2-for-20 dating back to last season’s acquisition). Of course, Hedges himself is a defense-first catcher with enough power to occasionally run into a big fly, so the lack of offense in that tiny sample isn’t a huge shock. Hedges, however, is regarded as one of the best, if not the best defensive catcher in baseball, so he’s unlikely to be displaced by Rivera anytime soon (barring injury).

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Reds Claim Beau Taylor, Designate Deivy Grullon]]> 2021-04-03T21:41:32Z 2021-04-03T21:17:39Z The Reds have claimed catcher Beau Taylor off waivers from the Indians, and designated catcher Deivy Grullon for assignment.  Taylor will be optioned to the Reds’ alternate training site.  The club also announced that right-hander Edgar Garcia is also headed for the alternate training site, as Garcia (who was designated for assignment earlier this week) has cleared waivers and been outrighted off the 40-man roster.

The 31-year-old Taylor is moving onto his fourth different organization in as many seasons, with an MLB resume that includes 25 games with Oakland, Toronto, and Cleveland.  Originally a fifth-round pick for the Athletics back in 2011, Taylor has only a .492 OPS over 60 big league appearances, but a much more respectable .256/.373/.385 slash line in 798 PA at the Triple-A level.  Cincinnati now has both Taylor and Rocky Gale at the alternate site as depth options while top prospect Tyler Stephenson and utilityman Kyle Farmer are handling backup catcher duties behind Tucker Barnhart on the big league roster.

Grullon was himself a waiver claim acquisition for the Reds, selected away from the Red Sox back in December.  Grullon has appeared in five total Major League games — four with the Phillies in 2019 and one with the Red Sox in 2020 — and 606 minor league games in a pro career that began back in 2013.  The 25-year-old didn’t hit much until the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and Grullon has delivered a .283/.354/.496 slash line over 457 Triple-A plate appearances.  Considering this resume and Grullon’s well-regarded throwing arm, it’s quite possible another team could pluck Grullon off the waiver wire.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Orioles Acquire Adam Plutko, Release Yolmer Sanchez]]> 2021-03-30T17:42:43Z 2021-03-30T17:42:03Z TODAY: Sanchez has cleared waivers and been granted a release, the Orioles announced.

MARCH 27: The Orioles have acquired right-hander Adam Plutko in a trade with the Indians, The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli reports (Twitter link).  The O’s have officially announced the deal, noting that Plutko was acquired for cash considerations.  Infielder Yolmer Sanchez has been designated for assignment in a corresponding move to open a spot on Baltimore’s 40-man roster.

Plutko is out of minor league options, so the trade allows Cleveland to receive at least a modest return for a player who wasn’t likely to make their Opening Day roster, rather than lose Plutko for nothing on the waiver wire.  Plutko’s 40-man roster space can now be filled by Bryan Shaw, who was in camp on a minor league contract and had already been told that he will make the team.

Originally an 11th-round pick for the Tribe in the 2013 draft, Plutko has a 5.05 ERA/5.71 SIERA over 217 1/3 big league innings, starting 36 of his 50 career games.  Plutko doesn’t miss many bats (only a 16.9% career strikeout rate) and he’s had a lot of trouble keeping the ball in the park, with a 2.03 HR/9 over his four MLB seasons.  On the plus side, he doesn’t issue many walks, and he has displayed some elite spin on his curveball.

Plutko is already 29 years old but still controllable through the 2024 season, which is undoubtedly of interest to the Orioles.  Plutko wasn’t consistent enough to lock down a regular starting job with the pitching-rich Indians, but he’ll immediately become a candidate for the fifth spot in a Baltimore rotation that includes John Means, Matt Harvey, Dean Kremer, and Wade LeBlanc.  Alternatively, Plutko could also be deployed out of the bullpen as a long reliever or swingman.

The Plutko trade is a logical pickup for the Orioles, but the follow-up transaction is unusual, as Sanchez was projected to be the team’s starting second baseman.  The O’s claimed Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox in October, and while Baltimore could simply be taking a calculated risk that another team won’t claim the former Gold Glover, the DFA would seem to indicate that Sanchez isn’t seen as a big factor in the Orioles’ plans.

Sanchez avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $1MM deal for the 2021 season, but since arb contracts are only guaranteed once the player makes the Opening Day roster, the Orioles will only owe Sanchez 45 days of termination pay (roughly $250K) for being cut in the last half of Spring Training.  While not a huge savings, the financial aspect of the Sanchez DFA can’t be overlooked as a notable factor, considering how the Orioles have been looking to save money whenever possible this offseason.

If Sanchez ends up elsewhere, Pat Valaika, Ramon Urias, Jahmai Jones, and non-roster invite Stevie Wilkerson are on hand as second base options.  The Orioles could juggle playing time between multiple members of this group rather than stick with a true everyday second baseman.

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/28/21]]> 2021-03-29T02:43:29Z 2021-03-29T02:35:45Z The latest minor moves around the league…


  • The A’s announced a pair of roster moves, optioning Vimael Machin and Seth Brown to Triple-A. That means Rule 5 selection Ka’ai Tom is likely to make the roster as a reserve outfielder, notes Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom didn’t get a full spring because of an oblique injury, but he apparently showed enough for the A’s to keep him on the active roster. He’ll need to stay there for the entire season or else be returned to the Indians. Machin spent some of last season standing in for Matt Chapman at third before Jake Lamb arrived, but a relatively punchless .206/.296/.238 across 71 plate appearances likely returns the difficult-to-strikeout left-handed hitter to an emergency fill-in role. Brown, 28, contributed 0.7 fWAR in a highly-productive 26-game sample in 2019, but he logged only five plate appearances across seven games in 2020.

Earlier Updates

  • The Rangers released Nick Vincent yesterday, but today they announced that he will stay with the organization on a minor league contract. We’ll see this pattern with a number of players between now and opening day. The 34-year-old Vincent has seen action in every season going back to 2012 when he debuted with the Padres. He has appeared in 405 games over his nine-year career with exactly matching 3.38 ERA/FIP marks while suiting up for the Pads, Mariners, Giants, Phillies, and Marlins.
  • 16-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Mario Piño has agreed to sign with the Cardinals for $767K, per ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (Twitter links). Pino had multiple offers both for this signing period and next, but he ultimately has decided to join the Cardinals’ 2021-22 class of international signees. The White Sox, A’s, and Red Sox were among the teams who were said to be interested in Pino.
Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Triston McKenzie, Logan Allen Set For Indians Rotation]]> 2021-03-28T18:16:10Z 2021-03-28T18:16:10Z
  • Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill, and Logan Allen were all competing for the final two spots in the Indians’ rotation, and McKenzie and Allen have won the jobs, though their roles have yet to be specifically determined.  (The Athletic’s Zack Meisel was among those to report the news.)  McKenzie and Allen could be used in regular turns throughout the rotation, or the Tribe might use either in piggyback outings, or perhaps use an opener for an inning or two before giving way to McKenzie or Allen as the bulk pitcher.  Quantrill might factor into this situation as well, since Quantrill also made the roster and will work out of the bullpen.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Shane Bieber: Extension Talks Likely To Wait “Until Maybe Next Offseason”]]> 2021-03-28T04:53:54Z 2021-03-28T02:11:03Z The Indians at least broached the subjection of a contract extension with AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber this offseason, though Bieber told reporters (including The Athletic’s Zack Meisel and’s Joe Noga) that “I haven’t really gotten into very many talks, at least in-depthWith Opening Day coming up right here, right in front of us, I think that’ll be what it is until maybe next offseason.”

    There isn’t any immediate rush for the Tribe to lock up the ace right-hander, as Bieber won’t reach arbitration eligibility until next offseason, and he is under team control through the 2024 season.  Since managing payroll is such an important part of Cleveland’s team-building strategy (particularly this winter), it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one of the sport’s best pitchers on a bargain price for at least the next couple of years, though Bieber’s price tag will rise considerably through the arbitration process if he keeps pitching as he did in the 2020 season.

    The 25-year-old was a unanimous choice as the American League’s top hurler after a season that saw Bieber dominate in both the traditional statistics (a league-best 1.63 ERA, eight wins, and 122 strikeouts, to win the Triple Crown of pitching) and in the advanced metrics — a 2.52 SIERA, 44.1% strikeout rate, 34% strikeout-to-walk rate, and elite rates in most Statcast categories.  While Bieber recorded this dream year over only 77 1/3 innings in 2020, he first established himself as a breakout star with a fourth-place finish in AL Cy Young voting in 2019.

    The Indians have achieved great success in signing star players to long-term extensions early in their careers, though it’s possible they have already missed their window in locking up Bieber to a truly team-friendly deal.  One side effect of the Tribe’s winter cost-cutting, however, is that they don’t have a single dollar officially committed to payroll beyond the 2021 season, so there is plenty of space to afford a hefty multi-year salary for Bieber.

    As a fourth-round pick who signed for a modest $420K bonus, Bieber has yet to score any truly big paydays in his pro career, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that Cleveland renewed his contract for $679.7K in 2021 after the two sides didn’t reach common ground on the salary.  Bieber explained that he decided on a renewal after discussing things with his representatives, saying the decision “just seemed what was best for me in my career going forward.”  In terms of relations with the Indians front office, Bieber said there was “zero bad blood, animosity, whatever you want to call it,” and he is looking forward to the season.

    Another interesting wrinkle lies in who will be discussing this extension on Bieber’s behalf, as the righty is one of the relatively few baseball clients of Rosenhaus Sports Representation.  Run by football super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, the firm only expanded into representing baseball players in 2017, and Bieber represents the agency’s first opportunity to negotiate a major baseball contract.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Indians Designate Beau Taylor For Assignment]]> 2021-03-27T16:48:49Z 2021-03-27T16:18:53Z The Indians are designating catcher Beau Taylor for assignment, Mandy Bell of was among those to pass along. Right-hander Cam Hill is going on the 60-day injured list, per Zack Meisel of the Athletic (Twitter link). The moves clear a pair of 40-man roster spots for outfielder Ben Gamel and lefty reliever Oliver Pérez, who made the Indians’ Opening Day roster. Cleveland will need to make another 40-man move to accommodate the addition of right-hander Bryan Shaw.

    Taylor has only managed 60 MLB plate appearances between the A’s, Blue Jays and Indians over the past two seasons. The 31-year-old backstop carries a .256/.373/.385 line over parts of three years at Triple-A. In addition to that high minors productivity, Taylor still comes with a pair of minor-league option years, so it’s possible other clubs will have interest in him as a depth catcher. Cleveland will have a week to trade him or place him on waivers.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Cleveland Indians]]> 2021-03-28T01:12:21Z 2021-03-27T02:59:44Z It’s a season of change for the Indians, who said goodbye over the offseason to a star shortstop, a rotation cornerstone, and even their team name.  One thing Cleveland is hoping to replicate, however, is a return to the playoffs, as the club is still planning to contend.

    Major League Signings

    • Eddie Rosario, OF: One year, $8MM
    • Cesar Hernandez, 2B: One year, $5MM (Cleveland holds $6MM club option for 2022, no buyout)
    • Total spend: $13MM

    Trades & Claims

    Notable Minor League Signings


    • None

    Notable Losses

    The offseason began in rather inauspicious fashion for the Tribe, as the team didn’t just part ways with Brad Hand, but the unusual decision was made to place the closer on waivers.  The intent was to try and save $1MM, the cost of buying out Hand’s $10MM club option — had another team claimed Hand on waivers, the Indians would have been clear of any further financial responsibilities.

    As odd as it was to see a team go to such lengths over a $1MM buyout, Hand went unclaimed on waivers, so Cleveland was far from alone in practicing austerity at the beginning of the offseason.  Declining the club option was itself a notable move, as the Tribe ended up letting a three-time All-Star go for nothing rather than at least exploring the market for a trade possibility.  For comparison’s sake, the Reds got an experienced reliever (Noe Ramirez) and a prospect back in exchange for trading closer Raisel Iglesias to the Angels in December.

    But, reducing spending was clearly top priority for a Cleveland team that will go into the 2021 season with somewhere in the neighborhood of roughly $49.1MM (as per Cot’s Baseball Contracts) to $52.7MM (as per Roster Resource) committed to player salaries.  Only the rebuilding Pirates are spending less on payroll than Cleveland, and beyond that, the Tribe doesn’t have a single dollar officially committed to a player for the 2022 season.

    This being said, the Indians haven’t gone the way of the Pirates, Orioles, Marlins, or other teams who slashed payroll as part of a multi-year rebuild.  Cleveland intends to make another run at the AL Central this season, as evidenced by how the Francisco Lindor/Carlos Carrasco blockbuster with the Mets continued the Tribe’s established strategy of trading established stars for a package of players that can contribute both now and in the future.

    Both Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario have big league experience and could help Cleveland as early as Opening Day.  Indeed, it seems like Gimenez will be the Indians’ regular shortstop, while Rosario is being eyed for something of a super-utility role, probably ticketed to see more time on the outfield grass than on the infield dirt.

    Both former top-100 prospects, Gimenez is seen as a better defensive fit than Rosario at shortstop, and Gimenez’s 2020 rookie season saw him earn more and more playing time in New York.  Gimenez’s .263/.333/.398 slash line over 132 plate appearances translated to roughly league-average (101 OPS+, 104 wRC+) offensive production, so the Tribe would likely be quite pleased if Gimenez can duplicate that over a full season while providing solid glovework.  Gimenez’s numbers in the minors weren’t far beyond his modest MLB stats and he has still never played any Triple-A ball, but if he does end up needing a bit more minor league seasoning, Rosario and backup infielder Yu Chang are on hand to fill in at shortstop.

    Rosario is something of the opposite story, as he established himself with the bat at the Double-A and Triple-A levels but questions have persisted about his ability to stick at shortstop.  He has played almost exclusively at short throughout his career, with just seven games in the minors as a third baseman and one appearance with the Mets last season in left field, though there were reports both two years ago and this past winter that New York was considering using Rosario in the outfield.

    Interestingly, the Reds and other teams inquired about Rosario’s availability after the Indians brought him over from the Mets, but Cleveland opted to see what it has in the 25-year-old.  Rosario hasn’t come close to living up to his former top-prospect status, though he did show some glimpses of consistent hitting talent during the 2019 season.  A change of scenery and a change of position could both help to unlock this potential, and Cleveland’s outfield has been such a weak link for so many years that the Indians would undoubtedly love to see Rosario (or anyone) present themselves as a reliable regular option on the grass.

    While Gimenez and Rosario have potential, it will likely be a long time before Cleveland fans forget about Lindor or Carrasco.  There was never doubt that Lindor was finally being traded this winter, as he had only one year remaining on his contract and the Tribe wasn’t prepared to meet Lindor’s $300MM+ asking price on an extension.  Since that sole year of control perhaps limited Lindor’s trade market, the Indians sweetened the deal for the Mets by including Carrasco, a beloved team leader and still a solidly effective starting pitcher (though Carrasco will begin the season on the injured list).

    As frustrating as it must be for Cleveland fans to constantly see star players shipped away from Progressive Field, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have now rather extensively refurbished this roster with promising young players, several of whom could be on the verge of a 2021 breakout.  It also doesn’t hurt that the Indians still have one of baseball’s best players in Jose Ramirez (who reportedly wasn’t a trade candidate this winter), one of the game’s best pitchers in AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, and an uncanny ability to keep developing quality starting pitching from its farm system.

    To add to this core group, the Tribe did indeed spend some money.  Owner Paul Dolan reportedly had to okay the front office’s ability to give $8MM to Eddie Rosario, a familiar AL Central face who beat up on Cleveland pitching over his six seasons with the Twins.  Rosario was available due to some cost-cutting on Minnesota’s part, as the Twins chose to non-tender Rosario rather than pay him a projected arbitration salary in the range of $8.6MM to $12.9MM.  Rosario gives Cleveland a legitimate everyday outfielder who offers a solid left field glove and quite a bit of pop, even if his on-base numbers aren’t overly impressive.

    While left field looks settled, there is uncertainty at the other outfield positions.  The Tribe’s hope is that Josh Naylor can take the leap from prospect to MLB regular in right field, but he does have only 383 big league plate appearances on his resume.  In center field, minor league signing Ben Gamel looks to get the bulk of playing time against right-handed pitching, with Amed Rosario and Jordan Luplow (who has only a handful of games as a center fielder in the majors) sharing the other side of the platoon.  Rosario or Luplow could also spell the left-handed hitting Naylor when a southpaw is on the mound.

    Franmil Reyes might also get the occasional look in the outfield, but the slugger will spend much of his time as a designated hitter.  Nolan Jones could join the outfield mix as well, as the top prospect (expected to make his MLB debut in 2021) has been getting work as an outfielder and as a first baseman since Jose Ramirez has already locked down Jones’ usual third base position.  Elsewhere on the outfield depth chart, waiver claim Harold Ramirez joins Bradley Zimmer, prospect Daniel Johnson and, somewhat surprisingly, Oscar Mercado as the top options at Triple-A.  Mercado was optioned to the minors since he still hasn’t gotten his swing on track in the aftermath of a brutal 2020 season.

    In the wake of the Mets trade, the initial thought was that both Gimenez and Amed Rosario would start in the middle infield, though that plan changed when Cleveland re-signed Cesar Hernandez to a $5MM deal with a club option for 2022.  Hernandez had an impressive all-around season with the Tribe, hitting .283/.355/.408 (106 OPS+, 110 wRC+) over 261 PA, and winning a Gold Glove for his slick work at second base.  Hernandez generated 1.9 fWAR over 58 games last season, a nice step up after he posted 1.8 fWAR in 2019 and 2.2 fWAR in 2018, both totals over 161-game seasons with the Phillies.

    After declining the Tribe declined their club option on Carlos Santana, Jake Bauers will get another shot as the provisional starting first baseman.  This decision is probably more based on Bauers being out of minor league options than a testament to his performance, as Bauers has only a .691 OPS over 811 PA in the majors and he didn’t play at all in 2020.  Bobby Bradley has had a nice Spring Training and is waiting in the wings if Bauers struggles, though since Bradley and Naylor are the only other viable first base options on the roster, Cleveland will face a question if all of these younger bats aren’t quite ready for prime time.  Should this become an issue during the season, the Tribe could look to pick up a veteran free agent still on the market — speculatively, perhaps a reunion with Edwin Encarnacion?

    The one club option that Cleveland did exercise last fall was to retain catcher Roberto Perez, who will earn a $5.5MM salary in 2021.  There was some thought that Austin Hedges could be non-tendered, but the Indians brought him back as well on an arbitration-avoiding $3.28MM salary.  The Perez/Hedges pairing definitely prioritizes glovework over hitting, though it adds to an overall sturdy defensive mix around the diamond.

    Of course, Cleveland’s run-prevention efforts are helped by their strong pitching staff.  While replacing Carrasco is far from easy, the Tribe have Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill, and Logan Allen competing for the rotation’s two open spots, with McKenzie looking like the favorite for the fourth starter role.  There isn’t much in the way of experienced depth at Triple-A, so injuries could create a problem…unless the Tribe call up yet another youngster who immediately looks like a big league-ready arm.  Keep an eye on left-handers Scott Moss and Sam Hentges as candidates to make their Major League debuts in 2021.

    The Indians did add some veterans to their relief corps via minor league deals, signing Blake Parker and a couple of familiar Cleveland faces in Bryan Shaw and Oliver Perez.  Shaw has already been told he is making the Opening Day roster, and Perez also looks like a pretty safe bet considering that Cleveland doesn’t have any other southpaws in the bullpen.  James Karinchak and Nick Wittgren are the top choices to replace Hand at closer, and both pitchers could receive their share of saves rather than have just a single pitcher committed for ninth-inning work.

    It remains to be seen if the Indians have enough to keep pace with the Twins or White Sox in the AL Central, or if the Tribe will be able to absorb the losses of Lindor and Carrasco as readily as they did losing Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber, or Trevor Bauer in other trades within the last two years.  Cleveland isn’t leaving itself much margin for error payroll-wise, but another postseason appearance wouldn’t be a shock.

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

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Indians Announce Roster Decisions]]> 2021-03-26T17:29:21Z 2021-03-26T17:12:27Z The Indians have informed first baseman Jake Bauers, lefty Oliver Perez, infielder Yu Chang and outfielder Ben Gamel that they’ve made the Opening Day roster, the club announced to reporters (Twitter links via Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon-Journal). First base prospect Bobby Bradley, outfielder Bradley Zimmer, veteran righty Blake Parker and young lefty Kyle Nelson have all been told they will not head north with the club.

    The slate of decisions means that Bauers, who is out of minor league options, will get one more opportunity to fend off Bradley. Bauers didn’t show particularly well this spring, slashing just .200/.429/.280 in 35 trips to the plate. Bradley’s .303/.314/.636 output trounced that, but we’re looking at small samples of data and it’s common this time of year for clubs to be averse to losing out-of-options players on waivers.

    Bauers is still just 25 years old and is a former top prospect himself, although he didn’t play in the big leagues last year and carries a rather marginal .214/.314/.377 slash in 811 career plate appearances. Bradley, 24, got an opportunity in the big leagues last season but stumbled with a .178/.245/.356 line in 49 trips to the plate.

    With the Indians optioning both Zimmer and Oscar Mercado to Triple-A this week, it appears that Gamel, who’d been in camp as a non-roster invitee, will be one of their primary options in center field. He could split time with Amed Rosario there, although Cleveland’s experiments with him in the outfield thus far in Spring Training have been somewhat adventurous. Gamel has more experience there and seems likely to see plenty of opportunity despite a tepid .212/.316/.364 showing in 38 spring plate appearances.

    Chang’s case for a roster spot improved earlier in camp when veteran Mike Freeman was traded over to the Reds. The 25-year-old Chang hasn’t hit much in parts of two seasons with the Indians in 2019-20, but he’s also received just 97 plate appearances in the Majors. Perez, meanwhile, has spent the past three seasons in Cleveland’s bullpen and thrown quite well, so it comes as little surprise that they’ll bring him back for a fourth year. Parker came to camp with a decent chance to grab a spot but has been clobbered for a dozen runs in 6 1/3 innings. His track record in the big leagues is obviously quite a bit better than that disastrous showing, but it’s not hard to see why Cleveland went in another direction after that audition.

    Though the team has announced its decisions, the moves themselves aren’t yet formal. Both Perez and Gamel were in camp on non-roster deals, as was veteran righty Bryan Shaw, who made the club earlier in the week. All three will need to be added to the 40-man roster between now and Opening Day, so the Indians clearly have some roster tweaking on the horizon.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Bryan Shaw Makes Indians’ Opening Day Roster]]> 2021-03-24T21:54:49Z 2021-03-24T21:54:49Z Right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw has made the Indians’ season-opening roster, Zack Meisel of The Athletic was among those to tweet. The team will have to add Shaw to its 40-man roster, which is full, and make a corresponding move to clear space for him.

    This will be the second major league stint in Cleveland for the 33-year-old Shaw, who pitched with the club from 2013-17 and produced outstanding results. Shaw was part of two playoff teams, including an American League pennant winner in 2016, and logged a 3.11 ERA/3.54 SIERA with a 22.5 percent strikeout rate and an 8.0 percent walk rate during his first run in Cleveland. He also ate up 358 2/3 innings during that span and never finished with fewer than 64 frames in a season.

    Shaw’s success with the Indians convinced the Rockies to sign him to a three-year, $27MM guarantee before 2018, but his career has fallen off a cliff since then. After Shaw put up a bloated 5.61 ERA in 126 2/3 innings from 2018-19, the Rockies cut him loose. He then caught on with the Mariners, but he allowed a whopping 12 earned runs over six frames last year. Unsurprisingly, Shaw was only able to score a minor league contract during the offseason, though he has shown encouraging signs this spring, having allowed three earned runs and totaled 13 strikeouts against five walks over 9 2/3 innings.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Indians Hire Dan Otero In Baseball Operations Role]]> 2021-03-22T17:33:20Z 2021-03-22T17:33:20Z The Indians have hired former reliever Dan Otero for a job in their baseball operations department, The Athletic’s Zack Meisel reports (Twitter link).  Otero will work with advanced scouting, beginning a new chapter in a baseball career that spanned eight Major League seasons from 2012-19.

    Selected by the Giants in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, Otero went on to post a 3.39 ERA/3.16 SIERA over 403 2/3 innings and 358 games in the big leagues.  Armed with only a 90mph fastball and lacking the big strikeout numbers (a career 15.8K%) or spin rates that usually define modern relievers, Otero nonetheless established himself as an effective bullpen weapon.

    Otero issued only 56 walks during his career, resulting in a superb 3.4BB% — the second-lowest walk rate of any pitcher with at least 400 innings pitched from 2012-19.  Within those same parameters, Otero also had the seventh-best grounder rate (57.7%) of any pitcher, thanks in large part to his ability to limit hard contact.

    The right-hander made his MLB debut with the Giants in 2012 before moving on to pitch three seasons with the A’s, and then four seasons in Cleveland from 2016-19.  That stint with the Tribe included some big innings during the team’s 2016 postseason run, as Otero posted a 2.70 ERA over 6 2/3 playoff frames.  Otero was also a member of the Phillies and Yankees organizations during his career but never made any big league appearances with either team — his last contract was a minor league deal with the Yankees last year, though he was placed on the restricted list prior to the season.

    MLBTR congratulates Otero on a fine career and we wish him the best in his new role.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Indians Option Oscar Mercado]]> 2021-03-21T17:04:00Z 2021-03-21T17:02:37Z The Indians are optioning outfielder Oscar Mercado, per various reporters (including Zack Meisel of the Athletic). That’s a bit of a surprise, since Mercado had been a candidate to take on a role in Cleveland’s uncertain outfield mix.

    After a productive rookie showing in 2019, Mercado opened the 2020 season as the Indians’ center fielder. The speedster fell flat, though, hitting just .128/.174/.174 with a single home run over 93 plate appearances. Those struggles got Mercado sent to the alternate training site in mid-August; Bradley Zimmer and the since-departed Delino DeShields Jr. and Greg Allen garnered playing time at the position down the stretch.

    Today’s Mercado demotion seems to pave the way for Zimmer to pick up the bulk of the playing time in center in the season’s early going. The 28-year-old Zimmer has just a .224/.300/.349 line in 510 MLB plate appearances. Shortstop Amed Rosario has also gotten some work in the grass in Spring Training and seems likely to get reps in center in the regular season. Prospect Daniel Johnson could be an option at some point, but he was also optioned out earlier this week. Jake BauersJordan LuplowJosh NaylorHarold RamírezFranmil Reyes and Eddie Rosario are all on the 40-man roster, but everyone in that group fits better in the corner outfield.

    In other Indians’ news, Rule 5 draftee Trevor Stephan will make the Opening Day roster, Mandy Bell of was among those to note. The 25-year-old righty was selected out of the Yankees’ organization. He’ll need to stick on the active roster (or on the MLB injured list) all season or else be placed on waivers, then offered back to New York.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Indians Owner Paul Dolan On Team Name, Lindor, Francona]]> 2021-03-19T01:05:14Z 2021-03-19T01:05:14Z Indians owner Paul Dolan discussed several noteworthy topics regarding the team with the Akron Roundtable on Thursday, fielding questions from Amanda Rabinowitz of WKSU and a virtual audience, per Paul Hoynes of (links: 1, 2). Here are some of the issues Dolan touched on during the Q&A…

    • The Indians are going to change their name, but the move may take longer than expected. While Dolan wants this to be the franchise’s final season with its current name, “It could be sometime in the middle of this year whether we know we’ve got it down where we can do it for 2022,” he said. “If not we’d have to push it to 2023. We’re working hard to get it done by then, but there’s no certainty in that.” Dolan added: “There aren’t many words in the English language that somebody doesn’t own in some shape or form. Particularly in the sports realm, that’s a real challenge.”
    • Dolan also addressed Cleveland’s decision to trade its most recognizable player, shortstop Francisco Lindor, to the Mets during the winter. “We could afford a player like Lindor. We just couldn’t afford to build a team around him,” stated Dolan, who pointed out that it’s difficult for a small-market team to dedicate so much payroll to one player. It was no surprise the Indians dealt Lindor, as Dolan all but admitted in 2019 they’d eventually trade the four-time All-Star when he told the team’s fans to “enjoy him” while he was still on the roster. Lindor is down to his last year of team control, in which he’ll earn $22.3MM, and could score a $300MM-plus contract by the 2022 campaign. With Lindor gone, the Indians are projected to open 2021 with a paltry $53MM payroll, Jason Martinez of Roster Resource estimates.
    • Terry Francona dealt with health problems last season and only managed 14 games as a result, but Dolan gave the 61-year-old a major of confidence Thursday. “I think he’s with us until he’s no longer managing,” Dolan declared. “He’s under contract for a couple more years (through 2022), but I feel like we’re now in a situation where he’s going to be here until he decides not to manage.” Francona, who previously won two World Series with the Red Sox, took over the Indians in 2013 and has helped them to a 673-519 regular-season mark with five playoff appearances and an American League pennant.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Indians Interested In Extending Jose Ramirez]]> 2021-03-17T16:46:23Z 2021-03-17T16:46:23Z Jose Ramirez’s contract keeps him under the Indians’ control through the 2023 season, but Cleveland “would love to” work out another extension with the star third baseman, according to’s Jeff Passan.  To date, Ramirez “has resisted” the team’s overtures.

    It isn’t exactly unusual that a club would have interest in keeping its star player, and it could be that Cleveland is simply doing its due diligence in checking to see if Ramirez would be willing to re-up for an even long-term commitment.  Still, such a move is noteworthy in the Tribe’s case given how the team has been focusing on moving salaries in recent years, and that strategy has only intensified in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  Since August, the team has traded Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor, declined to pick up Carlos Santana’s $17.5MM option for 2021, and put star closer Brad Hand on waivers last October just to try and avoid a $1MM buyout of Hand’s $10MM club option.

    Dating back to John Hart’s days as the Indians’ GM, the club’s strategy for extensions has followed a pattern.  The Tribe looks to sign promising younger players to long-term deals early in their career, so Cleveland can lengthen its team control over at least a year or two (whether on guaranteed years or club options) beyond a player’s arbitration-eligible seasons.  If that young player indeed ends up blossoming into a star, the Tribe ends up with a bargain through the player’s prime years, and then the player usually ends up either traded or departing in free agency once their team control draws to a close.

    While Cleveland has signed a few notable names (i.e. C.C. Sabathia, Travis Hafner, and more recently, Carrasco) to secondary extensions after those initial deals, it would be a significantly bigger financial decision to ink Ramirez to another contract given how he has so firmly established himself as one of the game’s top players.  Since the start of the 2016 season, Ramirez has hit .290/.366/.529 with 119 home runs in 2757 plate appearances, and only three players (Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Anthony Rendon) have amassed more fWAR than Ramirez’s 26.2 figure over that five-year stretch.  Ramirez has three top-3 finishes in AL MVP voting within the last four seasons, finishing second to Jose Abreu in 2020.

    Prior to the 2017 season, Ramirez signed a five-year extension worth $26MM in guaranteed money.  He is entering the final guaranteed year of that deal now, though the Tribe has both a $11MM club option ($2MM buyout) on Ramirez for 2022 and a $13MM club option (with no buyout) for the 2023 season.  Ramirez turned 28 last September, so assuming Cleveland picks up both options, Ramirez wouldn’t reach free agency until his age-31 season.

    With all of the Tribe’s cost-cutting over the winter, there was speculation that Ramirez could also be moved, though Cleveland isn’t yet interested in a full rebuild, adding the likes of Eddie Rosario and Cesar Hernandez to one-year contracts to make another run at a postseason berth.  However, the Indians have less than $53MM on the books for the 2021 payroll, and Cleveland doesn’t have a single player officially under contract beyond the 2021 season.  Unless the team does go into complete rebuild mode, some of that open payroll space is surely earmarked for future extensions of its next wave of young talent — chief among them Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, though as of last month, the two sides had yet to begin negotiations.

    While owner Paul Dolan and Cleveland’s front office have often discussed how a smaller-market team shouldn’t devote much of its payroll to a single player, there is theoretically enough payroll room available to pay Ramirez a superstar-level salary ($30MM+ in average annual value).  The Indians reportedly offered Lindor a $200MM extension prior to the 2020 season, and while that offer came before the pandemic changed everything, it indicates that the team is willing to make a big splash to retain a star.