Indians

Hot Stove Notebook: Dominoes Start To Fall and a First Base Discussion

Monday kicks off the Winter Meetings, and to say that the offseason has gone slowly is an understatement. With Giancarlo Stanton traded to the New York Yankees and Shohei Ohtani finally agreeing to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, the market for other signings might start to take shape. Trades and signings and rumors of trades that might happen but won’t but could but are unlikely will start coming down the pike faster than your kid can find the Elf on the Shelf. One signing remains tantamount for most Indians fans, however, and that is of free agent Carlos Santana.

Most expected the front office of Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to attempt to bring back Santana and reports have come out regarding the offer made to him prior to the qualifying offer.

While a $12 million average annual value (AAV for short) is nothing to bat an eye at, it would equate to the same Santana was getting in 2017. Most players look to free agency as a means with which to recoup the money they should have earned during their pre-arbitration and arbitration years. To offer Santana no raise and the same amount a hobbled Michael Brantley will make in 2018 as he maybe tries to learn a new position in three weeks is a low ball offer that was smartly declined. Dave Cameron at FanGraphs projected Santana at four years, $72 million for an $18 million AAV while the median crowd-source total was three years and $45 million.

The only hope is re-signing Santana remains in a nugget reported on by Paul Hoynes, the beat writer for cleveland.com. In his latest article, Hoynes stated that Cleveland has been assured that they would have a chance to beat any offer made to the free agent slugger. Santana has long professed his love for Cleveland and his desire to stay in the city where he became a star. Let’s only hope that we will continue to see number 41 a Tribe uniform in 2018. You can also hear more of WFNY’s Jim Pete and Mike Hattery’s takes on Carlos Santana by listening to the EHC podcast.

Rumors of rumors

We will continue to see rumors pop up once the meetings begin, rumors such as this one from Jerry Crasnick:

Adams is coming off a year where he slashed .274/.319/.522 with a wRC+ of 112 while splitting time between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. At first glance, those numbers do not seem so bad but when you compare them to the near-elite levels of offensive prowess the Cleveland Indians are used to employing at first base (see Santana above), it becomes evident that Adams would be a larger downgrade than most would prefer.

The plan for first base in 2018 remains a mystery, one that will likely not be answered for a few more months. Edwin Encarnacion played only 23 games at the position in 2017 and will likely see a few more, but is the expected designated-hitter for most of the season. Chris Antonetti, as well as others, have hinted at Michael Brantley’s past at first base, a past that has years in between, which is less than ideal given that Brantley is unable to return to baseball activities until mid-February at the earliest. Yandy Diaz has worked at first in winter league ball, due to the logjam of Diaz, Jose Ramirez, and Giovanny Urshela at third base, an expected clustering of players due to the return to health of Jason Kipnis. There is, again, the possibility Santana re-signs, but it’s looking more and more like a backup plan needs to be in place.

Jason Kipnis’ name will be bandied about this winter in trade talks, and it should. Jose Ramirez’s defensive play at second was near the top of the league and the value of his bat at second rather than third makes the move much more logical. With Yandy Diaz and/or Gio Urshela at third, the infield would have above-average defense at three of the four positions. Regarding the return from the Mets, there are a few options Cleveland would be interested in, but the availability of those remains questionable. Michael Conforto would fit nicely in the outfield but to get New York to give up on such a young player is unlikely. Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and Steven Matz are starting pitchers that have been dropped into rumors, but all are injury prone, and the rotation in Cleveland seems stocked full.

Around the league

Another Santana to keep our minds off of possibly losing Carlos? Yes, please. Santana has played a season and a half for Milwaukee and by almost all measurements has exceeded expectations. Posting a wRC+ of 111 in 2016 in 281 plate appearances and a 126 in 607 in 2017, Santana is the type of young, affordable, and controllable player Cleveland looks for in trade discussions. If it’s pitching Milwaukee is after, a trade headlined by Danny Salazar or Mike Clevinger would make sense for both sides. Keep this as a possibility, even though it seems far-fetched.

There were many relief pitcher signings over the weekend, Mike Minor with Texas (who has already stated are planning on stretching the pitcher out to start), Luke Gregerson, and Brandon Morrow. There have been no indications that Cleveland was in on any of these, so it remains to be seen how the front office will handle getting someone to take over Bryan Shaw’s place in the Tribe bullpen. That’s a lot of innings to fill in, and there is little reason for fans to entertain a return for one of the best-yet-most-maligned relievers over the last few years.

  • Chris

    Would LAA dare let Ohtani play outfield? Would a certain RF be available? Perhaps for an aging, odd-man-out 2B?

  • Joe Gerberry

    Can’t remember where, but I think they have said that Ohtani will not play the outfield in 2018, but the plan is for him to be a two-way player.

  • Chris

    I can’t really grasp why he ended up on an AL team. It seems like an injustice to baseball.

    On an NL team, he gives an automatic .200 boost to BA out of pitcher’s spot in the order (plus who knows how much slugging). He provides more flexibility than a traditional double switch because of the ability to put him in OF for an inning. He can be an added pinch hitter on rest day(s).

    Bummer… that would have been cool.

  • Steve

    As a cheap alternative to Santana, Adams may not be too bad a play. Big career splits, and a platoon with Diaz at 1B may get you near Santana with the bat.

  • Steve

    He has played very little OF in Japan. Maybe he could have done a couple games a week at 1B, but it seemed likely to me he would stay as the DH he was in Japan.

  • Joe Gerberry

    Then you’re still using two players to fill one. That’s not the best way to build a roster.

  • Joe Gerberry

    He signed with who he wanted, so it’s not like he got drafted to an AL team and was stuck there. He signed on with who he felt gave him the best opportunity to play, win and succeed. Remains to be seen what happens with Pujols since Ohtani will DH on his off days.

  • Steve

    Using the bench spot to take the platoon advantage seems like a better plan than just a guy who sits and waits for someone to be banged up.

    I would rather have Santana than an Adams/Diaz platoon because of the defense and high-floor security, but with the former, Diaz (or Gonzalez/Urshela/Almonte) is still on the roster, just in a barely used role.

  • woofersus

    I actually think they believe they’re going to get him. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but 1B is the one spot where we don’t just have a bunch of available pieces/parts. Most other FA options are a downgrade when the team is in win-now mode, and our other options are converting Brantley, who will still be an injury risk at 1B, and Encarnacion, who isn’t a great defensive option and leaves a hole at DH if Brantley does go down. Bobby Bradley is only 21 and at least a year away. I think they are going to make a real effort to keep Santana, and then do not much else this year (other than promote more prospects) unless they can move Kipnis’ contract.

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  • Chris

    Man… what ever happened to Pujols? Was there a distinct event/injury that affected him physically?

    I find it difficult to believe that any one of age-related decline, switch to AL/NL, big payday apathy, or differences in roster support was alone enough to bring this on. If it was those in combination, that must have been one hell of a perfect storm.