The Cleveland Indians are about to embark on the most crucial portion of the MLB offseason journey. The period during and just after the Winter Meetings1 is when the first couple of waves of signings tend to happen. Thus far, it has been more simmer than boil on the hot stove thus far, which could lead to an even larger than usual cavalcade of deals once they begin.
One of the biggest uncertainties revolving around the Tribe is in an outfield that saw 15 different players spend time on that grass during the 2017 season. It is plausible the Indians could go into the 2018 season without adding players despite the potential loss of key components. It would require a strong trust of production from both older players recovering from injury and an unfettered progression from younger players. An everyday, known producer would be an ideal add, but the Indians have shown a greater propensity for higher risk (and lower dollar) players in the past to fill the outfield gap.
Here is what the Indians might do with their outfield for the 2018 MLB season.
Right field: Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer would platoon in right with Tyler Naquin the most obvious candidate in Columbus to fill in if needed due to injury.
Center field: Bradley Zimmer should be given a whole bunch of leash in center in 2018 despite that one play Jason Kipnis made in the ALDS. Greg Allen could push for playing time if Zimmer spends time on the DL or if Allen’s ascension through the minor league ranks makes the case for itself.
Left field: Given the full offseason rehabilitation on his ankle that was required after surgery, it appears probable that Michael Brantley should move to first base / designated-hitter. If he does, then it will leave Kipnis to man the shorter outfield corner with Abraham Almonte and perhaps Yandy Diaz as his backups. Finding a bat who can handle the left-handed pitchers for a platoon with Kip would be best; though manager Terry Francona has been resistant to use Kip that way in previous seasons.
Randal Grichuk / Tommy Pham / Dexter Fowler / Stephen Piscotty: The Cardinals have more outfielders than they can play at one time with other team needs if they desire to challenge the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central division. Pham is likely off-limits, and Fowler is too expensive. Piscotty could be the play the Indians want to acquire an asset at a cheap price with a decent chance for a bounce back season.
Austin Jackson: If the market remains cool, then why not buy back another year of free agent A-Jax on the cheap. It worked last year.
Jay Bruce: Bruce will cost a more than A-Jax,2 but he might be one of the better outfielders on the market whom the Indians could obtain if they are willing to spend.
Howie Kendrick: Kendrick would be similar to A-Jax. A slightly above average bat who could be leveraged for some cheap value if the market remains cool on him late in the offseason.
Ichiro Suzuki: A below average hitter seven of the last eight seasons, the soon to be 45 year old does not match what the Indians would be attempting to find. It would be cool to see the future Hall of Famer get minor league invite and hang around during Spring Training though.
Shohei Ohtani: Pitch was made by WFNY on Friday, but the Tribe has no real money to make it happen in their international pool.
Andrew McCutchen: Well, the Pittsburgh Pirate just named his newborn son Steel. He isn’t looking to leave the Three Rivers area anytime soon though the Bucs are once again rumored to be considering trading him to maximize their future asset acquisition. Acquiring Cutch though is likely just for the dreamers.
Giancarlo Stanton: Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports the Miami Marlins are contemplating Joe Panik, Tyler Beede and Chris Shaw from the San Francisco Giants if they pick up $250 million of the $295 million tab left on Stanton’s contract. The Indians could quite easily surpass such a grouping with Tristan McKenzie, Bobby Bradley, and Jason Kipnis (as they apparently want one viable MLB player too). Paying the $250 million is another story.
J.D. Martinez: Haha. OK, no. The Tribe won’t be signing Martinez. Or Lorenzo Cain. Or even Melky Cabrera.
Monday Morning Tribe Trivia
- Name the 15 players who manned the outfield for the Indians in 2017.
- Who played the most outfield innings for the Indians in 2017?
- Who played the most center field innings for the Indians in 2017?
- Who played the most left field innings for the Indians in 2017?
- Who played the most right field innings for the Indians in 2017?