One way to enjoy the offseason of a favorite sports team is by playing a game of Choose Your Own Adventure. In those popular children’s books, the story evolves until a decision is required. Rather than the normal path of an author choosing the direction of the narrative, the reader is given options with their decision able to alter the story and character arcs. Similarly, fans can map out potential paths through free agency and trades within the financial and logistical parameters of their franchise and league in an attempt to optimize the construction of the following season’s roster.
For the Cleveland Indians, there are few players departing from a 93-win team. Jason Kipnis, Yasiel Puig, Tyler Clippard, Dan Otero, and Danny Salazar are the most notable names who are entering free agency. Given the out-sized contracts compared to the value provided on the field as a whole from that group, the Tribe also should be able to add significant pieces to the 2020 roster, while remaining on the same $128 million payroll budget from 2019.
One of the most prominent places to spend such money is in the outfield; especially if the team does not re-sign Puig. WFNY is here to give you the available free agent options to fill that void as your own optimal offseason plan is filled out for the Tribe.
Note: fWAR shown in the below lists is for the 2019 season and age is for what they will be in the 2020 season.
These players are under team-control; for the moment. The least likely player from this group to become a free agent is Adam Eaton as the Washington Nationals could decide to bring as much of their World Series team back for 2020 as possible. The others due to age and relative productivity might be more expected to have their options declined.
Neither Gordon nor Calhoun have been consistently above average hitters over the last few seasons, but they have provided enough production to be attractive additions. It is possible each is simply past their prime. However, they both are capable players who could make sense if willing to accept a smaller short-term contract.
Hamilton should not be an option for the Indians as Greg Allen has a similar skill set.1
Ozuna has not yet become the franchise-altering talent his 2017 suggested he could be. However, his age and consistent production stand out among this year’s outfield free-agent class, which means there is a good chance Ozuna will cash in on a long-term high-dollar contract outside the financial constraints of the Indians.
Attempting to create a valuation on Puig is a column on its own. A powerful arm and bat that can flummox both the opposition as well as his own team. If the bat-licking slugger is willing to accept a two-to-three-year deal, then the Tribe might be in play to bring him back.
Gardner was drafted by the Yankees in 2005 and there is not much reason for him to leave New York now.
That leaves three players who get it done much more with their bat than their glove with two of them quite familiar with the American League Central division. Any of which could provide a boost to the lineup as immediate starters and should not be cost-prohibitive. Of them, Avisail Garcia might be the best fit.
Any of the players on this list could provide an above-average bat in 2020 or flame out in spectacular fashion. None should require more than a one-year contract with minimal money on the deal.
Of those whose career might be winding down, Granderson’s sprint speed was down and he was bad even though he didn’t miss time with injury. Then, there is Kemp. Despite having success with the Dodgers in 2018, he could not get past early-season injuries and had a horrific season. Signing either player would likely be as a spring-invite lottery ticket.
Adam Jones, the player fans wanted for years and now that his value is reduced might be obtainable. Cameron Maybin, the player who was on the Indians last year as a gap-filler but who flipped to the Yankees before figuring out how to extract more out of his bat. And Lonnie Chisenhall, the long-time Indian who left the Indians after the 2018 season, but who has never played for another MLB team after missing the entire 2019 season due to injuries. Any could be needed depth for the upcoming season though should not preclude the Tribe from filling the starting position with another move.