One way to enjoy the offseason of a favorite sport 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 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 infield; Jose Ramirez has indicated he is willing to play either second-or-third base but he wants to be a fixture at a singular position, so the Indians need to find another starter. 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 below lists is for the 2019 season and age is for what they will be in the 2020 season.
Moustakas is an interesting addition if he is looking to grab one last short-term multi-season deal rather than rely on the one-year option he has now. He is among the best available players at one of the two needed infield positions that has a consistent record of production, who will not cost an exorbitant sum of money.
The other players on this list are as likely to wind up as bench player as they are a starter with whichever team they sign. As such, Kipnis could re-sign with the Indians, but the issue is that he has an earned position of leadership in the clubhouse. It is difficult for such a player to transition to the bench, so it might be best for both the Tribe and Kipnis to move on.
Rendon is THE position-player prize of free agency. He might not quite approach the Harper-Machado bonanza deals of last offseason, but he will not be all that far behind as he is likely an annual MVP-candidate for the near future.
Donaldson could be a consideration for the Indians, but only if they want to throw most of their payroll resources into one position and he is willing to agree to a two-year deal and pay the draft compensation price since Donaldson– like Rendon– received the qualifying offer from his team. Even then, another ballclub is likely to swoop in with a higher offer.
Cabrera and Frazier would both suffice as quality short-term starters that might be had on a one-year contract (perhaps with a club-option for the second-year). Cabrera might be the preferred option and not just to reminisce about the 2007 season that almost was. His positional versatility makes him an ideal candidate to keep the seat warm for Tribe top prospect Nolan Jones who is spending his offseason recovering from a thumb surgery.
Gennett might be among the most likely players to have a big bounce-back season after battling injuries during a nightmare 2019 season. The other players here have less ceiling though Holt’s ability to play all over the field might appeal to the versatility-minded Tribe front office. A year after suffering through deficiencies of depth, it would be good to add someone to push Mike Freeman and serve as a competent injury replacement should the situation arise.
Gregorius is a tough player to figure out valuation on. A team could be infatuated with the promise of his 2018 season, or he could linger on the market given his age and the rest of his career numbers. If he does last on the market, then the Indians would be wise to ask if he’d be willing to shift to second base even if it is on a one-year deal to rebuild his value for other teams.