Looking Toward ’16 During Last Six Weeks

The Cleveland Indians are currently holding auditions for the 2016 season, all able-bodied players in their system should have a chance to state their case to be on next year’s Opening Day roster during the last six weeks of the season.

If the Tribe were putting an ad in the sports pages, that is what it would probably look like.

You would have to think that among the everyday players, only Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes are for sures to be here next April.  Although, Francisco Lindor is making a pretty good case for himself as well.

However, with players who do not have a track record should be required to earn their spot.  So, if Lindor came to Goodyear not in the best shape, or he hits .150 in the exhibition games, it’s not a guarantee that he makes the squad.

Our guess is that Carlos Santana will be moved elsewhere because the Tribe doesn’t want to pay him $8 million next year for the production they have received. And we believe Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn will be free agents after the 2015 campaign.

Chris Johnson will likely be back because of his $9 million deal for 2016, but that’s a tradeable deal so that is not etched in stone.

Giovanny Urshela has been impressive defensively, but we aren’t sure he will hit enough to play everyday.  And if Jose Ramirez continues to hit like he has since his call up, Terry Francona will have to find a spot for him, unless, of course, GM Chris Antonetti uses him to bring back a legitimate bat.

So, the tryouts are really at the following positions:  1B, 3B, CF, RF, DH.

Even if Lonnie Chisenhall hits well down the stretch, the front office cannot be fooled by that.  Chisenhall was tremendous in the first half last season, but hasn’t done much since.

Fans will get a good look at players like Jerry Sands and Abraham Almonte in August, and many at bats will be given to guys like Tyler Holt, Jesus Aguilar, James Ramsey, and Zack Walters in September.

Can Sands be the Tribe’s version of J.D. Martinez?

Can Holt and Aguilar contribute if given steady playing time, something they haven’t received in any of their big league stints?

Can Almonte and Ramsey at least be steady enough to hold down the fort until Bradley Zimmer arrives in Cleveland?

Can Walters ever make contact?

There is no doubt Antonetti will need to find some veterans to fill in at the beginning of the year, but those players should be given one or two-year deals, at mid-range dollars.

The team’s foray into the big time free agent market should be over.

Most all-star type players don’t hit the market until they are past 30 years old, so what you are buying is the player’s declining years.  Even Los Angeles’ Albert Pujols isn’t the same player he was in St. Louis, and the Angels will want to get out of that deal soon.

If we were the brass, we would start working on a 10 year deal with Lindor, so he will be here through age 31.  We will that strongly about his talent, and because of his unproven talent, it would not cost the franchise $200 million to do it.

Think of the deal Evan Longoria signed in Tampa during his first year with the Rays.

So the positions that are open will need to be filled with either youngsters or whatever return you get in dealing Santana and/or Ramirez, and/or some pitching.

Even if the Tribe doesn’t want to move a starter, they have some bullpen depth, and should really open next year with at least three new faces in the relief corps.

And yes, we would consider moving Cody Allen for the right price.  As former GM John Hart once said, closers grow on trees.

The organization cannot be fooled by any success the Tribe has over the last six weeks.  They have several spots to fill before the 2016 season begins.

As we said before…let the auditions start.

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