It’s been a week since the Cleveland Indians’ season ended after getting swept in the American League Division Series by the Houston Astros.
Thus, the Tribe joins all but four major league teams in looking forward to the 2019 season. Barring something drastic, the Indians will enter next season as the favorites for a fourth consecutive Central Division title.
However, there has the potential to have a pretty large roster turnover for Cleveland, and there probably will be. What should the Indians do to improve next season?
First, the everyday lineup needs to be deeper. The lineup was top heavy for most of the past season, and when Jose Ramirez slumped in the middle of August, there wasn’t enough hitting by everyone hitting after Edwin Encarnacion, and by that we mean consistent hitting.
The Indians have 11 free agents this winter, including Carlos Carrasco and Brandon Guyer, both of whom have club options for 2019. The other nine are as follows–
We would exercise Carrasco’s option, but let Guyer walk. Guyer was lethal against southpaws when he arrived in 2016, but although he had an 804 OPS vs. LHP in 2018, he hit just .233, which isn’t good enough. And he’s 32 years old.
The qualifying offer for free agents will be around $17.5 million, and there is no doubt the Tribe will make the offer to Brantley. They may also pick one of the two relief pitchers, Allen or Miller, as well.
That will get them draft pick compensation depending on the size of the contract they sign with other teams, should they go elsewhere.
Out of the two, we would pick Miller, because he didn’t pitch as much this season, and let’s face it, he’s the more dominant of the pair. If he accepts it, and he might to rebuild his value, you have another back end of the bullpen reliever.
Allen seems to have shown the wear and tear of averaging 68 appearances per season in his seven seasons with the Indians.
As for Brantley, we would explore bringing him back, but only on a two year deal max. The outfielder will be 32 years old next May, and we have seen the negatives of signing players over 30 to multiyear deals.
He hasn’t had a fall off in performance with the bat, but his defense has declined, and he had the injury issues in both 2016 and 2017.
The organization seems to have an issue with Chisenhall, who would seem to be an ideal candidate to bring back on an incentive laden one year deal. The former first round pick has been limited to 320 at bats, batting .297 with 13 homers and 62 RBI in the past two injury plagued seasons.
He’s a solid offensive player, particularly against right handed pitching.
They have to make room for Yandy Diaz to play everyday. It seems absurd to think the organization sent someone to the minors coming off a year at AAA where he slashed .350/454/460.
Diaz can hit, and he needs to be doing it at the major league level.
And the front office has to improve the batting attack by getting more consistent hitters. We believe you need seven solid hitters to have a solid lineup.
We will look at the free agent list when it is complete to examine who is on the market.
Oh, and one last thing. After Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sign, start working on a long term contract with Lindor.
This is a big, big off-season for the Tribe front office. Simply put, they must improve this roster around the core of Lindor, Ramirez, and the starting rotation.