Last week, we wrote about the dilemma the Cleveland Indians have surrounding the club option they hold on Michael Brantley, and the free agency of Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce.
There are also other decisions that need to be made regarding the make up of next year’s roster for the Tribe.
The first involves longtime Indian Jason Kipnis. Kipnis is scheduled to take a huge jump in pay in 2018, a $4.5 million raise, and he’s coming off an injury plagued poor season, hitting just .232 (705 OPS) with 12 home runs last season.
It appears by their actions at the end of the season that Kipnis no longer is the Indians’ second baseman either. When the veteran returned from a hamstring issue in September, he moved to centerfield, with Jose Ramirez staying at second.
So, with Bradley Zimmer seemingly the incumbent in center, and a likely platoon (if Bruce doesn’t return) in rightfield of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer, if Brantley does return in ’18, where does that leave Kipnis?
Many have speculated that Kipnis will be dealt, but with the off year in ’17, a deal this winter will not bring the return the club would receive with a bounce-back season next summer.
So, it looks right now like the front office will be forced to choose between Brantley and Kipnis. Certainly not what they thought when the two signed contract extensions prior to the 2014 season.
The third player inked at that time and identified as a core piece was catcher Yan Gomes.
Gomes had a stellar ’14 season, hitting .278 (785 OPS) with 21 homers and winning the Silver Slugger Award.
Since then, it’s been all downhill. Injuries haunted the catcher in 2015 and 2016, with his offense all but disappearing in the latter year (.167 batting average, 527 OPS).
He rebounded a bit last season (.232, 14 HR, 56 RBI), but seemed to lose playing time down the stretch to Roberto Perez, a better pitch framer.
Gomes is still a very good defensive catcher with a plus arm, and could be a significant trade chip to a team looking for stability at the catching position.
If the organization wants to give Perez the bulk of the playing time going forward, Gomes could be a player who can bring something very valuable in return. We believe that will be the direction the front office is going in.
Bryan Shaw is also a free agent this off-season. For all the back and forth between his fans and critics, Shaw is durable and dependable, leading the AL in appearances three of the last four years.
With the bullpen craze the sport has seen in recent years, Shaw is going to get paid.
We would be interested in keeping him at a reasonable deal, but we feel another team is going to make him an unbelievable offer.
And with the wear and tear on the right-hander’s arm, it’s a risk to sign him long term.
Our fear is Shaw could follow the same career path as Scott Linebrink, who appeared in 70+ games from 2004-08 with San Diego and Milwaukee. The veteran went to the White Sox in 2009 and never had the same effectiveness, and was out of baseball at age 35.
Again, as a non-large market team, the Indians can’t afford to be paying a lot of money to someone who cannot contribute to the major league team.
With the World Series ending this week, these decisions will have to be made as early as this weekend.
Coming off an 102 win season and a division title, the Tribe front office has some tough calls to make.