The World Series has ended. The 2017 MLB season has come to a close.
Free agency and the offseason are now officially underway.
The two time defending American League Central Champions, the Cleveland Indians, have a busy offseason with lots to consider.
After earning the best record in the AL with 102 wins and rattling off 22 wins in a row, the Tribe exited early from the playoffs by the hand of the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
In order to be competitive again next season and be in contention for the World Series, general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball of operations Chris Antonetti are going to have their hands full this winter.
Before we get to the free agents, some moves by the ball club have already been made.
Tomlin had a $3 million option. He went 10-9 with a 4.98 ERA over the course of the season, but went 6-0 in his last 10 starts. This is a good move to keep Tomin around. He can be a good fourth or fifth starter in the rotation. But, in addition to that, he has shown versatility and willingness to come out of the bullpen, much like he did in Games 2 and 4 in the ALDS. Tomlin is a veteran who has been in the MLB for seven years now and could prove to be a valuable piece in the clubhouse to some of the younger players.
In Brantley’s case, the Indians picked up his $11.5 million option. He only played in 90 games as his season- again- was shortened by injuries. Brantley was added, as a surprise to some, to the ALDS roster. He was, however, a non-factor, going 1-11 while filling in for Edwin Encarnacion as he missed time with an ankle injury. Picking up the former MVP candidate’s option could prove to be very beneficial to Cleveland if he stays healthy and produces up to the standards Cleveland fans know that he can.
Another key move that has already been made is in the dug out on the coaching staff. The Indians pitching coach for 5 seasons, Mickey Callaway, took the managerial position with the New York Mets. To take his place, Cleveland hired former pitching coach Carl Willis. Willis spent the 2017 season working as the Boston Red Sox pitching coach. This is his second go round in Cleveland, his first being from 2003- 2009. Willis should fill in nicely, as he has had proven success in the past. He has helped four pitchers win Cy Young awards: Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, and more recently, Rick Porcello. Look for Cleveland’s talented pitching staff to continue its dominance with Willis at the helm.
First, in the bullpen, Joe Smith was re- acquired by the Indians at the deadline from the Toronto Blue Jays. He could prove to be expendable with the amount of arms Cleveland has coming back and the options the coaching staff has. With Bryan Shaw, however, it will be interesting to see what the team does with him. Shaw is a formidable seventh inning guy for Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. He did have some shaky moments throughout the course of the season, but he recorded a 3.52 ERA along with 73 strikeouts. The Tribe may make an offer or two to Shaw, but he may want more than what Cleveland is giving him.
In terms of position players, there are still some major questions. Just this week, the Indians extended a qualifying offer to 1B/ DH Carlos Santana. Santana has until November 16 to accept the offer. If he declines, he will become a free agent. There is a good chance the Santana accepts the offer, as he has previously stated he wants to stay in Cleveland. If he denies the offer, expect the Indians to aggressively try and re- sign Santana.
In the outfielders cases, expect the Indians to go after one of both of either Austin Jackson or jay Bruce. Bruce was wildly productive over the course his 43 games in an Indians uniform. He was a big part in Cleveland’s run into the postseason and even delivered the walk- off double to secure the 22nd win in a row.
Bruce and Austin Jackson, who batted .318 and had a .387 OBP, should both expect to talk to the Cleveland front office about re- signing with the team. They can both be productive as they are getting a bit older and can both be helpful to the younger players of the team.
This is only the start of a busy off season for the Cleveland Indians, who have a lot to think about leading up to the start of the 2018 season.