Cody Allen and Michael Brantley. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Nine major-league players from the Cleveland Indians 2018 roster are set to become free agents the day after the World Series ends.
For the Tribe, that means major changes to the outfield and bullpen could be on the horizon based on which players the club is willing or able to retain.
Last season, six Indians free agents hit the market and were snatched up before spring training began. Two other potential free agents (Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin) had their contract options exercised by the club and remained in the fold.
President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said the organization challenges itself each offseason to be creative and not develop tunnel vision when it comes to constructing the roster.
“We try to be very purposeful about soliciting creative, out-of-the-box ideas just to make sure we’re considering all avenues to put our organization in a better position moving forward,” Antonetti said.
The future of the club’s nine major-league free agents will impact all aspects of the roster from the pitching staff to position players.
“We’ll have to take some time in the coming weeks to figure out how we build our team moving forward,” Antonetti said. “We know we’ll have to make some difficult decision and reconstruct the roster in a different way.”
Manager Terry Francona said there are a lot of unknowns, particularly in the bullpen, which hasn’t been the case for the last few offseason.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us putting together a bullpen that we think can get us where we want to go,” Francona said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t do it, in fact it’s going to be fun trying to do it, but we know we have some work to do.”
Likewise, the outfield could look dramatically different, with five players potentially gone. Antonetti was asked whether or not the outfield was in a state of flux.
“That’s an area that we will have to spend a lot of time addressing,” Antonetti said. “Some of it depends on how we align our returning players. Also it obviously will be impacted by substantial departures.”
Meanwhile, some players who are arbitration-eligible such as Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer are set up for big salary increases. That could impact the team’s ability to retain talent or bring in new players.
“We’re going to take the next few weeks to work through that with ownership,” Antonetti said. “The one thing we do know is whatever payroll might be coming off the books with the free agents we may be losing, we’re going to need just as much if not more to retain the guys through arbitration raises and increases in guaranteed contracts. We had a franchise record payroll this year just to retain those guys that are under contract. It would take a payroll even above where are right now before we add anyone externally.”
So, as the playoffs push on, and the end of October draws closer, the club will formulate its plans for free agency. Below are the nine major-league free-agents-to-be from the 2018 roster.