The Cleveland Indians reported to Goodyear on February 12th to begin spring training. The roster looks very different from just a year ago and the 25-man roster could feature a lot of new faces come opening day.
The Cleveland Indians offseason saw the team making moves to cut payroll and., as a result, many faces from the 2018 season will no longer be around. This also means a few contributors from the team’s 2016 world series run will be gone also.
Next, the team made a few trades sending some familiar faces off to new destinations while also bringing back one familiar face. The team’s trades saw Yan Gomes, Yonder Alonso, Yandy Diaz, and Edwin Encarnacion find new homes while they got Jake Bauers, Carlos Santana and Nick Wittgren in a Tribe uniform.
The team also traded away Erik Gonzalez, who was a key depth positional player and great utility man for the tribe. These moves created a somewhat murky look into the 25-man possibilities and I am going to try and make that clearer here.
Roberto Perez became the number one catcher, much to the sadness of some fans, after the team dealt Yan Gomes away. His defense is a plus but the bat has not been impressive at all for most of his career.
Perez is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, as was Gomes in his time here. The main reason for Perez sticking around is the front office’s cut costs approach and Gomes being the more expensive player.
Cleveland also grabbed Kevin Plawecki as a backup and I believe he makes it out of camp as the second catcher. This will not be a platoon type rotation but he will undoubtedly get starts behind the plate.
Eric Haase has a shot to win the job but it is a long road for him than Plawecki. Plawecki is much like Perez in that he is a plus defensive catcher with a sub-par bat.
The Indians traded away both Alonso and Encarnacion in the offseason so they had to bring in two new first basemen/designated hitter type players. Santana and Bauers are those two and Indians fans know Santana well.
After a struggle year in Philadelphia, the team brought back their former first baseman in a three-team swap that also brought in Jake Bauers.
Bauers is a young prospect who has shown great potential in the minors despite his struggles in his major league debut season in 2018 with Tampa Bay. He showed promise and that is what the Indians need. He can play first and split time with Santana between there and DH as well as provide corner outfield depth.
Santana is welcomed back to Cleveland with a host of his former teammates elsewhere. He struggled in his first season away from Cleveland but surged from August on through the end of the year posting a solid 115 wRC+.
If Santana can get his offense and defense back to what it was his last couple seasons in Cleveland, they won’t miss much from 2018. Bauers is a wildcard and could put it together with a full spring to prepare but we just don’t know much about him yet though I don’t see anyone else getting the spot he will.
I believe Lindor will open on the injured list and Flaherty will get his spot until he is ready. Yu Chang could also be an option if he has a strong spring.
The addition of Bauers lets the team carry just four outfielders on the 25-man. He can play first or a corner outfield spot allowing flexibility on the roster.
Naquin is coming off his hip surgery and Martin is coming off a life-threatening bacterial infection but both look to be starters in the outfield with Martin in center and Naquin in right. Luplow looks to be the Indians starting LF in 2019 at the moment as well with Greg Allen backing up everywhere.
The Indians did add some competition in the outfield when they inked Matt Joyce to a minor’s deal. Joyce could end up stealing that spot away from Luplow if he can bounce back from a back injury in 2018.
You also cannot forget about Cleveland’s own Superman, Bradley Zimmer. He is recovering from shoulder surgery last year and will open on the injured list and hopefully can return for the second half of the season, maybe sooner.
The outfield will look a lot different without the likes of Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall who both found new homes this offseason. The hope from the front office is to give younger guys a chance to prove they belong and fans are watching and hoping they do just that.
The bullpen is going to look a lot different from the one that took the Indians through an exciting 2016 world series run. Andrew Miller is now in St. Louis and Cody Allen is in Los Angeles (Angels) so the bullpen will have at least two new faces.
I believe those new faces will be Nick Wittgren and Alex Wilson. Wittgren came over from Miami in trade and Wilson was signed just a week before spring began. Both have major league experience and I believe Wilson edges out any competition for the final spot.
Another signing took place after spring training began when the team signed Tyler Clippard to a minor league deal. He would be a nice late-game option should he make the team out of camp. These signings leave the bullpen spots wide open for the most part through spring.
The bullpen must turn the performance from 2018 around to better support the team. 2019 must be a bounce back year and it starts with spring and finding the best relievers to take with you to opening day.
The starting rotation remains intact from the end of last season. The rotation from top to bottom is one of the best in all of baseball.
There were rumors all offseason of a trade involving Indians starting pitching but nothing ever came to fruition. I am not sure that the Indians ever got into serious talks or were ever close to pulling the trigger but Terry Francona seemed sure that they would never be traded.
The Indians biggest strength for the last five or so years has been its starting rotation. That will not change this year as they bring back Kluber, Bauer, and Carrasco as well as young and efficient four and five guys in Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger.
The Indians starters are a tight-knit group that looks to out-do each other consistently night after night. They are a fun group to watch and with the emergence of Bieber last year, they look to be one of the top rotations in baseball for 2019.
In conclusion, this Indians team is going to look much, much different at the start of 2019 with new faces all around the diamond and familiar faces possibly squaring off against the tribe. The Indians 2019 season depends on the outfield performing and the bullpen turning around a horrid 2018.
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