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Indians Inbox: Will Kevin Plawecki start?

With Spring Training just over a month away, the Tribe still has time to complete its roster before beginning its quest for a fourth straight American League Central title.

Here are answers to your questions in the latest Inbox.

With Spring Training just over a month away, the Tribe still has time to complete its roster before beginning its quest for a fourth straight American League Central title.

Here are answers to your questions in the latest Inbox.

Tweet from @waltermartincei: Will Plawecki be the starting catcher?

Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said as of now Roberto Perez is still expected to get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. Of course, the team will need to see how each backstop fares during Spring Training.

After dealing Yan Gomes in November and Francisco Mejia in July, Cleveland was left with Perez and Eric Haase as catching options. But because Haase has played in just nine big league games, acquiring Kevin Plawecki throws another experienced backstop in the mix who can lead a pitching staff. This does not mean that Haase will not have a chance to impact the Major League club in 2019, but it at least adds some more depth behind the dish.

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Could Plawecki become the starting catcher? Possibly. But as of now, expect Perez to get the majority of the starts. Prior to Spring Training, it’s easier to say the Indians will stick with the catcher they are more familiar with and mix in Plawecki. No matter who becomes first or second string, it wouldn’t be shocking if both get a decent amount of reps behind the plate since neither has made more than 80 appearances in a single season in his career.

Tweet from @1st_and_punt: How would you sell an Indians fan on buying tickets to watch a team that knowingly can’t compete with the power houses in the AL?

First, I wouldn’t say that the team “knowingly can’t compete with power houses.” Yes, there has been quite a bit of turnover since last season, but it’s still a month prior to Spring Training. No one knows what the final roster will look like or how everyone will perform.

As far as selling an Indians fan on buying tickets, I think the answer is pitching. As of now, the pitching staff is still intact and has the potential to be one of the most dominant in the American League. Obviously 2019 is a completely different season than ’18, but if last year is a preview at all of what this year could look like, I would say the future is bright. Four of Cleveland’s five starters ranked in the top 20 in ERA among qualified Major League starting pitchers: Trevor Bauer finished third (2.21), Corey Kluber placed 11th (2.89), Mike Clevinger was 12th (3.02) and Carlos Carrasco ranked 20th (3.38).

Video: MLB Now discusses the Indians’ offseason outlook

With a rotation of that caliber, along with bats like Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, who ranked third and fifth, respectively, in WAR among all position players last season, I think that’s enough to at least give the Indians a chance. Combine that with the addition of Carlos Santana and whatever moves are left to come in the remainder of the offseason, Cleveland should be more than able to at least compete in 2019.

Tweet from @OSU_Jaws_13: Odds Kluber gets traded while at Tribe Fest

I’m going to say the odds of this are pretty low. Nothing is ever completely off the table, but my guess is Kluber will be able to enjoy his time at Tribe Fest without getting any breaking news.

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: Who do you think has a better shot to end up as a full-time regular in the Indians’ corner outfield this year – Jake Bauers or Jordan Luplow? #IndiansInbox

I think this scenario depends largely on the other moves the Indians make this offseason. With the current state of the roster, I would say Jordan Luplow has a better shot as an everyday corner outfielder, simply because Jake Bauers and Santana could be switching off duties at first base and designated hitter. If Bauers moves to the outfield on a daily basis, there aren’t many other names left to DH every game because Santana would be at first.

If the team is able to secure another solid bat to pencil in as the DH, then my answer would switch to Bauers. Although he had a rough second half of the 2018 season offensively, his potential at the plate and the unexpected power he demonstrated last year may give him a slight edge over Luplow. Spring Training could prove otherwise.

Tweet from @Gary_Hemphill: What happened to Kieran Lovegrove? Thought he was a good prospect but looks like he’s in Giants organization now. Gary Hemphill, New York #IndiansInbox

Kieran Lovegrove elected free agency at the beginning of November. He spent the majority of last season with Double-A Akron, where he logged a 3.46 ERA in 39 relief innings. The 24-year-old right-hander recorded 38 strikeouts and permitted 27 walks, but he was later signed by the Giants.

What are the chances the Tribe chases one of the many second basemen on the free-agent market like DJ LeMahieu or Josh Harrison, and move Jason Kipnis to one of the corner outfield spots?
— Aaron B, Fox Lake, Ill.

Anything could happen, especially if the Indians don’t move Kluber or Bauer. But my guess is if the team is going to sign a free agent, it will be an outfielder. There’s no hiding the team’s need for a quality everyday outfielder. Kipnis could be an option in left from time to time if the Tribe needs it; however, that’s not the answer that the team really needs. The more beneficial fix would be to focus on outfielders who are available rather than relying on Kipnis to address that need.

Tweet from @KevinGillman: Not so much about an Indians question, but what is your favorite movie? #IndiansInBox

I like ending on a fun note! If we are talking about a favorite baseball movie, mine is “Moneyball.” If you’re asking about my favorite movie in general, I really enjoy “The Bourne” trilogy. If I had to pick one of them to be my favorite, it’s definitely “The Bourne Supremacy.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.

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