CLEVELAND, Ohio — If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, forget about it. The Indians may add another reliever — are you listening Oliver Perez? — or kick the tires on a bargain-basement outfielder, but for the most part their business this winter is over.
So the answer is no if you were holding out hope that they were the mystery team in the Bryce Harper or Manny Machado negotiations. The same goes for any other free agent with enough talent to attract a mystery team.
As for trading a starting pitcher for a boatload of help, that ship seems to have sailed into the Lake Erie mist and ice as well. At least for the time being.
The Indians have spent most of the winter trading Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes, Yandy Diaz and Erik Gonzalez. When they weren’t trading players, they were watching Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis and Josh Donaldson leave through free agency. At this point it must be assumed that their other free agents — Josh Tomlin, Brandon Guyer, Melky Cabrera, Perez and Adam Rosales — won’t be back as well.
What that means is that Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, when healthy, Jordan Luplow and Brandon Barnes should get a chance to play in the outfield. It means that Jake Bauers is going to get a long look at first base, DH and maybe left field. It means that Roberto Perez and Kevin Plawecki will get a chance to handle the catching.
In the bullpen it’s going to be closer Brad Hand and take your pick among Dan Otero, Tyler Olson, Adam Cimber, Jon Edwards, Nick Goody, Neil Ramirez, Jefry Rodriguez, Justin Grimm, A.J. Cole, Chih-Wei Hu, Cody Anderson, James Hoyt and whoever else wanders out of the Arizona desert once camp opens on Feb. 12 in Goodyear. If that someone is a healthy Danny Salazar, so much the better.
The Indians will enter the regular season still favored to win their fourth straight AL Central title even though they’ve lost a ton of offense. If they are in contention at the July and August trading deadlines, or have to fortify their lead for the stretch run, they can always make a trade. They’ve done it for the last three years.
After last season the Indians made the decision to reduce their franchise record $135 million payroll. Right now they have committed just over $98 million to 15 players. That does not include Trevor Bauer, who is headed to arbitration and will earn $13 million or $11 million depending on the outcome of the hearing.
Now that they’ve cut payroll they need to find out just what kind of players they have in Allen, Naquin, Bauers, Luplow, Barnes, Zimmer, Perez and all arms in the bullpen. They need to find out if there is another Jose Ramirez lurking among them. They feel it’s essential for building the roster in 2019 and beyond.