CLEVELAND — After losing a few players who played crucial roles on the Tribe’s roster over the last few years, the Indians brought back a familiar face this week in Cesar Hernandez. But what questions does this signing raise? Let’s take a look in this week’s Indians Inbox: **Not sure
CLEVELAND — After losing a few players who played crucial roles on the Tribe’s roster over the last few years, the Indians brought back a familiar face this week in Cesar Hernandez. But what questions does this signing raise? Let’s take a look in this week’s Indians Inbox:
Not sure where I caught this, but what do you know, if anything, in the rumor mill about the club trading Amed Rosario?
There’s not much known yet at this point, but it certainly would make the Hernandez signing make a little more sense. With Rosario, Hernandez and Andrés Giménez, the team will have plenty of middle infielders to choose from, which gives it the wiggle room to entertain conversations on Rosario.
On Thursday, the New York Post reported that the Reds had been discussing whether a trade for Rosario would make sense. The Indians need outfield help and Cincinnati could help fill that need if Cleveland would be open to another trade. As MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon stated, Aristides Aquino and Mark Payton would be two young, controllable outfield options who don’t have a regular spot with the Reds at this point.
Aquino, 26, has hit .241 with an .838 OPS in 80 games over the last three seasons with the Reds. In 78 games with Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate in ’19, he hit .299 with a .992 OPS, 28 homers and 53 RBIs.
With Hernandez re-signing, which player (Rosario and Giménez) has the inside track to be the Opening Day SS? Will the player who doesn’t win the starting job become the utility man, or could he begin the season in Columbus?
If Rosario doesn’t get moved before Opening Day, then the Tribe has a big infield puzzle to attempt to put together. Hernandez will take second base, leaving Rosario and Giménez to battle for shortstop. In that case, the two most likely options would be to move Rosario to the outfield or start Giménez in Triple-A.
The Mets moved Rosario to left field for part of one game in 2019, which shows he’s at least up for the challenge, but he doesn’t have a tremendous amount of experience there. However, the Indians have proven that they’re willing to experiment with the outfield, as third-base prospect Nolan Jones has already started getting reps in the outfield to make himself more versatile.
However, starting Giménez in the Minors isn’t something we can rule out at this point. The 22-year-old is set to hit free agency in 2026 after making his debut in 2020, but spending some time in Triple-A this season could buy the Indians another year of control. And if Giménez’s ceiling ends up being as high as it’s projected, that could be something to help the Tribe in the long run.
How likely is it that a José Ramírez trade will actually happen?
The Indians have always said that they’ll listen to any offer that comes there way and the rumors have already started about a potential Ramírez trade, but right now, it still doesn’t seem likely that this would actually happen prior to Opening Day.
Now that Pederson signed a one-year deal with the Cubs, that leaves Rosario, who still seems like a perfect match for the Indians. But after the team spent $5 million on Hernandez, it’s hard to know exactly how much it would have left over to spend on someone else. If the team doesn’t acquire an outfielder by trading Amed Rosario to the Reds, then maybe the Indians would still try to make another addition to their roster. We’ll just have to wait to see if they’d be willing to spend what an outfielder like Rosario would ask for.
Any chance they move Roberto Pérez for a bat? The days of one-dimensional players are no longer a luxury for the Tribe if they want to contend.
While there are plenty of trades on the table, a Pérez trade is one that would be improbable. Although he currently has the second-highest contract on the team ($5.5 million) and backup Austin Hedges sits right behind him at $3.28 million for 2021, the Indians value Pérez immensely.
As long as the Tribe has its dominant pitching staff, it will still contend. And a large reason why this pitching staff has been so successful is often credited to Pérez’s ability to handle his pitchers. His bat may not be the best on the roster, but the Indians have been clear that they’re more focused on what a catcher can do behind the dish when it comes to filling that position. That’s why it will be important for them to find an outfield bat to bolster the lineup elsewhere.
Is there a scenario where Cleveland would consider using Triston McKenzie as the closer? How certain does James Karinchak seem in that role? Is Nick Wittgren the name no one is talking about but should be when discussing the closer role?
The short answer: 1) No. 2) Certain. 3) Absolutely.
McKenzie proved enough in 2020 for the Indians to feel comfortable enough to trade away Carlos Carrasco. Though Cleveland always seems to have a never-ending list of starting pitching talent, McKenzie will need to play a key role in the rotation for the foreseeable future.
Karinchak is certainly the favorite to take over the closing role. His ridiculous 17.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in 27 games last season speaks for itself, but the 25-year-old is still perfecting his command. If he runs into issues with that at any point during the year, the Indians have an option in Wittgren, who earned four saves in 2019 and has pitched to a 2.99 ERA in 80 games for the Tribe over the last two seasons.