Inbox: Could Tribe attempt to extend Bieber?

CLEVELAND – We’re officially less than a month away from Spring Training. What do the Indians have left to figure out in the next few weeks? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox: **Considering the team has prospects in all positions who are ready to make the leap (Bradley,

CLEVELAND – We’re officially less than a month away from Spring Training. What do the Indians have left to figure out in the next few weeks? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox:

Considering the team has prospects in all positions who are ready to make the leap (Bradley, Johnson, Jones) and reducing payroll has been done, should it be time to guide efforts to a Shane Bieber long-term extension?
— @OscarVs82

Absolutely. Locking Shane Bieber up sooner would be much better than later. We’ve seen the Indians trade away a handful of their top pitchers over the last two years (Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco), but if they are going to keep one around for the long haul, Bieber would be the best fit. Not only is he improving at a rapid rate, but he’s a great presence in the clubhouse, does a lot of work in the community and is someone who could easily be the next face of the franchise. And if the team decides against spending extra money on a free agent now, it wouldn’t be surprising if those savings go toward attempting to extend Bieber’s contract. But whether that’s an active goal for the club is unknown at this point.

Will the Indians reinvest the $30 million they saved to get OF help? Was the goal of the Indians to have the lowest payroll in MLB this year?
— @simbomatt

We still aren’t quite sure what the goal is for the Indians’ payroll. It’s clear the team had plans to significantly cut it down, however the front office hasn’t confirmed how much it’s able to spend for the 2021 season.

After saving over $30 million from trading Francisco Lindor and Carrasco (not to mention the $27.5 million saved from not picking up Carlos Santana’s or Brad Hand’s options), one would think the Indians would have at least some wiggle room to spend on a free agent. Shelling out a hefty contract is off the table, but maybe a one-year deal for under $10 million to a decent free agent outfielder – someone like Eddie Rosario – would be more probable. There are certainly cheaper options like Tyler Naquin on the market, too, that the club could end up sticking to.

Are Spring Training and all the spring games still on as scheduled?
[email protected]

So far, so good. (Fingers crossed!)

Josh Naylor looked good at the plate in the playoff series vs. the Yankees. Could he be Carlos Santana’s heir apparent at 1B, or will he most likely get his reps in LF? Is it possible Naylor sees time at both spots?
[email protected]

The best answer at this moment is all of the above. The Tribe has Josh Naylor, Jake Bauers and Bobby Bradley competing for first base. Designated hitter Franmil Reyes has posted videos on Instagram of him getting reps over at first, too. It will come down to Spring Training to see who ends up winning the starting job. Indians manager Terry Francona said in December that the club is ready to give Bradley a fair shot at playing every day. The front office crew has also noted it was impressed with Bauers’ improvement at the alternate training site during the 2020 season. So if Naylor doesn’t get the job on Opening Day, he could still see plenty of time in left field. But it doesn’t mean that he won’t shift back to first base at some point during the season.

The last couple offseasons Mercado and Zimmer talked about “retooling” their swings. After this crazy season are they or any others talking about making major changes this offseason?
[email protected]

Oscar Mercado said on a recent interview with MLB Network Radio that he spent 10 days in early November constantly working on his swing with one of his hitting coaches. He didn’t talk about specifically retooling his swing – and neither has anyone else on the team – this offseason, but he did present a thorough plan to the Indians at the end of the 2020 season to help him get back to the player he was during his rookie year.

George Valera looks really promising at just 19 years old. What is the timetable for him to take an outfield spot?
[email protected]

As of now, MLB Pipeline has George Valera projected to make his Major League debut in 2023. Whether that will be affected by missing a year of development due to the pandemic in 2020 is yet to be determined, but he certainly appears to be on the fast track to the big leagues. He impressed everyone last year at Spring Training when he went 1-for-2 with a homer in a Cactus League game with the Tribe.

“We’ve heard so much about Valera,” Francona said last spring. “He’s a really young kid, but just to see the way he handles himself, it was fun to watch.”

Is there any chance that Nolan Jones begins the season in LF?
[email protected]

Seeing Nolan Jones in the outfield on Opening Day would be a little bit of a surprise. He had never played the outfield in his life before he started to get reps there during the instructional league this past fall. Plus, he missed a full season of games in 2020. With those two factors – on top of service time – the Indians may start their top prospect in the Minors for the beginning of the season. But it’d be an enormous shock if we didn’t see him at some point in 2021.

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