CLEVELAND — The Indians are still trying to figure out the best way to plan for the 2021 season. Without being able to predict what the coronavirus pandemic will look like in three or four months, the club isn’t sure if it can bank on a normal year or the
CLEVELAND — The Indians are still trying to figure out the best way to plan for the 2021 season. Without being able to predict what the coronavirus pandemic will look like in three or four months, the club isn’t sure if it can bank on a normal year or the revenue from having fans in the stands. But despite the uncertainties and financial losses, the Tribe has been clear that its goal hasn’t changed.
“As you look logically at what’s happened over the course of the season and the uncertainty of what we’re facing in 2021, our financial reality is, you know, it’s daunting,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said at the end of the season. “But that doesn’t change the goal and the expectation of, ‘How do we find a way to continue to build a championship team?’”
So what are the Indians’ biggest needs entering 2021 — and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.
The Indians have a hole at second base and could have another at shortstop if Francisco Lindor is traded over the winter. Cleveland has expressed its desire in re-signing second baseman Cesar Hernandez after his consistent season at the plate in 2020, but the club has also noted it may not be financially possible for a reunion to happen. If Lindor is traded, receiving some middle-infield help in return would be a must as the Tribe waits for Tyler Freeman to be ready to take over the duties at shortstop. The Indians are also left with Jake Bauers, Josh Naylor and Bobby Bradley as the top candidates to take over for Carlos Santana at first base.
An outfield bat
There has been a clear need in the outfield for the Indians in recent years. They rotated through several outfield combinations last year, hoping to find the perfect recipe for success. Instead, the outfield crew posted the second-worst batting average (.194) and the lowest slugging percentage (.300) in the Majors. Cleveland certainly has internal options, especially Daniel Johnson and top prospect Nolan Jones, who has been receiving more reps in the outfield as he nears his debut, but another impact bat wouldn’t be the worst thing to throw into the mix.
It would be easy to assume that the Indians need some additions to their bullpen after parting ways with closer Brad Hand. However, the Tribe still has choices in James Karinchak (the early favorite to take over Hand’s role), Emmanuel Clase and Nick Wittgren at the back end of the ‘pen. But it never hurts to add some more arms. Along with Hand, Cleveland is also losing Oliver Pérez to free agency.
Nov. 1: Activated right-hander Rodriguez
Jefry Rodriguez was activated from the 45-day injured list after missing the 2020 season due to a lower back injury.
Oct. 31: Freeman elects free agency
The Indians placed Mike Freeman on outright waivers, and after the utility player cleared waivers, he elected free agency.
Oct. 30: Exercised Roberto Pérez’s option; declined the options of Hand, Carlos Santana and Domingo Santana
The Tribe had four options on the table and picked up just Roberto Pérez’s $5.5 million option for 2021. The team decided against exercising the options of Hand ($10 million option, $1 million buyout), Santana ($17.5 million option, $500,000 buyout) and Domingo Santana ($5 million option, $250,000 buyout).
Oct. 1: Clase activated from restricted list
Clase missed the entire 2020 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He was added back to the 40-man roster at the conclusion of the season.