Cleveland Indians: Spring training outlook could change quickly if moves are made

GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 3: A general view of Goodyear Ballpark during a spring training game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark on March 3, 2015 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 3: A general view of Goodyear Ballpark during a spring training game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark on March 3, 2015 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) /

Free agency hasn’t played out as some expected so far for the Cleveland Indians and the rest of MLB. That will change soon enough and if Cleveland is involved so could their 2018 outlook.

Plenty of offseason moves need to be made soon. Some will impact to some degree the Cleveland Indians‘ 2018 season, while others won’t.

In just a matter of days, Cleveland’s spring training will be underway. On February 15, pitchers and catchers begin their workouts while the rest of the team begins on February 19.

Looking at how the A.L. Central has played out as of now, the Tribe has certainly lost their fair share of players in free agency but is still the best in the division. As far as the rest of the American League is concerned, however, that is up for debate.

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There’s no reason why the Indians won’t win their division, especially by double-digit games. I am sure we can all agree there will be specific players that will have to step up their game in order to replace those that left to do so but there is a lot to like heading into the season.

That said, Cleveland’s outlook could be even more intriguing and exciting if a couple of key things are figured out sooner rather than later.

The first item of business that comes to mind is what exactly is the outfield plan? Bradley Zimmer is going to start in center and an under the radar player that I believe will have an impressive spring is Greg Allen.

By haivng a great spring training, he will show that he deserves strong consideration to start. The problem, however, is that Allen may be forced into a platoon role in either corner outfield spot, especially with Michael Brantley‘s option being picked up as Cleveland’s starting left fielder.

In right, Lonnie Chisenhall is going to start. While his versatility is nice, he doesn’t move the needle enough in making the Indians a championship contender any more than they have been in the past.

A move or two would be nice to improve Cleveland’s outfield, which is one of their few weaknesses. The unfortunate part is that a move may not even happen. Overall, the Indians’ outfield is average at best and would benefit from a move.

Given how the free agent market has played out, maybe just maybe veteran OF J.D. Martinez‘s value drops enough for Cleveland to get into the hunt. I doubt it happens and even if it does, the Indians may have been better off making a deal with Jay Bruce instead.

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Recently, the name Domingo Santana, an outfielder with the Milwaukee Brewers came up as a trade option. There’s a problem though and that is Cleveland would probably have to give up pitcher Danny Salazar in a deal.

Santana would help but Salazar is also needed, which leads me to my next thought: The pitching staff.

Salazar, whether as a starter or as a reliever will be crucial for the Tribe. Perhaps an arm or two surprises the team thus making Salazar more expendable than he already is.

If that’s the case, making a trade for a Santana ASAP would be ideal rather than it carrying on into the regular season. Unfortunately, I don’t see it working out that way.

A couple of arms may, in fact, showcase why they deserve a spot in the backend of the rotation or in a role replacing one of Cleveland’s key relievers that left. However, any Salazar related trade should be expected to come during the regular season.

I’d like to see Salazar used occasionally in the spring as a seventh and eighth inning arm because soon both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen will become free agents and Cleveland will need a replacement for one of them.

As far as bounce back seasons are concerned, will second baseman Jason Kipnis get back to his level of play and not miss as much time as he did? Hopefully, but I will believe it when I see it.

The same goes for first baseman Yonder Alonso. While Alonso isn’t coming off of a bad season, in fact, the opposite, I want to see the momentum continue. He had his best season last year with the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners but he has big shoes to fill replacing Carlos Santana.

Another great season of Indians baseball is upon us. The sooner we see some pitchers break out, Brantley and Kipnis showcasing they can remain healthy, and other position players stepping up, the easier it will be to make that next move.

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Whether that is a trade or a signing is unknown. What is known now is that in an instant, the question marks and uncertainty can go away in a matter of just a couple of moves.