Offseason Tracker and Analysis: Cleveland Indians

Last offseason, the Indians perhaps got a little too confident in their ability to easily win the AL Central, opting to cut payroll. Well, with the Twins seemingly taking over the division, Cleveland has a decision to make: look towards the future, or continue to try to contend? Superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor’s value will never be higher, so although it’s unlikely, him being traded would certainly shift the outlook of this franchise significantly.

Expected Direction: Looking Towards The Future Without “Blowing It Up”

Indians Acquire C Sandy Leon From Red Sox

leon
Photo Cred: 98.5 The Sports Hub

Full Trade: Indians Acquire C Sandy Leon From Red Sox In Exchange For RHP Adeinys Bautista

Grade: 7.5/10

Looking to add a backup catcher, the Indians have acquired veteran catcher Sandy Leon, and his $2.8 million projected salary in arbitration, from the Red Sox, sending minor-league pitcher Adeinys Bautista to Boston. Leon, 30, provides zero offensive value- his 40 weighted-runs-created plus (wrc+) last season means he was 60% worse than league average last season, and he posted a 0.2 WAR. And, while he’s usually a terrific defender, he was closer to average by the metrics last year- he appears to be on the decline. Choosing him over a cheaper option in Kevin Plawecki is certainly strange, though Bautista isn’t exactly someone Cleveland was keen on keeping.

Indians Trade SP Corey Kluber To Rangers

kluber
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Full Trade: Indians Trade SP Corey Kluber In Exchange For RP Emmanuel Chase and OF Delino DeShields Jr.

Grade: 7/10

After years of being rumored in trades, two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber has finally been traded from the Indians; Cleveland traded him to the Rangers in exchange for young reliever Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr. It’s tough to see Kluber go if you’re an Indians fan, but it’s understandable why they opted to trade the 33-year-old; he has a lot of red flags and would have cost the low-budget Indians $17.5 million next season, and had a suboptimal season, he would’ve lost all of his trade value. Still, the return seems awfully light. Clase, 21, is a very intriguing reliever. In 23.1 innings last season, he ranked in the 100th percentile in fastball velocity and the 97th percentile in fastball spin rate, per Baseball Savant, and also had a solid 3.42 xFIP. He clearly has an incredible pitching arsenal, but Cleveland’s analytics staff will need to improve his pitch usage, as his strikeout rates have been suboptimal. Either way, he should be a terrific option out of the bullpen for years to come, though relievers are very volatile and tend to have limited value. As for the 27-year-old DeShields, he is a well-below average hitter (72 wrc+), so essentially, all of his value comes from his defense, which is definitely above-average. To put this trade in a different perspective, Clase and DeShields are projected by STEAMER to combine for under 1 WAR next season, while Kluber is projected to have a 3.6 WAR. Obviously, Clase and DeShields come with much more club control, but at the very best, Cleveland is getting a reliever and a fourth outfielder out of this trade; it’s strange that they couldn’t have gotten more out of this trade, even if they badly wanted Clase.

Indians Sign 2B Cesar Hernandez

cesar
Photo Cred: Let’s Go Tribe

Contract Details: One Year, $6.25 Million

Grade: 7.5/10

Long-time second baseman Jason Kipnis likely won’t be brought back this offseason for the Indians, which meant the team needed to find his replacement. Well, they’ve added Cesar Hernandez on a one-year deal worth $6.25 million, which is likely an indication that even though they’re shopping their top players, they’ll look to remain competitive next season. Hernandez, 29, peaked in 2016 and 2017, where he accumulated a combined 7.1 fWAR, but over the past two seasons, his numbers have regressed. Not only has he been a below-average hitter in terms of wrc+, but there aren’t any signs for improvement. Once known as a high on-base percentage hitter, his walk rate plummeted to 6.7%; he also makes a lot of soft contact and hits a lot of ground balls. Maybe he’ll get back to his prime form, but most likely, he’ll be a 1-2 fWAR player for Cleveland, which isn’t horrible for $6.25 million, but certainly not a steal.

Indians Sign OF Domingo Santana

domingosantana
Photo Cred: Cleveland.com

Contract Details: One Year, $1.5 Million ($5 Million Club Option 2021 w/Incentives)

Grade: 7/10

Hoping to add depth to a rather thin lineup, the Indians have signed outfielder Domingo Santana to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, with a $5 million club option that can increase in value based on performance bonuses. Once seen as a budding star coming off a 3.3 WAR season with the Brewers in 2017, Santana hasn’t ever come close to producing at that level. After being traded to the Mariners, he was the definition of a replacement-level player, posting exactly a 0.0 WAR. Based on his .347 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), the 27-year-old is an above-average hitter, and when he makes contact, the results are excellent (.483 xwOBA). Yet, he doesn’t make contact consistently, so he a 110 wrc+ type of hitter, and that won’t work with his putrid outfield defense (-17 drs, -13 OAA). Plus, he’s also redundant as a low on-base slugger with poor defense, since the Indians already have a better version of him in Franmil Reyes- I don’t love the fit. It may not be for much of a cost, but I don’t see Santana improving the team much, if at all in 2020.

*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Indians Make

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