Every year, between the months of November and March, which is the Major League Baseball offseason, there is a time period that has come to be known as the Hot Stove season. Every year during this time there is much discussion about which team’s free agent players are going to end up signing with.
This year, the Cleveland Indians have two major players from their playoff run last year that are free agents. Carlos Santana, who has been with the team at many different positions through the years, originally coming up as a catcher before making the transition to third base and now finally finding a home at first base. However, he declined the team’s $17.4 million qualifying offer earlier this year.
Jay Bruce, the player the Indians acquired in the phenomenal midseason trade with the New York Mets according to a tweet from Jerry Crasnick last month is reportedly seeking a five-year contract somewhere in the $80-$90 million-dollar range.
MLB teams that have inquired on FA outfielder Jay Bruce say he’s seeking a deal for 5 years in the $80-90 million range.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 9, 2017
Santana played outstanding defense at first base in 2017, even winning the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year honor for his play; he tied all MLB first basemen in defensive runs saved with 10, lead American League first basemen in assists and double plays started with 95 and 16 respectively.
While both players were key elements in the Tribe’s playoff run and in the case of Santana, the World Series bid in 2016, the team likely will not be able to keep both of the players.
I think that Jay Bruce would be more valuable to try and keep on the team. While he may cost more, his clutch hitting helped propel the Indians through their incredible 22-game win streak and into their short playoff experience this year. Bruce hit 36 homers in 2016 and drove in 101 runs and most importantly added much needed spark to the Indians offense. He also played outstanding defense at times in right field where the team lacked depth in the outfield after key injuries to young star Bradley Zimmer and Michael Brantley. If the Indians were to offer him the contract that Bruce reportedly wanted which was in the 5-year and 80-90 million dollar range (which averages to about 16 million dollars a year), it would be less than the qualifying offer that Santana turned down.
While losing Santana would create a problem at first base for the Tribe, they could fill that hole with a player like Lonnie Chisenhall who has spent some time playing that position already or transition prospect Yandy Diaz to first base as well. Another option would be to bring in a free agent first baseman such as former Kansas City Royal, Eric Hosmer, or bring back fan-favorite Mike Napoli. Last season, Hosmer hit .318 with 25 homers and 94 RBI and could add some needed depth to the Indians batting order and could allow Edwin Encarnacion, who is signed with the team for two more years, to stay as the team’s designated hitter. As the stove continues to heat up throughout the offseason, it will be interesting to see what moves the team makes as they try to contend for a World Series championship next year.
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