Now that we have checked out the competition, let us now turn to our beloved Tribe and see how they look heading into the December Winter meetings (December 7-11) in San Diego.
After five years of .500 ball or worse, the Tribe made it to the play-in Wild Card game in 2013 and were in contention for that same spot in 2014. That is the first time of consecutive over .500 seasons since the 2000-2001 squads.
This window of contention appears to have some legs as some of the top rated prospects look like they are ready to contribute this year or next.
Yan Gomes signed a very team friendly contract in March that keeps him in Cleveland through 2019 with two team options in 2020 and 2021. He will make just $1M in 2015. Carlos Santana also signed a very team friendly deal back in 2012 through 2016 with a very affordable team option in 2017. He will make $6M this season. Jason Kipnis was also extended last spring. His contract runs through 2019 with a team option in 2020 with him scheduled for $4M in 2015. Lonnie Chisenhall will be in his first year of arbitration this year and get about $2.2M. Jose Ramirez won't reach arbitration until 2018, while heir apparent Francisco Lindor will probably reach arbitration in 2019.
While the infield appears set, the outfield is not quite as set. Michael Brantley was the third Indian to negotiate an extension in 2014, through 2017 with a team option in 2018. He is set to make $5M in 2015. Michael Bourn still has two years left on his deal with a 2017 vesting option. He'll make $13.5M in 2015. David Murphy will make $6M this year and the team has a $7M option on him next year. Ryan Raburn signed an extension in August 2013 that pays him $2.5M in 2015 and a $3M team option next year. Nick Swisher will make $15M this year and next with a vesting option for 2017.
On the bench, Mike Aviles had his 2015 club option picked up for $3.5M. backup catcher Roberto Perez will have his first arbitration in 2018. Zach Walters, Tyler Holt and Jesus Aguilar are also eligible for arbitration in 2018.
Jason Giambi likely will retire (bench coach anyone?) while other departures this offseason include Chris Dickerson and Elliot Johnson who were granted free agency in September. Justin Sellers was sold to the Pirates and J.B. Shuck was claimed off waivers by the White Sox. Other minor leaguers cut loose were Russell Branyan, Dusty Brown, Luke Carlin, Matt Carson, David Cooper, Chris Gimenez, Bryan LaHair and Ryan Rohlinger.
The only hitters added to the 40 man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft were catcher Tony Wolters and third baseman Giovanny Urshela
The dominant rotation from last year should return intact for 2015. Corey Kluber is not eligible for arbitration until next year (and I hope the front office is working on his extension). Carlos Carrasco will likely make $1.5M in his first year of arbitration while Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer won't reach it until 2017. T.J. House has to wait until 2018. Josh Tomlin will likely net $1.7M in arbitration this year and Zach McAllister has to wait until 2016 for his chance. Longshot Nick Maronde isn't eligible until 2018. Ryan Merritt and Cody Anderson are the recent additions with Shaun Marcum resigned to a minor league deal and an invite to spring training.
As with the rotation, the bullpen should return mostly intact from last year. Cody Allen is arbitration eligible in 2016 while Bryan Shaw will make about $1.5 in his first year of arbitration. Scott Atchison will make $900k in 2015 with a $1M team option for 2016. Marc Rzepczynski will make about $1.6 in his first year of arbitration as well. Nick Hagadone is arbitration eligible in 2016 while C.C. Lee, Kyle Crockett, Austin Adams and Charles Brewer are in 2018. Shawn Armstrong was the only reliever added pre-Rule 5 draft.
Josh Outman was traded to the Yankees for future considerations in late August and Mark Lowe was cut loose in October. Other cuts after the season included Matt Capps, Kyle Davies and J.C. Ramirez. Scott Barnes was DFA'ed and then sold to the Orioles.
The Indians had a $65M payroll in 2012, an $80M payroll in 2013 and $85M last year. With the roster as it is right now, they are at about $74M. So there is about $10-15M to play with this winter.
I don't foresee any big ticket free agents but I wouldn't rule out a trade of a player with just one or two years left on their contract (as all the Brandon Moss rumors seem to suggest). But I hope a good portion of the money is used on a few more extensions (Kluber being the obvious choice). Most of the roster is set for next year if they decide not to make any trades, with perhaps a need for a bench guy or some more spring training invites.