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The Week in Transactions

The Indians acquire a reliever, and is set to sign a hitter you may have heard of.

ALCS - Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Indians had until the week of Christmas made only marginal moves; they made a couple of waivers claims/trades, signed a handful of players to NRIs, and selected a player in the Rule 5 Draft. And that made sense, given how little the projected 25-man roster changed after the World Series ended. But the Indians did lose one everyday player from the roster (Mike Napoli), leaving an open spot in the lineup they’d need to replace. As the free agent slugger market unfolded, it looked to me as if the replacement for Mike Napoli would end up being Mike Napoli, and that wouldn’t have been terrible, but what actually did happen was something rather unexpected.

By unexpected, I mean not something you’d expect to happen based on the last 15 years of Cleveland moves. The nearest analogues to signing Edwin Encarnacion were the signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn in 2013. There are some similarities between Swisher/Bourn and Encarnacion; in both cases the Indians waited out the free agent market, getting players originally thought to be destined to go to teams with higher payrolls. This signing is a bit different, in that the Indians are in a different place now than they were in 2012-2013. This year’s club came within one swing of the bat of winning the World Series, while the 2012 club was one of the worst Indians teams of the recent (1994-2016) era. Five years ago those two signings were an attempt to be start of contention, while this signing is an attempt to keep the massive momentum generated by the World Series run going.

Over his past three seasons, Encarnacion has averaged 4.0 bWAR, a total that would have placed him behind just Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber on 2016’s team. It would be a 3-win improvement over what Mike Napoli did. The concern of course is that the Indians are a signing a slugger approaching his mid-30s, and there are plenty of examples of great hitters turning into merely decent hitters at that point in their careers. The length of the contract (3 years with a team option), somewhat mitigates the long-term risk, though, and Encarnacion is starting from a rather high starting point.

The signing also means it’s very unlikely the Indians retain Carlos Santana past this season unless they are suddenly fine with a $150-$160M payroll over the next 4-5 years. Maybe that budget is possible if attendance rebounds significantly in that period of time. But I don’t see them sinking $35-40M into two spots in the lineup when there are many other players on the roster also due raises in that period of time.

But in the meantime, let’s push off those future concerns and take a peek at what the Opening Day roster looks like right now:

(click to embiggen)

Dec 30 2016

I should note that the Indians haven’t officially signed Encarncion yet, so they will have to remove from the 40-man roster. My vote would be Austin Adams, but it could be a number of other players, including Tim Cooney, Jesus Aguilar, and Edwin Escobar.

With Encarnacion taking Napoli’s spot in the lineup, there aren’t going to be very many 25-man roster spots up for grabs in spring training. I would say these are the big questions to be answered in March:

  1. Michael Brantley’s health
  2. Erik Gonzalez vs. Michael Martinez
  3. Michael Brantley’s health
  4. The two final spots in the bullpen
  5. Michael Brantley’s health

Although there could be some changes in the everyday lineup (perhaps Abraham Almonte ends up playing more than Tyler Naquin, and Perez plays more than Gomes), but I think there won’t any significant changes to the 25-man roster.

Major-League Transactions

December 20

Traded a PTBNL to the New York Yankees for RHP Nick Goody

Goody was designated for assignment when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman, so I don’t expect the Indians to be giving up much, if anything. Goody appeared in 29 games for the Yankees last season, mostly in May/June. He’s always had very good strikeout rates, but also a higher walk rate than you’d like. His repetroire is a low-90s 4-seam fastball and a slider, with his fastball actually his better swing-and-miss pitch. If he can’t improve his slider (or come up with a better secondary pitch), I don’t think he’ll stick around for long.

Signed 1B/OF Chris Colabello to a minor-league contract; invited him to Spring Training

Colabello was a major part of Toronto’s 2015 playoff club, but got nabbed last year for PEDs. After his suspension, he spent the remainder of his 2016 season in Buffalo, and was DFAed after the season. I’d expect most of his 2017 campaign to be spent in Columbus as injury insurance.

December 21

Signed RHP Diarlin Jimenez to a minor-league contract (amateur free agent)

Jimenez was born in 2000. Think about that for a moment...