Optioned LHP TJ House to Columbus (AAA)
This was going to happen unless there was a rash of injuries to the projected starting rotation. House had a lost season in 2015, and will look to rebound in Columbus.
RHP Felipe Paulino assigned to minor-league camp
I don't see too many innings for Paulino in Columbus, at least as a starter; this isn't a couple years ago, when the Indians were struggling to fill out the Columbus rotation with prospects.
Optioned 1B Jesus Aguilar to Columbus (AAA)
This move was set in motion when the Indians signed Mike Napoli. Aguilar's window of cracking the big leagues (at least with the Indians) seems to be closing; he'll need to play very well in Columbus to get a real chance in the majors.
Optioned SS Erik Gonzalez, 3B Giovanny Urshela, RHP Austin Adams, and OF Joey Butler to Columbus (AAA).
Assigned C Adam Moore to minor-league camp
At various points I thought Urshela, Adams, and Butler had very good chances of making the Opening Day roster, but all lost out to veterans (Uribe, Chamberlain, Byrd). Urshela and Adams should be back in Cleveland at some point, while Butler may not get a real opportunity barring injury. Gonzalez would be the next middle infielder on the depth chart.
Released OF Will Venable and LHP Joe Thatcher
Both players were able to request their release because of their service time. They'll have a week to see if they can land in a more favorable situation (perhaps even a 25-man roster) before the regular season.
For Venable, this has to be seen by him as a missed opportunity, as he signed with the Indians just as the news dropped about Abraham Almonte's 80-game suspension. But not only did Venable have a poor spring, Tyler Naquin seized his opportunity, and so Naquin will start the season as the regular center fielder, and because Venable also hits left-handed, he wasn't a good fit as a reserve outfielder (Collin Cowgill, at least initially, should serve as the center fielder against most left-handed pitchers).
Thatcher lost out to another NRI in Ross Detwiler. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway saw a fixable flaw in Detwiler's delivery and pushed the Indians to sign him. In addition, Detwiler is not going to be used as a matchup left-hander, but as a reliever that, thanks to a mechanical fix, could go as many as two innings in middle relief. Thatcher didn't hurt his cause at all, but lost out because the Indians were looking for a different type of pitcher.
Optioned LHP Kyle Crockett to Columbus (AAA)
This was set in motion when Ross Detwiler made the club. If Crockett was out of options, the Indians very likely would have kept him in Cleveland and cut Detwiler, but instead the veteran, even though he wasn't on the 40-man roster, gets the nod.
Also announced on Monday but not officially noted:
OF Lonnie Chisenhall will be placed on the 15-day Disabled List
OF Marlon Byrd will make the 25-man roster
LHP Tom Gorzelanny will accept assignment to the minors
With the Indians facing several left-handed pitchers over the first week of the season, placing Chisenhall on the DL isn't a huge loss. He'd be eligible to return on April 12th I believe. Michael Brantley and Tommy Hunter will also be placed on the Disabled List, with similar return dates. In the meantime, the Indians will go with an outfield by committee, with Rajai Davis, Tyler Naquin, Marlon Byrd, and Collin Cowgill holding down the fort until both Brantley and Chisenhall are healthy.
Gorzelanny could have chosen free agency, but elected to go to the minors. He still will be able to opt out of his contract if he hasn't been added to the 25-man roster by June 1.
Latest 25-man/40-man Roster
I've added the NRI guys to the 40-man roster, as well as the three players destined for the DL. However, those moves have yet to take place. The Indians will need to free up three spots on the 40-man roster, which will likely come in the form of DFAs, though I guess they could always make a trade for a prospect who isn't on a 40-man roster.
We now know the makeup of the bullpen thanks the events of the last couple days; it will consist of Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Detwiler, Chamberlain, and Dan Otero. I'm horrible with figuring out who does or does not have an option remaining, but I don't believe the Indians can option out any of those seven except Cody Allen, which effectively means that when Tommy Hunter is ready to go, the Indians will need to DFA someone unless there's an injury that takes place in the meantime. Ditto for when Craig Stammen is ready to go.
Terry Francona hasn't officially said so, but I think Cody Anderson will make the 25-man roster to either start a game or pitch in relief. There's even a possibility that Travor Bauer will be the de facto reliever, with Anderson and Tomlin making starts before Chisenhall and Brantley come off the DL. There are two off days within the first eight days of the season, so Francona could handle the rotation in a number of ways with six starters on the roster.
AL Central Preview: Minnesota Twins
In our final AL Central preview, we look at a club that has a talented young lineup, but lots of question marks on their pitching staff:
The Twins have a lot of money tied up in expensive (and rather mediocre) starting pitchers, as well in Joe Mauer, who had worst season of his career in 2015. Santana, Hughes, and Nolasco are all signed through at least 2018, for better or worse, so the Twins are banking on much more production from that trio in 2016 if they have any shot at contending.
Minnesota dealt Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for John Ryan Murphy this winter to make room for top prospect Byron Buxton, who will be the centerpiece of a very promising outfield. They may try to trade Oswaldo Arcia, who is out of options.