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Looking ahead to the offseason

What’s on deck for the Indians over the winter months.

MLB: Winter Meetings Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26 2017

You can access the Excel file here.

As was suggested a couple weeks ago, I’ve added the money the Indians paid Chris Johnson as well as the $1M buyout for the 2018 season.

A bit of background for those who aren’t familiar with Chris Johnson and why the Indians acquired him. Or to put the matter more bluntly, why they had to take him. The Indians acquired Johnson from the Atlanta Braves in August 2015 as the cost of ridding themselves of Michael Bourn (and most especially) Nick Swisher. The deal lightened the Tribe’s short-term financial load, but at the cost of taking on a player under contract longer than Bourn or Swisher. The Indians kept Johnson on the roster through the end of the 2015 season, then released him, figuring it would be better to just pay him and not also have to play him.

When Johnson passed through waivers in 2015, the Indians remained on the hook for the remainder of his salary, though they were able to save a bit of money because he played for the Marlins in 2016 (Marlins were responsible for the MLB minimum salary, Indians had to pay the rest). Johnson was completely out of baseball in 2017, meaning that the Indians had to pay all of the $9M owed him. Now just $1M is still owed him (the 2018 buyout), and indirectly remains on that free agent splurge of the 2012-2013 offseason.

Now that that piece of unpleasant history is disposed, let’s take a look at what the Indians will be facing over the next several months. Let’s take things in order:

November 2 (1 Day after end of World Series) - Free Agency begins

All eligible players become free agents. In other words, all players who have accumulated 6 years or more of service and are not signed to a contract, are now free agents. In years past, players would need to file for free agency, but now it’s automatic once the season ends. These Indians are now free agents:

  • LHP Craig Breslow
  • OF Jay Bruce
  • OF Austin Jackson
  • 1B Carlos Santana
  • RHP Bryan Shaw
  • RHP Joe Smith

The Indians have an exclusive negotiating window with these free agents until November 7.

November 3-6: Teams/Players to accept/decline contract options

The relevant options are:

  • Michael Brantley - $11M 2018 team option (or $1M buyout)
  • Josh Tomlin - $3M 2018 team option (or $750K buyout)
  • Boone Logan - $7M 2018 team option (or $1M buyout)

The Indians also will need to pay Chris Johnson’s $1M buyout.

It looks like the Indians will be picking up Brantley’s option (even with his ankle surgery), they’re almost certainly bring back Tomlin, and I think they’ll almost certainly cut ties with Logan. Players who by virtue of a declined offer automatically become free agents if they have 6 years of service time.

In addition, teams need to activate all players either on the 60-day Disabled List or the Restricted List. In the Indians’ case, Boone Logan (if they pick up his option), Cody Anderson, Dylan Baker, and Joseph Colon will need to be activated in the next couple of days.

November 6 - Deadline for teams to tender Qualifying Offers

This was covered extensively here if you’d like the gory details. Carlos Santana is going to be the only Indians player to have a chance of receiving the $17.4 Qualifying Offer. Players who receive a QO will have 10 days to either accept or decline it.

November 7 - Free Agents can negotiate sign with any team

MLB free agency is lot slower-paced than other sports, so don’t expect a flurry of signings right away.

November 16 - Deadline for players to accept Qualifying Offers

If (for example) Carlos Santana is tendered a QO by the Indians, he’ll have to have accepted it by this date. If he would accept it, he’d be under contract with a one-year salary of $17.4. If he declines and he ends up signing elsewhere, the Indians will receive draft pick compensation in the 2018 June draft.

November 20 - Deadline to roster players for the Rule 5 Draft

If the Indians want to protect any eligible prospect from the Rule 5 draft, they must add him to the 40-man roster by this date.

December 1 - Deadline to tender contracts

Basically, any player that isn’t already signed to a 2018 contract must be tendered a contract by this date. These include players that are arbitration-eligible and players who are still under renewable contracts. If a team does not offer a player a contract by this point, he is considered “non-tendered” and automatically becomes a free agent. There’s a (small) chance that the Indians non-tender Zach McAllister, and possibly Abe Almonte (mainly if they need the roster spot). The Indians have also in the past non-tendered a player that isn’t arbitration-eligible to clear up a roster spot.

Arbitration-eligible Indians:

  • OF Lonnie Chisenhall
  • RHP Trevor Bauer
  • RHP Danny Salazar
  • RHP Cody Allen
  • RHP Zach McAllister
  • RHP Dan Otero
  • OF Abe Almonte

December 10-14 - Winter Meetings

This is the best week of the offseason if you love baseball trades or signings. With all 30 front offices (and a bunch of agents) gathered in one location, there’s going to be lots of trade talks, high-stakes contract negotiations, and lots of rumors flying around.

In December 14th, the Rule 5 Draft will be held, in which eligible minor-league players not protected on the 40-man roster can be selected by other clubs. In short, any players selected must spend the entire 2018 season either on that club’s 25-man roster or on the Disabled List, or he has to be offered back to his former club. The Indians actually still have a player whose Rule 5 status is active; Anthony Santander was selected by the Orioles last winter, but because he spent most of 2017 on the Disabled List, the Orioles have not yet satisfied the Rule 5 requirements.


By far the worst of the offseason months, as the only real exciting moves are the last good free agents signing with teams. If arbitration-eligible players haven’t agreed to contracts by this time, they will exchange salary numbers with their clubs and set a date for a hearing. The Indians have been extremely reluctant over the past several decades to let it get a hearing, so you’ll probably see everyone agree to deals in mid-to-late January.


Pitchers and catchers report to camp in Goodyear, Arizona, and all is right with the world again.