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Indians now need a first baseman

In losing Carlos Santana, the Tribe’s offseason mission becomes clearer.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This should go without saying after today’s events, but I’m going to say it anyway: The Cleveland Indians need to find a first baseman.

If you haven’t heard the news, Carlos Santana signed a three-year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies earlier today, and he will be wearing a uniform other than the Tribe’s and it’s weird and icky. All reports to this point had Santana’s as the Indians’ number one option during the Winter Meetings (they even had the ability to counter offers). Now that he’s gone, finding his replacement should take precedent.

Technically, the Indians do have internal options, but only technically. And they aren’t great. The most common idea is to just slap anyone and everyone who has ever picked up a glove at the position. Michael Brantley? He’s never played there and who knows how effective his bat might be, but sure! Let’s do it. Jason Kipnis? See Brantley, Michael. They could opt for Edwin Encarnacion playing first ever day, but nobody wants to see that, and it only opens another hole at designated hitter. Santana needs to be replaced, the only issue is actually finding that replacement.

Personally, I’ve hopped aboard the Logan Morrison train along with Merritt Rohlfing, who wrote up a full post of the possibility of Morrison coming to a Santana-less Indians team in 2018:

See, the Indians could really use Morrison. As said before, he essentially replicated Encarnacion last year and out-hit Santana in most every metric. But he signed a prove-it deal, and he proved it. It wasn't just last year either. From the beginning of July 2016 to the end of this season, a stretch of 673 plate appearances, he put up a 131 wRC+, walked 13 percent of the time and struck out 24.5 percent of the time. He was every bit as good as Santana. Which means he will be more expensive, though it's hard to convince me that he'll be as pricey as Santana. Reports are something in the 10-12 million range, whereas Santana could be slated for $15 million a year or more.

Much of Morrison’s 2017 numbers were inflated by the juiced ball, batters uppercutting, or however else you want to explain batters slugging more home runs thane ever before. But unless Major League Baseballs sees a major problem with the new face of the game (or if it really is just a new approach to hitting that worked so well for so many players), then it’s not completely unreasonable for Morrison to hit for power again in 2018. Even Steamer, a robot number-crunching machine that doesn’t account for the idea of new baseballs and such, projects Morrison to hit 25 home runs next year.

Morrison’s 2017 season wasn’t fueled solely by his power, either. The 30-year-old walked 13.5 percent, the most since his rookie season. That lead to a career-high .353 on-base percentage and it was a big factor in a wRC+ (130) that was higher than every batter on the Indians not named Jose Ramirez or Edwin Encarnacion last season.

The hope is that other teams think Morrison’s season was a fluke and that he can’t replicate it. If that isn’t the case, the Indians aren’t completely in the lurch. There are always options at first base, even if they aren’t the greatest. Maybe Indians fans would grow to love Eric Hosmer’s sub-par play at first base and his stupid beard. Or maybe, like Morrison, Yonder Alonso’s 28 home runs and 132 wRC+ wasn’t a complete aberration, He, too, walked more than ever and was great at spreading the ball all over the field. Options are out there, now it’s up to the Indians to go out and get one instead of sitting back on what they have and hoping for the best.