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(although the NRI list hasn’t changed on the official site, the Indians also sent Greg Allen, Ronnie Rodriguez, Travis Banwart, Steve Delabar, Josh Martin, Chris Narveson, James Russell, Guilermo Quiroz, and Eric Stamets to minor-league camp).
Thus far the roster cuts the Indians have made were expected, mostly prospects who were headed to the minors no matter how they played. Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, and Shawn Morimando all pitched for the Indians a year (with Merritt playing a significant role in the ALCS victory), but none of the three headed into camp with a chance of earning a spot on the club barring a calamitous rash of injuries.
But now, as Terry Francona alluded to the other day, the difficult decisions will be made as Spring Training enters its final week. These decisions are going to impact whether a player remains in the organization, so these final cuts are made with as much thought and analysis as possible by the club. Usually these cuts are communicated within the final week of camp, though the players affected may be kept on the roster through the end of Cactus League games.
Pending roster issues:
Yandy Diaz has been fantastic since his return to the lineup, and what I thought impossible a week ago might actually happen: Diaz could make the club, playing third base until Jason Kipnis returns from the Disabled List (with Jose Ramirez moving over to second base). Giovanny Urshela has an advantage over Diaz in that he’s already on the 40-man roster, but the temptation to add Diaz’s bat to the lineup may overshadow the roster issue, especially since Cody Anderson’s surgery means that a 40-man roster spot will be opened up without designating a player for assignment. And given that Diaz is already 25 years old, I don’t think delaying his service clock should be a deciding factor as to whether he begins the year with the major-league club - as is he would become a free agent after his Age 30 season, and would be 31 years old in November of 2022. And that’s assuming he spends no more time in the minors. The Indians are going to be getting the best period of Diaz’s career whether he makes his debut on April 3rd or April 20th. I should mention that Richie Shaffer would also be a candidate to fill this role as well if the Indians want to go with the Ramirez-to-second method of replacing Kipnis.
So far, so good for Michael Brantley in his quest to return to the lineup. If there’s no setbacks, that creates an interesting decision for the Indians. Abraham Almonte has an option remaining, and Austin Jackson probably would latch on in another organization if he doesn’t make the team, so the Indians could elect to maximize their outfield depth by going with Jackson over Almonte.
Carlos Carrasco is scheduled to start this afternoon, and if everything goes well would be on track to make his scheduled start on April 4th.
I think Erik Gonzalez should win the job, as he’s considered a better fielder than his main competitor (Michael Martinez) and is already on the 40-man roster. But should and will are two totally different words. If the Indians want to keep Jose Ramirez at third base, then potentially both Gonzalez and Martinez could make the team.
I don’t have much of a read on who the final reliever will be (assuming the Indians go with seven relievers) if they do return Hoby Milner to the Phillies. Shawn Armstrong would be my pick to fill that role, as not only does he have the ability to get hitters out, but has options remaining. Not that it matters a whole lot, as the Indians will be sending that pitcher down to the minors when they next need a fresh arm. Also, because the Indians don’t need a 5th starter for a while, Josh Tomlin might pitch some long relief the first week of the season if it’s called for.
Optioned LHP Shawn Morimando, LHP Ryan Merritt, and Adam Plutko to Columbus (AAA)