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Former Indians drawing interest in free agent market

Since the Indians aren’t doing anything yet, let’s see how old friends are faring on the hot stove

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

You knew it would happen eventually. When you watched the Indians play with a glimmer of hope in 2015, when you watched them march to the World Series in 2016, and when you watched them pitch their way to 100+ wins in 2017 — in the back of your mind you knew some of these guys would be free agents eventually. And it would suck.

Last offseason saw Carlos Santana and Bryan Shaw leave for cash-greener pastures on the open market after nearly half a decade of being staples in the organization. Neither performed especially well on their new team. Santana put up a respectable 109 wRC+ but the Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly already trying to shop him and his contract out of town to make room for Bryce Harper, Manny Machado or both. Shaw’s tenure in Colorado has been eerily similar to the results Matt Schlichting consistently puts up in his OOTP simulations. That is to say, not great.

This offseason has seen the largest exodus of talent since the the current core began to really take hold in 2015. Michael Brantley headlines the bunch with his bounce back 2018 season in which he slashed .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs potentially providing him with a nice payday heading into his age-31 season. He’s far from the only one, though, and most every other Indian on the market has garnered at least some of the heat from the smoldering hot stove.

So while the Indians (and, let’s be honest, most of the league) sit around and do nothing, let’s check in on where these fine fellas might land in the coming weeks.

This post will be updated when more rumors, signings happen.

Melky Cabrera, OF
Current status: Free Agent

What, nobody wants a piece of this 34-year-old who bounced off and on the Indians roster throughout 2018? It looked like at one point Melky was done for good with the Tribe after he was released in mid-June, but when outfield injuries caused them to look at the free agent market again in July, they went with Melky for a second time and he ended up slashing .280/.335/.420 on the season for a 102 wRC+. Most of that came during Melky’s second stint with the 2018 Tribe when he slashed .302/.363/.458 for a wRC+ of 122 and all six of his home runs on the season. He basically won himself a playoff spot.

But nobody on the free agent market seems to be interested in him, at least not publicly. He’ll probably be one of those that gets signed at the very end of the offseason, maybe even into spring training, when teams have a last-second opening.

He is hanging out with Jose Quintana, though, so there’s that.

Rajai Davis, OF
Current status: Free Agent

Has any player played a shorter amount of time, yet had such a huge impact on the Indians as Rajai Davis? His World Series home run was the stuff of legend, and he brought the oven mitt to his Cleveland teammates (and helped them lead the American League in stolen bases in 2016 and 2018), yet he’s only played in 205 games for the Indians over the last three seasons — remember, he spent 2017 split between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. It’s still gonna be weird to see him in another jersey, but right now there doesn’t appear to be any rumors floating about him.

Josh Donaldson, 3B
Current Status: Signed 1-year, $23 million deal with Atlanta Braves

Josh Donaldson is never going to be remember for much as an Indian, but he technically played in Cleveland last season and he was a free agent so he’s on this list. He signed a 1-year, $23 million deal with the Atlanta Braves on Monday and potentially set the tone for free agency. It was a huge deal to bet on himself, that he can come back healthy for a full season and hopefully get a two or three-year deal after he tears up the league with the Braves.

Prior to the Braves signing, MLB Trade Rumors had him at 50.1% odds to sign with the Cardinals. Welp.

He didn’t work out in Cleveland, but it’s hard not to love the dude’s fight and love for the game. I wish him nothing but the best wherever he lands after this deal is over.

Cody Allen, RP
Current Status: Free Agent

Another former Indians who is quiet on the free agent front. Maybe teams are leery of bringing in another reliever run into the ground by the Indians after the Bryan Shaw debacle in Colorado. I don’t know, but Cody’s 4.70 ERA and bonkers 11.4 percent walk rate last season didn’t help him. I’m sure he’ll land somewhere, though, and I hope he rebounds.

I did hear an MLB Network Radio host suggest the Mariners could get him, for what it’s worth. Which is basically nothing.

Andrew Miller, RP
Current Status: Free Agent

Speaking of formerly great relievers who were a major letdown in 2018: Andrew Miller.

Miller’s stint with the Indians was relatively short — the second half of the 2016 season through 2018 — and half of it was bad, but what he did for the Tribe in the 2016 playoffs cannot be overstated. He carried that team on his whip of an arm to the cusp of greatness. He was stellar in 2017, too, it’s just his final year with the team that was full of injuries and under-performing.

It might still be too early to declare any winners or losers in the 2016 trade that sent Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield to the Yankees in exchange for two and a half years of Miller, but the Yankees did just turn Justus Sheffield (and a couple other prospects) into James Paxton. So if Clint Frazier somehow pans out or they can swap him for another impact player, it’s not looking great.

The Mets seem to be the most interested in the Miller this offseason with the Cardinals and Phillies also showing interesting. But according to Jon Morosi, he’s “not yet close to signing a new contract.”

Josh Tomlin, SP
Current Status: Free Agent

I feel bad for Josh Tomlin, I really do. If he hit free agency any earlier than this offseason, he’d be an easy target for any team in need of a fourth or fifth starter. Unfortunately, his 2018 campaign was an absolute disaster as he put put up a 6.14 ERA (his worst since 2012), a 14.3 percent strikeout rate (his lowest since 2012), and he gave up 25 home runs (the most since 2016). He only started nine games for the Indians and didn’t look sharp in many of them.

I have a hard time picturing who would pick him up now besides some basement-dwelling team filling out a roster for their inevitable tank, which means he’ll probably be somewhere in the AL Central next season. Sorry, Josh.

Lonnie Chisenhall, OF
Current Status: Signed 1-year, $2.75 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s true, and this one hurts the most. Our big beautiful Lonald David Chisenhall is officially a Pittsburgh Pirate on a shockingly inexpensive and incentive-laden deal. While, sure, he had a lot of injury woes last season, he’s also been a great hitter when healthy — especially when he’s platooned properly.

Chisenhall went through just about everything a player can with one team. He was drafted in the first round as a stud third baseman, was declared a bust, eventually had to transition to the outfield where he excelled with a Chisencannon of an arm, and kept producing as the team was built up around him.

You take care of him, Pittsburgh. And if I swear if I see one Chisentray come out in another uniform I’m going to cry right here on this website.

Nobody is taking the news harder than Lonnie’s BFF on and off the field, Jason Kipnis. The Indians really ran the concept of trying not to laugh while telling dad jokes into the ground by having every single person ever affiliated with the team do it throughout the whole season, but the one with Jason and Lonnie is the best and most pure because they are clearly besties.

Pardon me while I go cry.

Michael Brantley, OF
Current Status: Free Agent

Michael Brantley is still a free agent, but probably not for long. There are already a lot of rumors and potential interest swirling around the three-time All-Star. The Cardinals and the Astros each want a piece of him, apparently, and MLB Trade Rumors thinks he’ll go to the Braves as the 10th best free agent. That still seems completely plausible, even after they signed Donaldson for $23 million. The Braves aren’t messing around.

Our friends over at Beyond the Box Score also wrote a pretty glowing review of him as a free agent, but they note that teams may still hold off due to his injury concerns. To that, I’ll say: Brantley’s frequent injuries in Cleveland were a bummer, but it wasn’t a singular, lingering issue. It was a string of bad luck. Hopefully his agent can sell that — and his stellar bat — enough to get Michael the big payday he deserves.

It’s only a matter of time.

Brandon Guyer, OF
Current Status: Free Agent

Someone has to want an outfield who can hammer lefties as hard as Guyer, right? Need I remind you at one point he was hitting southpaws with Mike Trout-like efficiency? And the Indians acquired him for Nathan Lukes, who you have never heard of.

The rumors are quiet right now, though.