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Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Frank Robinson, Charlie Jamieson to be inducted into Indians Hall of Fame

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 29, 2016
Thome

Four former Indians will make up the class of 2016 Hall of Fame inductees, including two of the organization’s greatest hitters who fueled the offensive surge in the mid-90s, a player/manager that broke down boundaries and a member of the 1920 World Series club.

The four—Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Frank Robinson and Charlie Jamieson—will be inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame in a ceremony on July 30 at Progressive Field. The first 15,000 fans to attend that game against Oakland will receive a Thome bobblehead.

”These are four of the all-time great players in our franchise’s storied history, and through their individual personalities and achievements, each has created his own special memories for generations of Indians fans,” said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio in a statement. “We’re excited to officially recognize their contributions to our franchise and the game of baseball by inducting them into the Indians Hall of Fame.”

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OF Bradley Zimmer, OF Clint Frazier, 1B Bobby Bradley make top 10 positional prospect lists

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 29, 2016
Zimmer

Outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier and first baseman Bobby Bradley all made MLB.com’s top 10 prospect lists for their respective positions this week.

Zimmer and Frazier were ranked right next to each other as the sixth and seventh best outfield prospects in the game.

Zimmer played much of last season with a fractured foot and hit .273 with a .368 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, 26 doubles, 63 RBI and 44 stolen bases between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron.

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Indians LF Michael Brantley progressing in shoulder rehab, “targeting” Opening Day but realistic

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 28, 2016
Brantley

Indians left fielder Michael Brantley says he’d still dive for the fly ball that eventually led to November 9 shoulder surgery, even as it’ll likely cost him the first month of the 2016 season.

“One-hundred precent. Absolutely,” Brantley said when asked if he’d dive for it again. “I only know one way to play, and that’s as hard as I can. I’ll never change the way I play or not dive because I’ve had a problem. That’s letting down my teammates and I can’t do that.”

Brantley hurt his non-throwing (right) shoulder diving for a ball in Minnesota on September 22. The team tried to allow him to work through the injury with a training program in October, but it was clear in November that he’d need surgery. That has pushed his likely return to some time in May, leaving the Indians without their No. 3 hitter for the season’s first month.

Brantley participated in a team workout Thursday morning and is progressing in his rehab, though he isn’t sure when he’ll be able to start hitting again. The realistic timetable hasn’t changed, though Brantley is of course hopeful to get some good news and be ready for the Indians’ Opening Day game against Boston on April 4.

“I don’t think it’s fair to give myself a target,” said Brantley at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Thursday night, where he was a finalist for Pro Athlete of the Year. “My target is Opening Day. It’s not that I’m not going to go any slower or faster, but I’m going to do everything the training staff asks me to do, follow their schedule and do it the best of my ability.”

Brantley has spent most of the offseason in Cleveland working with the trainers. The full squad must report to camp in Goodyear by February 21.

“Progress is going well,” he said. “We have a great medical staff that’s doing a phenomenal job keeping me on my routine. … I’ll do whatever it takes to get back as soon as I can.”

The Indians brought in free agent outfielder Rajai Davis, along with a couple secondary options, to account for his absence in addition to providing an option in center field once Brantley
returns.

“The front office does a great job of getting good players in there and good people in there,” Brantley said. “We have a great group of guys, a great nucleus of guys. When we add veterans like Davis and [first baseman Mike Napoli] that are good character guys in the locker room that fit so well, it makes it very exciting.”

Brantley was a nominee for Professional Athlete of the Year along with Browns tight end Gary Barnidge and Cavaliers superstar LeBron James. James won the award. Brantley considered it an honor to be nominated, particularly after a season in which he dealt with back issues nearly the entire year.

“You work very hard in the offseason, you prepare easy and every day and you play your best,” Brantley said. “To be recognized for it, it’s a blessing and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

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Indians add three area restaurants to stadium food options for 2016 season

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 27, 2016
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The Indians will be adding three area restaurants as food options within Progressive Field for the 2016 season, the team announced on Wednesday.

Happy Dog, Ohio City Burrito and Cleveland Pickle, all Cleveland-based eateries, will be serving food in the the newly renovated Infield District. These three restaurants will join the group of five that were inserted into the Right Field District prior to last season, including Melt, Barrio, Sweet moses, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Dynomite Burger.

“Those local additions continue the club’s long-standing commitment to partner with local food service providers and producers,” said Curtis Danburg, Indians senior director of communications. “We’re very excited to bring all three restaurants [to Progressive Field].”

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Indians sign Josh Tomlin to contract extension

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 26, 2016
Tomlin

The Indians on Tuesday agreed to terms with starting pitcher Josh Tomlin on a two-year contract extension. The deal also includes a club option for the 2018 season.

Tomlin, 31, was already the likely front runner for the No. 5 spot in the rotation ahead of lead challenger Cody Anderson. This extension furthers his cause.

“I think that’s the plan,” said Indians general manager Mike Chernoff when asked if he envisioned Tomlin being in the Opening Day rotation. “He’s obviously pitched out of the bullpen before, so he is going to play a meaningful role on the team and he’ll have every opportunity to be in the starting rotation.”

Tomlin will make $2.25 million in 2016, $2.5 million in 2017 and $3 million in 2018 if the Indians pick up his option, according to cleveland.com. The deal includes $2 million in incentives in 2017 and 2018 and a $750,000 buyout if the option year isn’t exercised.

Tomlin missed most of last season after he needed shoulder surgery in March. Once healthy in mid-August, he joined the rotation and responded nicely, posting a 7-2 record with a 3.02 ERA, 57 strikeouts and only eight walks in 10 starts.

Staying healthy has been Tomlin’s biggest hurdle to finding a steady spot in the Indians’ rotation. He needed Tommy John Surgery in 2012 and was just starting to make progress in 2014. Then, this past spring, he started to feel discomfort in his throwing shoulder while competing for the fifth spot, warranting a second major surgery. The Indians sticking by him through his rehab led Tomlin to not think much about the money he could have made on the open market after this
season.

“When they approached my agent about that contract, it was something that excited me and got me looking forward to this season,” Tomlin said. “I wasn’t really looking towards the future saying, ‘OK, these guys are getting this much money. I could potentially have that kind of money.’ It never entered my head. It was, ‘The Cleveland Indians wanted to give me a shot and I’m all about it.’”

This signing also furthers the Indians’ case that they have one of the most controllable, affordable and talented starting rotations in baseball. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are signed long term to team-friendly and market-friendly contracts. Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Anderson are all under team control through at least the 2020 season. And, now, Tomlin is signed through at least next season at an affordable price comparable to other deals handed out to pitchers this winter.

Most importantly, the Indians didn’t have to wade into unfriendly waters and compete with other teams as pitchers’ price tags have continued to rise.

“A contract like this is a mutual decision, and it’s a way for, hopefully, us to provide Josh with an alternative that allows him to stay in one place,” Chernoff said. “And, on his end, he’s provided us with some certainty moving forward and the ability—hopefully, given what his production is, the type of guy he is, the type of teammate he is—the ability to have somebody potentially on our staff that can make that type of impact without having to go on the free-agent market and compete for that talent.”

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Indians avoid arbitration with Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jeff Manship and Josh Tomlin

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 15, 2016
Allen

The Indians won’t need the arbitration hearings in February, as they came to terms with all four of their remaining eligible players ahead of Friday’s deadline.

Those four were closer Cody Allen, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, starting pitcher Josh Tomlin and relief pitcher Jeff Manship.

Allen will make $4.15 million in 2016 in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Allen has been a valuable commodity in the back-end of the Indians’ bullpen the last few seasons. He saved 24 games with a 2.07 ERA and struck out 91 batters in 69 2/3 innings pitched in 2014. Last season,  his numbers ballooned—somewhat artificially—in April thanks to a few poor outings but his production was much of the same, as he recorded 34 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings. Thanks to a higher-than-normal BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in 2015, his FIP was actually better last season than in 2014 (1.82 to 2.99 the year before).

Chisenhall came to terms at $2.725 million, according to MLB.com. He had an up-and-down 2015 after he was optioned down to Triple-A in early June. He was recalled on July 30 and carved out his place in the Indians’ plans with his superb defensive play in right field in August and September. Per FanGraphs, he had seven defensive runs saved and a UZR/150 of 10.2, putting him among the best defensive right fielders in the league, albeit with a small sample size.

Tomlin and the Indians came to an agreement at $2.25 million and Manship at $765,000, per MLB.com. Tomlin will be competing for the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation this spring along with Cody Anderson, and Manship came somewhat out of nowhere last season and was, at least statistically, one of the best relievers in the game with an 0.92 ERA in 39 1/3 innings.

On Thursday, the Indians reached an agreement with relief pitcher Bryan Shaw at $2.75 million.

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Indians avoid arbitration with one-year, $2.75M deal with RP Bryan Shaw

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 14, 2016
Shaw

The Indians on Thursday night avoided arbitration with relief pitcher Bryan Shaw, coming to terms with a one-year deal.

Shaw will be paid $2.75 million for the 2016 season, according to Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal. Shaw was projected to make $2.8 million in arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.

For the most part, Shaw has been perhaps the Indians’ most consistent relief pitcher the last few years. From 2013-15, his ERA has gone from 3.24 to 2.59 to 2.95 last season. He’s appeared in at least 70 games in all three seasons and struck out 191 batters in 215 1/3 innings pitched in that time.

Closer Cody Allen ($3.5 million projected per MLBTradeRumors), relief pitcher Jeff Manship ($700,000), starting pitcher Josh Tomlin ($3.1 million) and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall ($3 million) are the remaining arbitration-eligible players on the Indians’ roster.

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Indians trade RP Kirby Yates to New York Yankees for cash considerations

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 8, 2016

A few days after being designated for assignment, relief pitcher Kirby Yates was traded by the Indians to the New York Yankees for cash considerations.

Yates, 28, was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason for cash considerations and figured to be a contender to fill a spot in the Indians' bullpen this season until room was needed on the 40-man roster for recent free agent addition Mike Napoli.

Suspension

The office of the commissioner announced Tuesday that Indians minor league pitcher Joseph Colon will be suspended 50 games without pay following a second positive drug test. Colon, 25, last season had a 3.14 ERA between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.

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Indians make 1B Mike Napoli signing official, designate RP Kirby Yates for assignment

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 5, 2016
0524napoli

The Indians on Tuesday made the signing of free agent first baseman Mike Napoli official and designated relief pitcher Kirby Yates for assignment.  

Napoli and the Indians reportedly reached a one-year deal for $7 million in mid-December, but the team was mulling over its options with the 40-man roster before making it official.

“I think as we started the offseason, one of our goals was to try to find a way to both improve our offensive production and balance out our lineup,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “We think the signing of Mike goes a long way toward doing that. Throughout his career, he's been a very productive hitter, especially against left-handed pitching, and has worked really hard also on the defensive end of things to become a very good defensive first baseman.”

Napoli, 34, provides the Indians with an everyday option at first base or as a designated hitter along with Carlos Santana and a power bat to be inserted into the middle of the lineup. Last season, Napoli hit .224 with 18 home runs and 50 RBI with Boston and Texas. After being traded to the Rangers late in the season he took off, hitting .295 with five home runs in only 35 games. Napoli hit at least 20 home runs in each season from 2008-2013.

“I think it was a pretty good opportunity for me to be able to play every day and I wanted to go somewhere where I could win, obviously,” Napoli said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of clubs who have been on the winning side. Looking at the roster and the pitching staff, it intrigued me.”

Napoli registered a 98 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) in 2015, per FanGraphs, the lowest mark of his career after he posted a 123 and 128 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Also per FanGraphs, Napoli was worth 0.7 WAR in 2015, 2.4 in 2014 and 3.9 in 2013, when he batted .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI with Boston.

The Indians cited that September surge as a reason to look past his rough start to the season.

“There were some adjustments Mike made with his swing, some small tweaks mechanically that he made once he arrived in Texas that got him back to the point where he's had success in the past,” Antonetti said. “I think Mike was able to carry those adjustments forward in the second half and that led to the success he had.”

Statistically, Napoli is an upgrade defensively over Santana. He has a career Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games of 5.6 at first base, while Santana owns a -1.5. Napoli has 20 defensive runs saved at first base in his career, while Santana has -9. Napoli also was one of three finalists for an American League Gold Glove last season.

The two will likely switch every now and then between first base and DH, but Napoli figures to take over the primary role as the Indians’ first baseman for the 2016 season.

“As of now, I think I’m going to be playing every day at first,” Napoli said. “But I’ll do whatever it takes to go out there and help the team win. I’ve been told I’ll be playing a lot and I believe it can be at first base.”
Napoli has a previous relationship with Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo and has heard good things about Indians manager Terry Francona, two things he said made an impact on his decision to sign with Cleveland.

Yates was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations in late November and figured to be in line to compete for a spot in the bullpen.

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Indians name Bobby Bradley, Mike Clevinger 2015 Minor League Players of the Year

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 4, 2016

The Indians on Monday named first baseman Bobby Bradley and pitcher Mike Clevinger their 2015 Minor League Players of the Year.

Bradley, awarded the Lou Boudreau Award as the organization’s top position player, hit .269 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI, mostly with Single-A Lake County. He was named the Midwest League Player of the Week three times. Bradley, 19, is listed as the No. 7 prospect in the Indians’ system, per MLB.com.

Clevinger, awarded the Bob Feller Award as the system’s top pitcher, took a major step forward in his career this past season, posting a 9-8 record and 2.73 ERA with Double-A Akron. He also struck out 145 in 158 innings pitched, the third most strikeouts recorded in Double-A. Clevinger was promoted to Triple-A Columbus late in the season and threw 15 1/3 scoreless innings.

Clevinger, who was acquired in exchange for relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano from the Los Angeles Angels, is ranked as the organization’s No. 15 prospect, per MLB.com.

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