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A look at the Indians' offseason, top potential free agent targets

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 16, 2015

Baseball’s offseason is starting to pick up, and the Indians are likely to be in the market for an outfielder, as well as potentially a third or first baseman.

President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff might be able to fill these needs via a trade, as several teams are likely to inquire about one of the Indians’ talented arms in the starting rotation.

Antonetti also made it clear that the Indians won’t ever be a team that builds its base through free agency.

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Indians OF Michael Brantley undergoes shoulder surgery, will miss 5-6 months

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 9, 2015

The streets are barely clear of confetti after the championship parade in Kansas City, and the Indians have already been dealt a tough blow for their 2016 season.

The team announced on Monday that outfielder Michael Brantley underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Brantley is expected to miss 5-6 months of baseball activity, meaning he will likely miss the first several weeks of the 2016 regular season and return in late April or May.

Brantley injured his shoulder diving for a ball in Minnesota on Sept. 22. Eight days later, he was shut down for the remainder of the season. After the conclusion of the regular season, Brantley received an injection, underwent a two-week period that included shoulder stabilization exercises and then went through a hitting program.

The Indians had hoped that a rehabilitation program and rest in the offseason would be enough to heal the labrum in his shoulder, an injury that doesn’t always warrant surgery. After his symptoms persisted, per the team, Brantley was recommended for surgery by Dr. Craig Morgan, who performed the operation.

“When we saw his labrum tear, there was obviously some thought that surgery was going to be needed for it,” said James Quinlan, Indians head athletic trainer. “But we’ve seen in the past that a lot of guys have been able to get through it with conservative management.”

Playing through his various issues, as well as a brief throwing shoulder injury late in the year, Brantley last season hit .310 with 15 home runs, 45 doubles and 84 RBI. In 2014, he was an MVP finalist, hitting .327 with 20 home runs, 45 doubles and 97 RBI. In those two seasons, Brantley had combined for a 10.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs, good enough for a tie for second among qualified left fielders in that span with the New York Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes behind only Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

“He’s unbelievable,” Quinlan said of Brantley being able to stay on the field in 2015. “He comes to the field every day and really works his tail off to play through everything and to play with injuries or soreness or things like that.”

Now, the Indians will likely need to plan to enter the 2016 regular season without him.

“I think we have to be prepared,” Quinlan said. “Our goal is to have him ready for the start of the season, obviously, but we need to be prepared for this to carry into April. And that depends on how the body responds.”

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Teams extend one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offers to free agents

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 6, 2015

Will this be the first year that a player accept a qualifying offer?

Teams are now able to extend one-year qualifying offers to their own free agents. If the player accepts, he’ll be retained for one more season at $15.8 million, or the average salary of the top 125 paid players in the league.

If he declines, then he can sign elsewhere, though his new team will have to forfeit their first-round pick in this year’s draft or their second-round pick if they are slotted inside the top 10.

To date, no player has accepted a qualifying offer, in part because it creates a fine window with which to find a match. A player worth a $15.8 million offer wants to strike at the right time and sign a long-term deal worth much more guaranteed money in the long run. Many teams, though, don’t see a major financial investment and the forfeiture of a high draft pick worth the commitment.

This system was a major factor in the Indians’ signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher prior to the 2013 season. That year, the Indians’ first-round pick was protected and both Bourn and Swisher saw their price tags drop, creating a rare opportunity. More often than that, it leaves a player on the open market for much longer than normal while teams fill needs at lower costs.

This season, the Indians are slotted 16th, so the signing of a player with a qualifying offer would forfeit their top pick. It makes it unlikely the Indians would serve up a lucrative long-term deal that also takes such a valuable asset.

As of 4 p.m., here are the 16 players who have received a qualifying offer.

Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago White Sox
Colby Rasmus, OF, Houston Astros
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
Marco Estrada, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Brett Anderson, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jason Heyward, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
John Lackey, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Dexter Fowler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres
Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets

The interesting name on this list is Colby Rasmus, who had been tied to the Indians as a possible fit in the outfield. If the Indians wanted to pursue him, his price just became steeper.

This list will be updated if additional players are extended offers.

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Indians decline Ryan Raburn's 2016 option, making him a free agent

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 4, 2015

The Indians on Wednesday declined to pick up outfielder Ryan Raburn's club option for the 2016 season.

Raburn, 34, is now a free agent. Last season he hit .301 with a .393 on-base percentage, eight home runs, 16 doubles and 29 RBI in 173 at-bats playing primarily against left-handed pitchers. Raburn helped to balance a lefty-heavy lineup at times but was the fourth or fifth outfielder on the roster.

The Indians have Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte and Jerry Sands as active roster outfielders. To add onto the roster and financial flexibility gained with the trade of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, the Indians are keeping all options open heading into free agency. The 2016 option in Raburn’s contract would have paid him $3 million. He will instead receive a $100,000 buyout.

“In the end, a lot of this comes down to timing with where we are in the offseason,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti via conference call. “We just felt we were best served by not committing those three million dollars at this point and that spot on the roster. That’s really what it came down to.”

The outfield is certainly one area in which the Indians have an opportunity to improve via free agency or a trade. Michael Brantley is entrenched in left field but could potentially move to centerfield should the Indians land a bat to bolster the lineup. Lonnie Chisenhall carved out at least a part-time role in the lineup with his defensive and offensive play late in the season in right field. Jerry Sands could serve as a capable fourth outfielder. Abraham Almonte got off to a hot start in Cleveland but simmered, though as of now he is the top option to play everyday in centerfield.

“I don’t expect the roster as we sit here today to be the roster we have when we show up in Goodyear for spring training,” Antonetti said. “We will continue to look at a number of options to try to improve our team. As I said at the end of the season, I think most of our focus will be on the position player side.”

Raburn, with a $3 million price tag, could have offered some value. But he has an inconsistent history, and the Indians chose to potentially have more options available to them on the open market.

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Indians’ odds to win 2016 World Series set at 20/1; Chicago Cubs are favored

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 3, 2015

The folks at Bovada have come out with their early set of odds to win the 2016 World Series.

The Indians are near the middle of the pack at 20/1, tied for second in the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers and behind the Kansas City Royals at 12/1. The Chicago Cubs are the World Series favorites at 11/1.

Here’s the complete list:

Chicago Cubs                                       11/1

Kansas City Royals                               12/1

Los Angeles Dodgers                            12/1

New York Mets                                      12/1

St. Louis Cardinals                                12/1

Toronto Blue Jays                                 12/1

Washington Nationals                            12/1

Houston Astros                                     14/1

Pittsburgh Pirates                                  14/1

Texas Rangers                                      14/1

New York Yankees                                18/1

Boston Red Sox                                   20/1

Cleveland Indians                                  20/1

Detroit Tigers                                        20/1

Los Angeles Angels                              20/1

San Francisco Giants                            20/1

Seattle Mariners                                    25/1

Tampa Bay Rays                                   33/1

Baltimore Orioles                                   40/1

Minnesota Twins                                    40/1

Arizona Diamondbacks                          50/1

Chicago White Sox                                50/1

Cincinnati Reds                                     50/1

Miami Marlins                                        50/1

Milwaukee Brewers                                50/1

Oakland Athletics                                  50/1

San Diego Padres                                 50/1

Atlanta Braves                                       100/1

Colorado Rockies                                 100/1

Philadelphia Phillies                               200/1

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Los Angeles Angels hire Charles Nagy as pitching coach; Three Indians players file for free agency

By Ryan Lewis Published: November 3, 2015

The Los Angeles Angels on Monday named Charles Nagy as their new pitching coach, replacing Mike Butcher.

Nagy, 48, spent the 2015 season as a Special Assistant to Player Development in the Indians’ system. He was a spring instructor/assistant with the Indians in 2014 after serving as pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2011-13.

Nagy was a three-time All-Star in 13 seasons with the Indians and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2007.

On the market

Three Indians players officially filed for free agency on Monday, including utility man Mike Aviles, pitcher Gavin Floyd and pitcher Ryan Webb.

Aviles, 34, this past season  hit .231 with a .282 on-base percentage, five home runs, 10 doubles and 17 RBI in 98 games. He also dealt with the news that his daughter, Adriana, was diagnosed with Leukemia in May. Trade rumors hit around the July 31 non-waiver deadline, though the Indians said they wouldn’t deal Aviles while his daughter was undergoing treatment at the Cleveland Clinic and while he was still under contract.

After signing a $4 million deal in the offseason, Floyd’s tenure with the Indians never really got off the ground after he needed elbow surgery in spring training. Floyd, 32, returned late in the season, throwing 13 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.70 in relief.

Webb, 29, had a positive season compared to expectations, owning a 3.20 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings pitched in 2015.

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Toronto front office being shaken up under Mark Shapiro; Indians winter ball updates

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 29, 2015

The Mark Shapiro era in Toronto hasn’t yet officially begun, but it’s already included one major shakeup.

In a move that’s been called “stunning” by multiple analysts and outlets around baseball, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is reportedly turning down a multiyear contract extension and leaving the club.

Anthopoulos was the architect behind the Blue Jays’ resurgence, acquiring MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and catcher Russell Martin in the offseason and stars Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays ended a 22-year playoff drought and came two wins away from the World Series, eventually losing to Kansas City in the American League Championship Series.

Just a few short months after Anthopoulos finally led the turnaround of the Blue Jays and assembled one of the best teams in the American League, he is now available for hire.

Shapiro announced on Aug. 31 that he was leaving his post as Indians president to become president and CEO of the Blue Jays. With Anthopoulos gone, it’s unclear if Shapiro will resume control of baseball operations or if he’ll hire a new general manager. Shapiro served as general manager of the Indians for nine seasons before becoming president.

According to one report, there may have been a rift between ideals of how to build a team which led to Anthopoulos’ departure. Per The Sport Network’s Rick Westhead, Shaprio wasn’t pleased with how the Blue Jays’ farm system was left dry following the acquisitions of Donaldson, Price and Tulowitzki, though it did lead to the team’s first playoff run since 1993.

Source: In their 1st & only meeting, new Jays prez Mark Shapiro scolded Alex Anthopolous & staff for trading so many top prospects this yr

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Indians SS Francisco Lindor taking over MLB Twitter account to answer fans' questions

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 14, 2015

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is currently answering questions on Major League Baseball’s official Twitter account (@MLB) in an #AskLindor segment.

Here are some of his answers so far. You can go to MLB's officiall Twitter account to see all of them.

It is not a sandwich - @Lindor12BC #AskLindor


The Wahoo. I got a smile like him. - @Lindor12BC #AskLindor

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Indians begin second phase of Progressive Field renovations

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 13, 2015

The Indians on Tuesday announced that construction has begun on the second phase of renovations to Progressive Field.

Last year, one of the major focuses of improvement at the ballpark was the insertion of five local establishments to the Right Field District area, which added several new food choices within the stadium and The Corner bar. Improvements will continue to be made in that area, and the team is looking to add additional local restaurants to join Melt, Barrio, Sweet Moses, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and Dynamite Burgers.

A second focus this winter is the construction of a new club behind home plate on the main level of the concourse. This will provide season ticket holders with access—which includes season ticket holders in the "Diamond Box" and "Field Box Front" sections—an area with a full bar, new concessions options, a customer service center and a glass front to view the game. It will also stay open after games to allow for traffic to clear. A secondary goal for this club is to improve views of the field for all fans walking along the main concourse.

It was for this club’s completion that the Indians took out several sections of seats. Fans who would be affected were contacted during the 2015 season about new seating options.

“We’re very excited to continue these impactful renovations, the second phase of which will continue to dramatically enhance the fan experience at Progressive Field,” said Tribe Senior VP of Public Relations Bob DiBiasio in a statement. “The first phase significantly improved the Right Field District, and the next phase will similarly impact the Infield and Left Field districts.”

The Indians this winter are also looking to update signage and incorporate more team history throughout the park, including the renovation of certain suites.

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Indians owner Paul Dolan nearing deal with minority investor, per AP

By Ryan Lewis Published: October 8, 2015

Indians owner Paul Dolan is nearing a deal to complete his search for a minority investor, per a story by the Associated Press.

According to the report, Dolan has his search down to a “small group” of investors and that a deal could be finished by the end of the year. That is coming from Steve Greenberg, managing director of Allen & Company.

Dolan is looking to add a minority investor in an effort to ease the financial burden of operating the franchise and possibly to help increase payroll.

No details as to what groups are being considered or what percentage of the franchise is being offered have been released.

Per the AP and an earlier report this season, Dolan has no interest in selling his majority stake in the franchise.

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