The Cleveland Indians had a great season in 2016, but fell one win short of a World Series title. They currently have a team that is a World Series contender, with only a few important free agents that may depart. However, there is always room for improvement for every team and they do have some areas they should look at to take the next step in 2017.
Cleveland Indians 2016 Offseason Needs
Re-Sign Mike Napoli
Napoli gave the Indians the most power in 2016, as he belted 34 home runs and had 101 RBI. While his .234 average is a weakness, there is no denying his value in the power aspect of the game.
Napoli is also a cheaper option than most power hitters, as his contract last year was for $7 million. Spotrac has his current market value at $13,301,877. That makes sense considering his strong performance in 2016.
The best option for them would be Napoli, however. Other first base free agents, like Edwin Encarnacion or Brandon Moss, wouldn’t make sense. Encarnacion had 10 fewer home runs and 20 fewer RBI, and will require more money. Moss came nowhere near Napoli’s production, while also getting paid more than him ($8.25 million) last year. Both these players are only a few years younger than Napoli, so age isn’t a big factor.
Address the Outfield
The Indians outfield situation is currently murky. They have four players who can start, but each comes with their own question mark. Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Brandon Guyer, and Lonnie Chisenhall are the players in question.
Brantley is the best out of this group, but only had 39 at bats in 2016 as he battled with injuries. Guyer had a decent year, but is not starter material on most teams. The same can be said about Chisenhall. Naquin had similar numbers to Guyer and Chisenhall, but did well enough to be named a Rookie of the Year finalist.
None of these guys, except a healthy Brantley, is a huge threat in the lineup. The Indians could use a bigger bat in the outfield and they have numerous options to choose from in the current free agent market.
Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler, and Jose Bautista are three of the biggest bats currently on the free agent market. All have their shortcomings, however. Cespedes will probably cost the most, Bautista is the oldest, and Fowler has the least power of the three.
Any of the three would put the Indians in uncharted territory when it comes to payroll, but the Indians should go all out for a World Series title now that they are this close.
Possibly Pick Up a Sixth Starter
There is no glaring need after first base and outfield, so this option can be open-ended. Considering the fulfillment of the first two needs means the Indians would have to dole out a lot of money, it would be unrealistic to have them spend too much more after those signings.
Therefore, the Indians should sign a project for a potential chance as a sixth starter. Right now, Mike Clevinger is slated as the sixth starter. While he showed promise in the higher levels of the minors, he did struggle last year with a 5.26 ERA in 53 innings.
This move includes waiting out the pitching market. If and when an inexpensive pitcher with some upside is available, then they should pursue him. It would be a waste to just sign anybody. Otherwise, it would just be smart to stay with Clevinger.