Antonetti encouraged by flurry of Indians' moves

The Indians have made two trades in two days

James Rapien
December 15, 2018 - 11:29 am
Sep 23, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso (17) runs toward home plate on a two-run hit by left fielder Michael Brantley (23) during the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit:

© Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Indians President Chris Antonetti sounded optimistic and encouraged by the moves the club has made over the past 48 hours.

“We could go to spring training with the team we have now and feel like we’ll be competitive,” he said on a conference call with the media.

They traded first baseman Yonder Alonso to the Chicago White Sox for minor leaguer Alex Call, who spent time in High A and Double-A last season. Why trade a proven major league player for an unproven prospect?

“We feel that this trade frees up opportunity for both Jake Bauers and Carlos Santana to maximize their impact on our team,” Antonetti said.

That’s a lot of eggs to put in the ‘Bauers basket.’ This is a team that is expected to win the American League Central and compete in the playoffs next season. Relying on an unproven player is risky, but the Indians love his potential.

“That’s a guy that we’ve liked for quite a while,” Antonetti said. “He’s young, 23-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman that can impact the game on both sides. He’s a developing young hitter, that’s got a good approach at the plate, with emerging power. He’s a very good defender of first base and is pretty athletic so he has some positional versatility to not only play first base, but play the outfield if that’s where there’s an opportunity, so we think he has a lot of the ingredients to be a successful Major League player.”

The Alonso deal gives the organization enough flexibility to keep Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. That gives them even more leverage in a potential trade. They don’t have to attach Jason Kipnis’ $14.5 million salary to a Kluber or Bauer deal. Instead, they can ask for a king’s ransom. If they don’t get it, they can keep both players. Antonetti didn’t rule out making more moves.

“It’s still relatively early in the offseason,” he said. “What we will continue to do is be aggressive and look at opportunities to improve our position moving forward. Whether that’s a 2019 impact or help us sustain success beyond 2019 – we’ll have to see what opportunities present themselves.”

The Indians have salary to play with. They’ve freed up nearly $22 million that was on the books for the 2019 season. That should give them room to address the outfield and bullpen situations. Both are weaknesses and they could improve both without trading away a proven commodity like Kluber or Bauer.

Edwin Encarnacion and Alonso combined for 55 home runs and 190 RBI last season. Do they have anyone who can replace them or is that something they’ll have to address?

“We think we’ve acquired two guys that can do that in Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers,” Antonetti said. “A little bit of different offense profiles, but we feel that they’re both very productive major league players that will not only contribute offensively, but defensively as well.”

They’re clearly high on Bauers, who was one of the top prospects in the Tampa Bay organization going into the 2018 season. He showed flashes last year, hitting 11 home runs, 48 RBI and posting a .201 batting average in 96 games.

If the Indians use the money they’ve shed to sign multiple free agents to address their weaknesses, then this could be one heck of an offseason for the organization. They’ve put themselves in position to keep their starting rotation intact. Can you imagine this Indians’ roster, with A.J. Pollock in the outfield and a few more arms in the bullpen? There are plenty of free agent relief pitchers available, which could drive down prices.

And who knows, maybe they do end up trading one of their aces. If that happens, they should be able to get a haul in return. The moves they’ve made over the past few weeks have given them flexibility and options. They can make another trade or dip their toe in free agency.

How do you feel about the Indians’ current roster? Do you like the moves they’ve made? Vote in the poll below.