Tribe’s Offseason Already Proving to be a Busy One
Bob Toth | On 30, Oct 2017
While Major League Baseball is down to its final games of the 2017 season, the Cleveland Indians are, unfortunately, working through the decisions facing the club as the Tribe prepares for the 2018 campaign.
While most players are resting up from what was an exciting, but ultimately disappointing season, a handful of minor leaguers are working their way through fall and winter league activities. Most notably in the mix are two of the club’s top two prospects, Francisco Mejia and Bobby Bradley, who are among eight players participating for the Indians in the Arizona Fall League. Mejia has put up a .400/.405/.571 slash through eight games while working to add third base to his list of defensive skills. He has hit a pair of homers and driven in five. Bradley has provided a little more in the power department, hitting two doubles, two homers, and a triple while driving in six, but the strikeouts have been plentiful for the big slugger, who has gone down on strikes 18 times in 44 at bats in eleven games.
The Indians have been well represented by their prospects in Arizona. Mejia will represent the Tribe and the Glendale Desert Dogs on the AFL West Fall Stars roster and will be joined by reliever Argenis Angulo (High-A Lynchburg) on the team. Bradley is part of the Final 2 vote for the team, as he will need to pull in more votes than Royals shortstop prospect Nicky Lopez and Rangers minor league outfielder Yanio Perez in order to participate in the All-Star Game.
Willi Castro has continued a big season at Lynchburg during his play in the Dominican Winter League. In eight games, he has put up a .448/.484/.586 slash with 13 hits in that span. He is tied with Ronny Rodriguez (Triple-A Columbus) for the most RBI by an Indians player in DWL play.
Four players are in Venezuela, participating in winter league play there. Left-hander Luis Lugo has put up nice numbers there, posting a 1-0 record with a 1.29 ERA in seven innings over four games (one start). Fellow minor leaguer D.J. Brown has worked in eight games and has not allowed a run in relief over eleven and one-third innings of work. He has earned a pair of wins for his efforts on the mound.
But while some potential prospects continue to hone their craft, the bigger focus has been on the parent Indians club in Cleveland, where the Major League coaching staff has seen its most dramatic chances in years.
In the last week, the club has lost its pitching coach, its assistant hitting coach, and its bullpen coach.
On Monday, Mickey Callaway‘s time in Cleveland came to an end as he was hired by the New York Mets as their new manager. Callaway has received a lot of credit for his work with the Indians pitching staff in the last couple of years, turning both the rotation and bullpen into formidable forces in the game today. Carl Willis rejoined the Indians late in the week to take over for Callaway in a role he previously filled from 2003 to 2009 on Eric Wedge‘s coaching staff.
Matt Quatraro returned to his longtime home in Tampa with the Rays when former Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash hired him as the team’s third base coach. The Rays, who have overhauled their coaching staff this offseason, brought back a familiar face who had had the opportunity to team with Ty Van Burkleo in an assistant hitting coach role to build several players into quality big league hitters.
The most recent change was one of the quieter departures, as bullpen coach Jason Bere has left the team with Willis taking over the pitching coach duties. Bere was thought to be a name to consider for the job that Willis reclaimed, but it was not in the cards for him this October. He had spent the last three seasons working alongside Callaway as the Indians’ bullpen coach after Cash was hired by the Rays for their managerial vacancy following the 2014 season. Bere had previously served nine seasons in the Cleveland front office in a special assistant role and also pitched for the Indians in 2000 and 2003.
Bere is expected to interview with Callaway’s Mets for their vacant pitching coach position on Monday.
While the offseason has proved busy for manager Terry Francona, it has not all been bad news as he received an honor from Sporting News during the week when he was selected as the American League Manager of the Year via the voting of a panel of 19 MLB managers. Craig Counsell (Milwaukee) won in the National League. It was the second straight season that Francona won the Sporting News award, becoming only the third manager to ever do so.
In other player news, all eyes are still watching and waiting to see what the Indians do in the days that follow the World Series with players under option, most notably Michael Brantley. The team will also have to decide to retain reliever Boone Logan and should have a much easier decision on starting pitcher Josh Tomlin.
Four players from last year’s roster have been nominated for Gold Glove Awards for their play in the field for the Tribe. Francisco Lindor, who won both the Gold Glove Award at shortstop last season and the Platinum Glove Award as the league’s top defender, earned a second consecutive nomination. Catcher Yan Gomes is also up for an award for the second time, while Jose Ramirez (third base) and Carlos Santana (first base) are finalists for the first times in their careers.
As the World Series wraps up with either a Houston win on Tuesday in Game 6 or with a winner-takes-all Game 7 on Wednesday night, the offseason will only get busier from here as baseball fans start counting down the days to Spring Training and the start of another great season of Major League Baseball.
Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images