Indians Make Decisions on Three Club Options

Cleveland’s Chris Antonetti shared with the media on Wednesday that the Indians will pick up the team option on right-hander Corey Kluber, bringing him back for the 2020 season.

In addition, the 2020 team options for second baseman Jason Kipnis and reliever Dan Otero will be declined, making the pair free agents.

Kluber’s injury-shortened season was one of many devastating blows for the Indians during the 2019 campaign. The team was able to plug in young arms from Columbus to fill the voids in the starting rotation, but the loss of the veteran two-time Cy Young winner Kluber was felt throughout the year. Struck by a line drive off of the bat of the Marlins’ Brian Anderson during a game in Miami on May 2, Kluber suffered a fractured right ulna in his pitching arm. During his rehab work while trying to return from the broken arm, he sustained a strained left oblique muscle, which essentially ended his season. In just seven starts, the 33-year-old Kluber was 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP with 38 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings of work.

Kluber’s option for 2020 will pay the right-hander $17.5 million in his tenth Major League season. He has one more team option on his contract for the 2021 season that would pay him $18 million if picked up.

Little of the news on Wednesday was surprising, but it did spell a formal end to the long Cleveland career of Kipnis. The Tribe’s former second round pick in the 2009 draft came up as a rookie in 2011 alongside Kluber and made a pair of All-Star teams in 2013 and 2015, but injuries and ineffectiveness had hurt his overall value to the club in recent years. With nine big league seasons under his belt (all while representing the Indians), Kipnis will likely find himself in a new home for 2020. He had a bounce-back season of sorts in 2019, hitting .245 with a .304 on-base percentage and a .410 slugging mark with 23 doubles, one triple, 17 homers, and 65 RBI in 121 games, but he lost time at the beginning of the season with a mild calf strain and was shut down in mid-September after suffering a broken right hamate bone during a game against the Minnesota Twins.

Kipnis’ declined option was for $16.5 million, but the cancelled pact did pay him $2.5 million in a buyout. After playing for $14.7 million in 2019, he could return to the club next year, but it would have to come at a significantly lower price tag. Internally, options are thin, as the team could be forced to turn to Yu Chang or Mike Freeman or midseason acquisitions Christian Arroyo or Andrew Velazquez. They could also look to move Jose Ramirez from third to second and fill the created void at the hot corner instead.

Otero had spent each of the last four seasons with the Indians, but like both of the above named players, injuries limited his impact on the roster in 2019. He pitched with mixed results in the first two months of the season before going to the injured list in the beginning of June with right shoulder inflammation. He was out for a month and a half before starting a rehab assignment, but the shoulder proved to be uncooperative and he was shut back down and transferred to the 60-day IL. He restarted rehab appearances in August and was activated when rosters expanded on September 1, but he appeared sparingly down the stretch.

In his eighth MLB season, the 34-year-old made 25 big league appearances, posting no record and one hold with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 29 2/3 innings. His 2020 option was scheduled for $1.5 million and included a $100,000 buyout. He made $1.3 million for the 2019 season.

In addition to the three option decisions made by the front office, it was also announced on Wednesday that manager Terry Francona‘s entire coaching staff will return for 2020 with the exception of bullpen coach Scott Atchison. The 43-year-old spent the final two seasons of his nine-year Major League career with the Indians in 2014 and 2015 before later moving into the coaching ranks for the organization.

Photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osario

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