Well ahead of Sunday’s deadline, the Cleveland Indians announced four roster decisions pertaining to team options on Friday.
Catcher Roberto Perez will return to the Tribe in 2021, as his option was picked up by the team. Similar pacts with first baseman Carlos Santana, outfielder Domingo Santana, and closer Brad Hand were declined, making the three veterans free agents.
Perez had a disappointing 2020 season in the batter’s box, but he remained one of the game’s best behind the plate for the Indians. On Thursday, he won his second straight Fielding Bible Award as the top defensive catcher in baseball according to Baseball Info Solutions, becoming the first Indians player to win an award from the organization since Franklin Gutierrez in 2008. Injuries slowed down Perez right out of the gate during the recently completed campaign, with a strained right shoulder affecting him in all facets at and behind the dish. Despite that, he was still the top catcher in baseball throwing out base runners and was among the best in baseball in defensive runs saved. He is a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award at catcher.
Perez was limited to just 32 games in the 60-game slate this past year. He posted a .165/.264/.216 slash at the plate with two doubles, one homer, and five RBI as he struggled to do much with the stick. His team option will earn him $5.5 million for the coming season, with the Indians holding one more option year for 2022 at a $7 million price tag with a $450,000 buyout.
Perez turns 32 in December.
The news on Hand came one day after the Indians placed him on outright waivers. With the Indians making the announcement that his option was declined, it means that the three-time All-Star reliever passed through waivers unclaimed by the other 29 teams in the Majors, a strong indication that many teams may be at a level of financial distress. Set to make $10 million in the coming season, Hand will now hit free agency with an extra $1 million in his pocket, courtesy of the buyout paid to him by the Indians organization.
Hand was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2020. The 30-year-old southpaw and ten-year big leaguer went 2-1 in 23 games, leading the Majors with a perfect 16-for-16 showing in save situations while also posting career-lows in ERA (2.05) and WHIP (0.77).
Playing in his eleventh big league season and his tenth with the Tribe, C. Santana had a tough 2020. The longtime Tribe slugger appeared in all 60 games in the lineups of Terry Francona and Sandy Alomar Jr. over the course of the season, but he provided career lows in all three triple slash categories (.199/.349/.350) with seven doubles, eight homers, and 30 RBI to his credit. While he struggled with the bat, his eye remained sharp as he drew more walks than anyone in the AL with 47.
Santana, who will turn 35 early in the 2021 season, was set to make $17.5 million in the final year of his three-year, $60 million contract that he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2017 offseason. After one year away from Cleveland, he returned home as part of a three-team trade between the Indians, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays the following offseason. He received a $500,000 buyout from the Indians to avoid paying him for the fourth-year option in that contract.
D. Santana was the least surprising of the moves after a disappointing performance with Cleveland in his first year with the club. He began the year with an opportunity to claim regular playing time in the outfield, but he hit just .157 with a .298 on-base percentage and .286 slugging mark in 24 games with three doubles, two homers, and 12 RBI before he was designated for assignment in September and outrighted by the club to its alternate training site in Lake County. He was due to make $5 million in 2021 and will instead receive a $250,000 buyout.
In addition to the roster moves announced by the Indians on Friday, team president Chris Antonetti also announced that bench coach Brad Mills will not be returning to his role for next season. The 63-year-old coaching mainstay and longtime confidant of Francona opted out of the 2020 season for family and health reasons and will instead remain with the organization in a yet-to-be-determined role.
Antonetti also shared that he expects the remainder of the coaching staff to return for next season.
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