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Did the Indians fail to unlock hitting talents of Yandy Diaz, Gio Urshela?

Hey, Hoynsie:  Alex Rodriguez made the comment during the wild card game between Tampa Bay and the Yankees about Yandy Diaz going to Tampa Bay and being shown how to lift the ball. Also what about Gio Urshela ending up in the New York pressure cooker and becoming a quality hitter to go along with his defense? This seems to be poor choices by the Tribe's front office for getting rid of two players who really didn't show much here under the still current hitting coaches. – Earl Molnar.

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Hey, Earl: Not exactly a light-bulb moment for A-Rod. The Indians had been trying to get Diaz to do that for years.

I’m happy for the success Diaz and Urshela have had this year. They’ve worked hard to attain it. But if you’re saying the Indians hitting coaches didn’t work with Diaz and Urshela, you’d be wrong.

They constantly worked with Diaz to try to lift the ball. At least once they sent him to the minors to work exclusively on that. Urshela could always play defense, but he was aggressive at the plate and swung and missed a lot.

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Playing time was an issue as well. Who are you going to play at third – Jose Ramirez, Diaz or Urshela? Who are you going to play at first -- Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion or Diaz?

This year Diaz slashed .267/.340/.476 with 14 homers and 38 RBI. He had a decent year, but played only 79 games because of two trips to the injured list.

Jake Bauers, the player the Indians acquired for Diaz from Tampa Bay, slashed .226/.312/.371. While Diaz posted a 1.7 WAR, Bauers posted a -0.6 WAR and struck out 115 times in 372 at-bats. Bauers did play in 117 games and hit 12 homers and 43 RBI, but he has a work to do to balance the scales on this trade.

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Urshela was in the Tribe's organization from 2009 until he was sent to Toronto in May of 2018. If anyone tells you they felt he had this kind of season in him -- .314 (139-for-442) with 21 homers and 74 RBI – the next thing they'll do is try to sell you some swampland in Florida. Urshela got a chance when the Yankees were decimated by injuries and took advantage of it. The question is can he do it again next year?

Oscar Mercado. (Paul Sancya, Associated Press)

Who has best shot at being Tribe's opening day center fielder in 2020?

Hey, Hoynsie: Wondering what your opinion is of this scenario for next year?  Bradley Zimmer and Oscar Mercado are both healthy, have good springs and make the 25-man roster. Who plays center field? – Bob Johnson, East Hartford, Conn.

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Hey, Bob: That would be Mercado.

Manager Terry Francona, in last week's postmortem for the 2019 season, told reporters that Zimmer has basically missed a year and a half of at-bats because of his shoulder surgery and other injuries. He said he was going to have to make those at-bats up and if he wasn’t going to play winter ball between now and spring training, he’d probably have to do it in the minors next year.

It doesn't mean things can't change, but that's the working theory going into the offseason.

Carlos Carrasco. (Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com)

 

Will Carlos Carrasco start or relieve next year for Tribe?

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Talking to myself about the Tribe as they end the season with a 93-69 record:

QUESTION: Why did the Indians trade Yandy Diaz to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jake Bauers?

ANSWER: Sigh.

Q: What kind of answer is that?

A: Are you one of the people who has been emailing me with that question?

Q: It’s a legitimate question. Why did they trade Yandy?

A: Because they wanted Carlos Santana. He was their target. And they had to figure out how to make that happen.

Q: But Santana came from the Seattle Mariners, right?

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A: Here’s how the trade began. The Indians wanted Santana. They wanted to trade Edwin Encarnacion for him. Seattle wanted some cash in the deal.

Q: I’m lost already.

A: Stay with me. The Indians wanted Santana. Tampa Bay wanted Yandy Diaz. Not much of anyone wanted Encarnacion, at least not for the $25 million he had left on his contract.

Q: Go ahead.

A: The Indians were in a payroll cutting phase. But they also were convinced Santana would have a bounce-back season if he returned “home,” as he calls Cleveland. Manager Terry Francona loves Santana, a switch-hitting first baseman who plays every day. He made that clear several times in 2018 when Santana was with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Q: Then what?

A: Tampa Bay offered $5 million and a prospect for Diaz. The Indians knew they could use that money as part of a complicated deal with Seattle, sending Encarnacion there and bringing Santana back home.

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Q: Why didn’t they offer someone besides Diaz?

A: Tampa Bay has the lowest payroll and lowest attendance in baseball. They were so enamored with Diaz to actually offer money. Meanwhile, the Indians were fixed on the Encarnacion/Santana part of the deal. Tampa Bay wanted Diaz. The Indians wanted Santana. They went to work on making that happen with Seattle.

Q: So what happened?

A: The Indians sent Encarnacion and $5 million to Seattle for Santana. They sent Diaz to Tampa Bay, and they received Jake Bauers.

Q: So they did trade Diaz for Bauers!

A: Here is how it ended up: The Indians traded Diaz, Encarnacion and $5 million from Tampa Bay to Seattle for Santana. I hated trading Diaz and wrote it on the day of the deal – which I otherwise loved.

Q: So they...

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A: Furthermore, the way Santana’s contract is structured, he is paid only about $14 million in 2019 and 2020. Don’t look at what is listed on various websites. It’s about $28 million total for 2019-2020. The Indians hold an option on him for 2021 at $17 million.

Q: So you mean...

A: The Indians traded Diaz and Encarnacion for Santana (who became an All-Star) and Bauers. That’s the bottom line. I’d make that trade again, even though Diaz hit two home runs Wednesday in the American League Wild Card game and found his power this season in Tampa Bay.

Q: What happened to Encarnacion?

A: He opened the season in Seattle. He later was traded to the New York Yankees. He had a couple of injuries, but still hit 34 HR with 86 RBI in 109 games, batting .244 (.875 OPS). He’s 36 and a DH heading into free agency. At this point, the 33-year-old Santana is a better fit for the Tribe.

Q: Would the Indians have been better off keeping Diaz?

A: In a word... No. At least not at the expense of Santana, who batted .281 (.911 OPS) with 34 HR and 93 RBI... all career highs. He missed only four games. He was one of the big reasons the Indians stayed in contention all year.

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Q: But Yandy...

A: He missed the last two months of the season with a fractured foot. It was amazing that he came back and hit those two HR in the Wild Card game. He suddenly found his power, hitting 14 HR with 38 RBI, batting .267 (.816 OPS). But he played only 79 games due to injuries.

Hey, Hoynsie: With the Tribe brass picking up Corey Kluber's $17.5 million option and the plethora of young starting pitchers that stepped up this past season, is it a possibility that the Indians keep Carlos Carrasco in the bullpen to set up for closer Brad Hand in 2020? – Andy Mees, Sandusky.

Hey, Andy: Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, told reporters at the end of the season that they have every intention of bringing back Carrasco as a member of the starting rotation. A lot will depend on how much work Carrasco is able to do this winter and in spring training while being treated for CML, chronic myeloid leukemia.

Jose Ramirez. (John Kuntz cleveland.com)

Who said Jose Ramirez should stay at third base?

Hey, Hoynsie:  I respectfully disagree with you on keeping Jose Ramirez at third base. With Nolan Jones almost ready to hit the big leagues, I would move Jose to second. Let Yu Chang, Christian Arroyo and possibly others get a shot at third until Jones is ready. I might also see if I can sign Mike Moustakas as a free agent. – Paul Welling, Rossford.

Hey, Paul: My concern about Ramirez moving from third to second is based on how he played there at the end of the 2018 to make way for Josh Donaldson. He didn't look like the same guy I'd seen play there in years past.  But I like Ramirez's willingness to change positions, and I hope the Indians give him enough time to prepare for such a move if they acquire another third baseman this winter.

Francisco Lindor. (Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com)

Can the Indians manage their payroll to keep Francisco Lindor?

Hey, Hoynsie: Although it seems like a foregone conclusion, do you think it's possible the Indians are structuring their payroll in hopes of signing Francisco Lindor to an extension?  With both Jason Kipnis and Trevor Bauer gone, Corey Kluber and Carlos Santana having team options on the remainder of their contracts, some team-friendly contracts in place (e.g. Jose Ramirez, Brad Hand) and young, inexpensive pitching, couldn't the Indians pay the market rate for Lindor?  If there were ever a player the Indians should break the bank for it's Lindor. – Max Celestin, Rocky River.

Hey, Max:  One question, what is the market rate for a player such as Lindor? That's one hurdle the two sides would have to clear.

Based on previous conversations with the Indians about this subject, they don’t look at this like  a “we have to cut the payroll so we can play Lindor” decision. This would be a separate decision and it would have to come from ownership. Paul Dolan is the only one who could make a call on this kind of deal.

I just can’t see the Indians offering Lindor a Bryce Harper- or Manny Machado-type deal. My best guess is they’ll keep Lindor until he’s eligible for free agency (after the 2021) season, make him a qualifying offer and say “thanks for the memories.”

They could also trade him sometime between now and the end of the 2021 season. Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, said last week that he anticipates Lindor being the Tribe's starting shortstop next season.