Because I’m sensing that Indians officials are privately wondering why nobody is offering a list of five things the Indians should do this season, here is my list of five things the Indians should do this season:
- Explore the possibility of a trade with the Yankees for Clint Frazier
Remember Frazier? The former Indians No. 1 pick, along with three other minor leaguers, were the price tag the Indians paid New York three years ago for Andrew Miller. The Indians won that trade because Miller was a big reason why the Indians won the American League pennant and, almost, the World Series in 2016.
But the landscape has changed since then, and the Indians’ outfield landscape is not pretty. They could use an outfielder who is potentially an impact hitter, preferably one who hits right-handed. Frazier checks all those boxes. He’s 24, no longer the high school whiz kid the Indians selected fifth overall in the 2013 Draft.
There’s no future for Frazier in New York. The Yankees’ outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks will be a fixture for years. Frazier’s minor league resume lacks any attention-getting numbers, and in 168 career, but very sporadic, at-bats with New York he hit .238 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. But over half of his 31 hits have been for extra bases.
Assuming Frazier’s concussion issues from last season are no longer a concern, and given that his star has lost some luster, the Indians might be able to acquire him at a reasonable price.
- Play Tyler Naquin every day
In the meantime, this needs to be the year the Indians find out once and for all if Naguin is A GUY or just a guy. Naquin was the Indians’ first-round pick seven years ago, and although he’s had his moments, he’s been a disappointment overall, and an injury prone one, at that.
His best season was 2016, when in 321 at-bats he hit .296 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs. Since then he’s been hurt and ineffective. In 211 at-bats over the last two years he’s hit .256 with three homers, 24 RBIs, 51 strikeouts and only eight walks.
He’ll turn 28 one month into the season, so, if healthy, Naquin should get the bulk of the at-bats in right field, giving him perhaps a final chance to prove that his will be more than a Chisenhallian career.
- Make Daniel Johnson or Oscar Mercado the first outfielder recalled from Columbus
A second-round pick by St. Louis in 2013, Mercado, acquired from the Cardinals in a minor league trade last year, is a shortstop-turned-center fielder, whose best tool appears to be his speed. In six minor league seasons with the Cardinals he averaged 33 stolen bases per year, with a high of 50 in 2015.
Johnson, one of three players the Indians got from Washington in the Yan Gomes trade, seems to profile as Greg Allen, but with more power, and a well-above-average arm. A year ago, Baseball America ranked Johnson as the best power hitter and the outfielder with the best arm in the Nationals’ minor league system.
- Consider keeping three catchers
This could probably only be done at the expense of keeping one less reliever, which might not fly in bullpen maestro Terry Francona’s world. But when your starting catcher (Roberto Perez) has a career average in the majors of .205, including a slash line last year of .168/.256/.263, with four times as many errors and passed balls (eight) as home runs (two), chances are he’ll have to be pinch hit or pinch run for frequently.
Carrying a third catcher would allow Francona to liberally do so, while still maintaining catching depth. It also gives Francona another right-handed pinch-hitting option with power in Eric Haase. Kevin Plawecki would be the third catcher.
- Solve or resolve the Danny Salazar conundrum
Salazar’s combined salary last year and this year will be $9.5 million. That seems extravagant for a team that has been obsessively trying to trim its payroll. Salazar didn’t throw a competitive pitch in 2018. That’s not his fault, because he was injured and eventually underwent shoulder surgery.
It is a reality, however, that the last time Salazar had a fully healthy season was 2015. He’s been on the disabled list four times in the last three years, including all of last year. As tantalizing as his all-star selection in 2016 and 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017 were, facts are facts.
Salazar is 29. Only once in his career has he pitched more than 138 innings in a season. He’s never pitched 200 innings. He’s never pitched 190 innings. He hasn’t pitched ANY innings since Sept. 27, 2017, and he’s still not pitching this spring training.
From the Indians’ point of view, when does patience become obstinance?
- Corey Kluber takes mound for first time this spring
- Late arrivals -- Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Bradley Zimmer won't be ready for Indians opener
- Commentary: Indians manager Terry Francona loves a challenge ... and should get a big one this season
- Indians' Shane Bieber getting noticed for his pitching not just his famous last name
- Hanley Ramirez, Indians finalize minor league deal (UPDATED)
- Indians: Roberto Perez embracing starting role after trade of Yan Gomes
- Commentary: Pressure building for Indians in 2019 with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer likely on way out
- Commentary: Jose Ramirez isn't going anywhere, and that makes him indispensable for Indians
- Indians focusing on now as spring training begins
- Indians spring training preview: Big changes bring big questions and big concerns
- Commentary: More pressure on Indians' rotation to produce this year