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Inbox: Who goes where in the 2011 order?

Inbox: Who goes where in the 2011 order?

The two people behind me in line at the grocery store the other day were trying to come up with the word that has the following definition: "Not capable of being defined" (which, if you think about it, is a definition that can leave your head spinning).

Though I have no idea what the context of this conversation was, the results were discouraging for the fate of our nation. They must have gone through six or seven incorrect attempts at landing on the word.

"Indefinite?" one asked.

"Yeah, that's it," the other replied.

"No, wait ... undeniable?" the first one said.

"Yeah, that's it," the second responded.

I opted not to intervene in this intellectual give-and-take, though I was comfortable in assuming I knew the word.

Yet by the time I had made it through the line, I had heard this conversation go on so long that I was beginning to second-guess myself. "Indefinable" was the word they were looking for, wasn't it? Or was it "undefinable"? Or is either word acceptable? Or neither? All I wanted was a gallon of milk and some bananas. This whole experience was much more than I'd bargained for.

This, then, is a long-winded way of saying that if this week's edition of the Inbox is a little less coherent than usual, blame the two folks behind me in Lane 8. And here's hoping none of your Indians-related questions are unanswerable. (Or is it inanswerable?)

Would you give us your take on a 2011 lineup card by inserting Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore -- assuming everyone is healthy. Where in the world would you insert them? -- Harold S., Holland, Ohio

Assuming everybody is healthy is, sadly, a bold assumption. But the Indians are operating under that assumption this offseason, so we might as well do the same.

Two of the biggest decisions Manny Acta will have to make next spring will both revolve around Michael Brantley: Should Brantley supplant Sizemore (coming off microfracture knee surgery) in center field? And should Brantley remain in the leadoff spot?

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Frankly, I don't know how Acta will approach either of those decisions. Moving Sizemore to left would certainly be justifiable, especially early in the season. And moving Brantley to the lower half of the lineup would be justifiable, too, because he could stand to show more consistency at the Major League level before he's permanently entrusted with a prominent spot, given the other options available.

Before he got hurt, Sizemore was making some effort to shorten his swing and improve his average, at the expense of some power. He moved down to the No. 2 spot of the lineup this season, with Asdrubal Cabrera batting leadoff, though that setup was obviously short-lived. With Sizemore gone, Cabrera eventually settled back into the No. 2 spot, where, you could argue, he's much better suited. Sizemore's shortened season is difficult to evaluate, because we don't know the extent to which the knee injury affected him at the plate. For that reason, it's difficult to determine where to slot him in for 2011.

You want your best pure hitter in the No. 3 spot, so that's where Shin-Soo Choo belongs. And Santana seems an ideal fit for the cleanup spot. In a perfect world, Matt LaPorta would slide in at No. 5, adding a right-handed bat to the mix, but LaPorta's 2010 struggles are a concern. Travis Hafner could be at No. 5.

Assuming Jayson Nix remains at third base (the Indians could, of course, sign somebody this winter) and Jason Donald remains at second base, I could see the lineup looking something like this:

1. Cabrera, SS
2. Sizemore, LF
3. Choo, RF
4. Santana, C
5. Hafner, DH
6. LaPorta, 1B
7. Nix, 3B
8. Brantley, CF
9. Donald, 2B

That's merely a guess (and not even an endorsement). The Brantley/Sizemore dynamic is a major X-factor, and I could just as easily see Brantley leading off and Sizemore batting lower in the order until the Indians have a feel for what they can expect out of him offensively.

Time will tell, as it tends to.

Please tell me how a pitcher can have the season that Aaron Laffey had last year and then seemingly fall off the map this year? He has done everything they ask of him and yet gets no credit. He is not even being mentioned in "future plans" in the rotation or bullpen from the articles I have seen. What is that about? Please enlighten us. -- Dawn S., Baltimore

The Indians did Laffey no favors by bouncing him back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen the past two seasons. His shoulder eventually paid the price, and the fatigue that hampered him midseason took him out of the rotation picture completely.

Laffey is going to fall just shy of arbitration eligibility, and he has a Minor League option remaining. The Indians say they are still evaluating Laffey's season and determining what is best for him and them. But if he's going to be a factor on the Opening Day roster, it might be more likely in a relief role, not the rotation. Acta believes it's important to have a reliever who can eat up some innings in emergency situations, and Laffey might be a fit for such a spot, considering he is left-handed and the Indians could have an all-right-handed rotation.

I've noticed that Travis Hafner is around Cleveland a lot during the offseason, especially with his charity work. Does he make his home in the area? Do any other Indians make their home in Northeast Ohio? -- Martin W., Euclid, Ohio

Hafner married a local and lives here year-round. Laffey and his wife live in Cleveland, though they'll also be spending plenty of time in his home state of Maryland this winter, showing off their new baby boy. Jensen Lewis also lives in the area.

I keep reading about Carlos Santana possibly being moved to first base, at least part-time. With the way Lou Marson caught and threw out runners this year, why not let him catch, with Luke Carlin as a backup, and move Santana to third, his original position? Marson doesn't hit much, but neither did Jim Hegan. -- Bruce S., Millersburg, Ohio

Santana has the talent, both at the plate and behind it, to become one of the game's elite catchers. Why mess with that at this juncture?

Until he shows marked offensive improvement, Marson is well-suited to be a backup. Santana will probably play first base just once a week or so, to give his body a break from the catching grind. (Again, that's boldly operating on the assumption that Santana will be back to full health.)

With so many Nos. 4 or 5 starters already in the system at various levels, do you think the Indians will honestly pursue a starter capable of providing a viable upgrade to this year's rotation? -- Greg B., Fairview Park, Ohio

Honestly? No. Unless the Indians work out a trade for a starter, I see them sticking with the arms they have, because they won't have the money to pursue the type of free-agent starting pitcher who could have a serious impact on the front end of the rotation.

What are the chances that Jake Westbrook returns to Cleveland next year? -- James K., Washington, D.C.

For the reason stated above and the fact that Westbrook can likely command a multiyear deal, I just don't see it happening, James. At the time they traded Westbrook to the Cardinals, the Indians said they would be interested in pursuing him this winter. The fact is, such a return, while not unprecedented, is rare. Having performed pretty well down the stretch and enjoyed the perks of pitching in the NL, Westbrook appears more likely to return to the Cards.

I know it's a little early to start speculating, but which potentially available third basemen look like a good fit for the Tribe next year? Could we see Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada, Hank Blalock or Melvin Mora opening the season at third? Or could we possibly see the return of Ronnie Belliard or (dare I even mention his name) Jhonny Peralta? -- Phil C., Cudahy, Wis.

The only two names you listed that I could see as being even remote fits for this team next year are Wigginton and Mora, and they're both utility guys. Mora is 38 years old.

The free-agent market at third is a bit of a dud (Adrian Beltre will be way out of the Tribe's price range). Some other names that could turn up on the Tribe radar are Jorge Cantu, Juan Uribe and Brandon Inge. Maybe even Joe Crede, who was out of baseball in 2010 (like I said, it's a dud). Perhaps the Indians will try to swing a trade, similar to when they landed Mark DeRosa two years ago, to fill the void. And you never know who might turn up in a non-tender situation.

I still wouldn't be shocked to see the Indians roll the dice on Nix and hope Lonnie Chisenhall gets off to a strong start at Triple-A Columbus and puts himself in the picture before long. It's also worth noting that the Indians will have Cord Phelps playing at third in the Arizona Fall League, so he, too, could emerge as an option at the hot corner.

I've got a few Omar Vizquel questions: Does Omar want to play long enough to reach the 3,000-hit milestone? Will any team give him the opportunity? Omar never had 200 hits in a season. Has anyone ever reached 3,000 hits in a career without getting 200 in a single season as least once? Do you view Omar as a first-ballot Hall of Famer? If elected, would he go in as a Cleveland Indian? -- Ryan E., New Philadelphia, Ohio

For starters, Carl Yastrzemski, Cap Anson, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson all reached 3,000 hits without ever notching 200 in a season.

Vizquel, who is sitting at 2,799 hits, thought he'd be done after this year, but a solid season with the White Sox has changed his mind. It's difficult to imagine him reaching 3,000, given that he's 43 years old and better suited to a part-time role. But Vizquel will definitely have the opportunity to play somewhere next season, possibly remaining on the South Side, where there is mutual interest. I've written before that he'd be a decent fit with Cleveland, but I doubt it will happen.

Omar has zero chance of being elected to the Hall on the first ballot. Frankly, I think a good number of the people who think he's Hall-worthy (and, yes, I consider myself a member of that group) hail from Cleveland. But with the most games played at shortstop of any player in history and the second-most hits among shortstops, Vizquel has a decent case. He could get in if the voters view him as, for lack of a better term, the anti-steroid guy. He was a defensive wizard in an era of big bashers, and that distinction helps him stand out, in a way. And yes, I believe he would go in as a member of the Tribe, if elected.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, CastroTurf. Follow @castrovince on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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