Inbox: Where do catchers Gomes, Santana fit in '14?
Inbox: Where do catchers Gomes, Santana fit in '14?
By Jordan Bastian
It is my job as a journalist to remain objective. I don't root for the team I cover in the same way that fans cheer on their hometown squad. As a writer, I root for good stories, good people and making deadlines. With that in mind, I can say unequivocally that it was disappointing to see the Indians' season end so soon.
When manager Terry Francona walked into the clubhouse wearing a baby costume during Spring Training as part of the team's "Harlem Shake" video, it was clear that it was going to be an interesting year. The Tribe did not disappoint in that way. Whether it was having a live chicken in the outfield for batting practice, blasting Trevor Bauer's rap "Gutter to the Grail" in the clubhouse or the bench players referring to themselves as the "Goon Squad," these Indians were fun to cover.
In 2012, members of the press corps spent time researching other historically difficult times for Tribe baseball, so it was a nice change of pace to be delving into the record books for the opposite reason this year. Cleveland has 113 seasons in its history and -- excluding strike-shortened campaigns -- the 2013 team tied the largest one-year improvement in wins in that span.
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There were great stories within the larger narrative, too. Scott Kazmir returned from baseball oblivion and rediscovered his form on the mound. Ubaldo Jimenez went from disastrous to dominance in one year. Yan Gomes came out of nowhere to claim the starting catcher job. Jason Kipnis and Justin Masterson turned into All-Stars. Jason Giambi became a local hero for his walk-off home runs.
The list doesn't end there, but the season ended with a loss to the Rays in the American League Wild Card Game. It was a brief taste of the October stage that left Cleveland craving more. That makes this offseason an important one. Instead of cleaning up another mess, the Indians are tasked with finding a way to make this season's 92-win club even better.
That makes this a great time for the first Indians Inbox of the offseason ...
With Gomes being better behind the dish and a solid offensive player, where does Carlos Santana fit into the future for the Indians?
-- Daniel Z., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Talk about a good problem to have. Right now, Cleveland feels like it has two legitimate starting catchers on its big league roster. Both Gomes and Santana have strengths that make them viable everyday options going forward.
In the second half, Gomes' great game-calling and strong arm -- along with his solid offensive production -- helped the 26-year-old catcher garner the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. What that meant for Santana was more time as a designated hitter and part-time first baseman, which is the kind of role that might suit him best in the long term.
Barring any offseason changes, Gomes appears to be the No. 1 catcher heading into 2014. Santana made it clear -- to reporters and to the team -- that he does not want to be a full-time DH, though. At the end of the season, Francona noted that he has talked to Santana about the situation and will keep the discussion going.
Santana said his preference is to spend more time at first base if he is not going to be the regular catcher. Cleveland can handle this in a variety of ways. One option would be to have Gomes and Santana split the catching more evenly. Or, Santana's time at first base could increase, and versatile first baseman Nick Swisher could see more time in right field or at DH.
There are no definitive answers at the moment, because so much depends on whether Cleveland adds a hitter or two into the mix this winter. When the 2014 roster becomes more clear, the Indians will have a better idea of the possibilities that exist for the Gomes-Santana tandem.
With the Tribe looking to possibly upgrade at one of the corner spots, could we see Ryan Raburn at third base next year? It looks like there are more impact outfielders available on the market than corner infielders.
-- Ryan M., Austin, Texas
Unless the Indians bring in a new third baseman, I think the team will once again give Lonnie Chisenhall a shot at earning the everyday job. He's still young, and Francona continues to rave about his potential. That said, Chisenhall continued to labor mightily against left-handed pitching in 2013, and he was rarely given the chance to face southpaws late in the season.
If Cleveland feels a platoon is in order at third base, the club seems to like utility man Mike Aviles in that role. Raburn has played third, but only sparingly in his career, and not once this past season. He is viewed more as a corner outfielder and backup second baseman. The Tribe likes Raburn in a bench role, but increasing his playing time in right field is certainly a possibility.
I'd say it is fair to assume that the Indians will explore all their options -- internal and external -- for third base this offseason.
Do you think the Indians will pull the trigger for a legit No. 4 bat this winter?
-- Will F., Green, Ohio
I'm not sure there will be a clear-cut cleanup hitter on the free-agent market this offseason. A guy like Mike Napoli would be an intriguing right-handed power option for first base or DH, but the crop of sluggers is thin after that. If the Indians do acquire a legit power hitter, it might need to be via trade. It is worth noting, though, that the Indians did rank fourth in the AL in runs scored with their versatile (and streaky) lineup in 2013.
Is Danny Salazar a lock for next year's rotation, or will he have to fight for a spot?
-- Jacob H., Strongsville, Ohio
At the moment, Salazar appears to be a virtual lock for a rotation spot. Cleveland has a solid foundation in place with the foursome of Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Salazar. Jimenez and Kazmir are both eligible for free agency, and it seems unlikely that the Tribe would be able to retain both starters. The Indians will surely have starting pitching on their wish list for this coming winter, but Salazar's electric arm is an intriguing weapon for the 2014 staff.
Is the Tribe going to stick with its "value-based pricing" for single-game tickets next year? It's pretty confusing and makes one less likely to attend a game at the spur of the moment.
-- Tony I., Decatur, Ind.
The Indians have started their planning for the 2014 season and usually announce pricing plans prior to single-game tickets going on sale in February. I can assure you that the Indians are aware of their fans' feedback on the ticket pricing situation from this past season and will take it into consideration while planning for next year.
I read at the end of the Minor League season that shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor was on the disabled list with a back injury. What is the latest word on the seriousness of his injury?
-- Dan J., Stoneboro, Pa.
Lindor, who was indeed shut down toward the end of August with a lower back injury, is doing just fine. Fortunately for the Indians, rest was all the highly-touted shortstop needed. Lindor will be able to go through a normal offseason training program and is expected to be back at full strength come Spring Training.
When Swisher is getting ready to hit in the batter's box, why does he always look upward before the pitch is delivered?
-- Jake S., Dacula, Ga.
It's in remembrance of his grandparents, the late Betty and Donald Swisher, who helped raise Nick in Parkersburg, W. Va. He has said that picturing them watching him from "the best seats in the house" has helped him through tough times.