Do you have any updates on the Carlos Santana third-base project?
-- Niel, @MajumSTAR via Twitter
Santana has been playing third base for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League in an effort to increase his versatility. Yan Gomes has taken over as the Indians' starting catcher, so Santana offered to try third as another way to stay in the lineup on a daily basis for Cleveland.
Santana has played first base and served as a designated hitter for the Tribe, but he hadn't played third since he was a farmhand in the Dodgers' system. I chatted with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti over the weekend on a variety of topics, and here is what he had to say about Santana's progress at the hot corner:
"The most important thing is that he's working hard at it. He's committed to being the best player he can be at the position, which is great. That's all we're looking for at this point. We're months away from having to make any sort of evaluations or decisions."
Santana made four errors in eight games prior to the Winter League playoffs, but rough patches were expected. As Antonetti noted, Cleveland has all of Spring Training to continue the experiment to see if Santana is a realistic option for third. Right now, Santana is a backup at first, DH and catcher, but he will be a regular in the batting order.
Third base will be a question mark going into the spring. The Tribe could give Lonnie Chisenhall yet another chance as the full-timer, or the team could toy with a platoon involving Santana or David Adams. Asked who would be the third baseman if the season started right now, Antonetti laughed.
"The season doesn't start today," Antonetti said. "We have a long way to go."
Will the Tribe will sign at least one starting pitcher to a Major League deal before Opening Day?
-- Brian R., Solon, Ohio
The Indians are content on opening the season with Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Zach McAllister and one of Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer or Shaun Marcum in the rotation. If Cleveland adds to that list, I believe it will be another Minor League deal or two with non-roster invites.
The Indians are monitoring the market for Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo, and they talked to the agent of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but I'm not currently expecting any to wind up in a Tribe uniform. The price tags for those pitchers would have to come way down, and I'm not sure they will drop low enough for Cleveland to reel one in.
Is there a good chance that Jeff Francoeur could make the Indians' Major League squad as either a fifth outfielder or an option at DH?
-- John G., Cleveland
Sure, it's possible, but Francoeur would have to really show something this spring. A year ago, fans did not think much of Ryan Raburn being brought in as a non-roster invitee after hitting .171 in the previous season with the Tigers. Raburn then pieced together an impressive spring, made the roster and posted a .901 OPS in 86 games as a role player in 2013.
Francoeur hit .204 last season between stints with the Royals and Giants, and he hasn't turned in a strong campaign since 2011, but Cleveland is giving him a shot as a non-roster invitee. The last spot on the Tribe's bench will be up for grabs and -- without a true backup catcher -- the Indians have the flexibility to possibly carry an extra position player.
Where do Jesus Aguilar and Francisco Lindor fit into the Tribe's 2014 plans? Which Minor League position player do you think will have the greatest impact on the Indians this year?
-- Jesse B., Pepper Pike, Ohio
Aguilar and Lindor will probably fit into Cleveland's plans as September callups, barring a total derailment of the season. They are both promising prospects -- Aguilar at first base and Lindor at short -- but neither figure into the Opening Day plans. I'd imagine that both will be at Triple-A Columbus for the bulk of this season.
Jose Ramirez appeared in 15 games for the Indians last season, but I'd still peg him as the Minor Leaguer in a position to make the biggest impact. He has plus speed and can bounce around multiple positions as a utility player. Another player to keep an eye on this season is infielder Joe Wendle, who will likely be at Double-A Akron this season.
I see the Indians lost left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to Oakland for $22 million (two-year deal). I would've thought if the Indians had offered a contract somewhere near that, he would've stayed in Cleveland. He's just 29 years old. Why not keep him?
-- Thomas G., Buffalo, N.Y.
The Indians were willing to discuss a one-year contract for Kazmir and a non-guaranteed second year might've been in play, too. What Cleveland did not want to do was commit two guaranteed seasons for a starter who was pitching in the Indy ball in 2012. Kazmir was a great comeback story for Cleveland, but his future success is hard to predict in light of his recent past. Simply put, the Indians did not feel the risk was worth that kind of money.
If the Indians do not re-sign Jimenez, will they get a first-round Draft pick? Who is the most likely to sign him?
-- Phil A., Londonderry, N.H.
Cleveland secured a compensatory Draft pick when Jimenez declined the club's $14.1 million qualifying offer in November. If Jimenez signs with a new team, the Indians will get that pick between the first and second round in the First-Year Player Draft. The rumor mill has been quiet for Jimenez, though the Blue Jays, Yankees and D-backs have been mentioned as possibilities.
What is more likely for 2014: Trevor Bauer winning 15 games or Jason Giambi lasting all season on the 25-man roster?
-- John F., Bismarck, N.D.
Don't forget that Indians manager Terry Francona has admitted to having a "man crush" on Giambi, who is valued as much for his clubhouse leadership as he is for his on-field contributions. Right now, I don't see Bauer making the Opening Day rotation, so I'm finding it hard to envision a scenario where he pitches enough for Cleveland to win 15 games this year. Limited to the two possibilities you've presented, I'd put my money on Giambi.