I really thought that Asdrubal Cabrera would have been traded by now and the Indians could get a starting pitcher for him. Do you think it's likely that he'll remain an Indian this season?
-- Bob B., Palm Harbor, Fla.
I do believe that Cabrera will be the Indians' Opening Day shortstop. The rumor mill has been quiet on that front this offseason, and, to be honest, I think Cleveland would have a hard time getting the same type of return now that it might have netted by trading Cabrera in either of the past two winters.
The 28-year-old Cabrera is entering the final year of his contract and is owed $10 million, which is a fair price given his position, past performance and the current market. That said, it's still a double-digit salary for a player who has faded in the second half of each of the past three seasons. That trend hasn't helped the shortstop's trade value.
That said, Cabrera is a switch-hitter capable of being a catalyst for Cleveland's offense. If he's healthy and producing to his potential, the Indians have a clear-cut All-Star on their hands and the lineup will benefit. A strong first half -- something Cabrera has done plenty of times -- could also up his value for a potential July trade, if the Tribe's season doesn't go as hoped.
It's also worth noting that the Indians' shortstop of the future -- prospect Francisco Lindor -- has zero Triple-A experience and isn't likely to reach the Majors until late this season or next season. Keeping Cabrera in the fold, and also keeping Mike Aviles in a utility role for now, is a good way to bridge the gap until Lindor's arrival.
Any chance you see the Tribe dealing Justin Masterson prior to the start of the season, if they can't come together on an extension?
-- Ryan T., Jacksonville, N.C.
No, if the two sides can't reach an agreement on a contract extension, the Indians will probably just settle on a one-year deal for the upcoming season. Masterson's camp has exchanged salary proposals with Cleveland ($11.8 million requested, compared to $8.05 million offered by the Tribe), so the one-year contract process is underway. Extension talks will also take place during the negotiations. If necessary, a salary arbitration hearing will be held at some point between Feb. 1-21 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Cleveland has not gone to a hearing with a player since 1991.
Like Cabrera, though, Masterson is entering the final year of Cleveland's contractual control, if an extension isn't in the cards. A contending Tribe club would likely stick with Masterson until season's end, when the sides could then discuss a deal through free agency. If the season gets ugly fast, Masterson would be a prime trading chip in July.
How reliable of an option will Carlos Santana be at third base?
-- Brandon B., Hilliard, Ohio
This is a better question for Spring Training, when the Indians' decision-makers will get an up-close look at Santana's progress over the course of many weeks. Right now, Santana is too early into the process to know if he's a realistic option for more than just a part-time role at the hot corner.
The Santana experiment has been a hot topic this week, however, thanks to a Spanish-language report indicating that the catcher is training for the full-time job. Could Santana become Cleveland's starting third baseman? Sure, it's possible. Right now, though, that decision hasn't been made. The fact is that the Indians don't have to make that call until maybe midway through the spring.
Should Santana eventually take over at third base, what are the chances of the Tribe trading Lonnie Chisenhall?
-- Jose T., Utuado, Puerto Rico
The Indians have had chances to trade Chisenhall, and the team hasn't pulled the trigger yet. He is still relatively young in years (25) and big league experience (682 plate appearances), so the potential for him to break out remains. I just don't see Cleveland breaking camp with Chisenhall as the everyday third baseman.
What I could see is Chisenhall making the team as an option against right-handed pitchers. Consider that Indians manager Terry Francona limited Chisenhall to one at-bat against lefty pitchers in September, and the third baseman responded by hitting .270 (.920 OPS) for the month. That makes Chisenhall a solid platoon option at third for a team focused on contending, not just developing.
Of course, if Santana is deemed capable of the everyday job at third, Chisenhall might be sent back to the Minors, where he has proven he can put up strong numbers. Under that scenario, yes, the third baseman might be dangled as trade bait, especially for a team that is always looking for affordable pitching.
Do you think Michael Young would be a good fit for the Tribe? I think he would be a great platoon partner with Chisenhall at third base, as well as a second backup all around the infield. He'd also be another great clubhouse guy.
-- Jeffrey C., Columbus, Ohio
I like your line of thinking, but I haven't heard any rumblings of Young being a possibility for Cleveland. There was a report earlier this month indicating that the 37-year-old veteran was considering retirement. I think Cleveland has plenty of backup infielders (Ryan Raburn and Aviles can play multiple spots), clubhouse leadership (Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher, among others) and the possibility of Santana helps the platoon options at third base. I don't see it happening.
In closing ...
With all the talk about the upcoming Tribe Fest, it made me think back to Wahoo Winterfest in the early 1990s. I remember attending one year and they had a large steel beam that fans could autograph. The Indians said the beam would be used in the construction of Jacobs Field. Did that beam ever make it into the ballpark?
-- Michael M., Broadview Heights, Ohio
Your signature is indeed in the structure of Progressive (formerly Jacobs) Field, Michael. Here is what Jim Folk, the Indians' vice president of ballpark operations, shared via email about the beam you signed some two decades ago:
The beam is installed in the East Ninth Street stair tower (over by Gate C/Bob Feller statue). The beam itself faces East Ninth, but is inside the structure (basically behind the masonry) and the signatures cannot be seen. That said, it was installed with all signatures intact.
For those interested in this weekend's Tribe Fest, visit Indians.com/tribefest. I'll be checking it out, so feel free to say hello if you spot me.