Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Indians’ 2015 season is over and with it, a few members of the 40-man roster will find themselves free agents or released to make room for new roster additions. The Tribe roster has very few outright free agents this year but many players could be designated for assignment or non-tendered. Here’s a quick look at who is eligible for free agency and who could also become free agents for the Tribe…
The Free Agents
So how does one become a free agent? Well as many know, a player can become a free agent once he has accumulated six full years of service time (written as 6.000). A year of service time is equal to 172 days, which is something to keep in mind in regards to a certain relief pitcher. With any free agent the Indians have the opportunity to make a qualifying offer to try and get a draft pick; however, neither Floyd nor Aviles will be getting a qualifying offer.
As mentioned, there are very few outright free agents for the Cleveland Indians. In fact, there are only two such players: Gavin Floyd and Mike Aviles. Ryan Webb may also be a free agent; however, I’ll explain in a bit why that may not technically be accurate.
Gavin Floyd was signed this past winter to a one-year major league deal. The deal included tons of incentives for innings pitched as Floyd was coming off a major arm injury the previous year. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Floyd reinjured his arm and didn’t see time in Cleveland until rosters expanded in September, and even then, only as a reliever. He appeared in just seven games for the Tribe and threw only 13.1 innings. He didn’t pitch horribly though posting a 2.70 ERA and 3.21 FIP (fielding independent pitching); however, he didn’t strike many batters out was never stretched out too far.
There’s a chance Floyd could be brought back but a minor league deal would see like the most he’d get. Indians didn’t have to give Floyd an opportunity in September so maybe it was a show of good faith to see if he’d be willing to come back. The Indians appear to have some quality depth in the rotation but always nice to have a vet stashed in Triple-A (like they had with Bruce Chen and Shaun Marcum this past year).
Mike Aviles just finished his third year in a Tribe uniform. Originally acquired from the Blue Jays along with Yan Gomes, he had his 2015 option exercised last off season to remain with the club one more season. 2015 was a trying year for Aviles not only on the field but off the field as his daughter has been battling cancer all season. He missed a couple weeks throughout the season going on the family leave to be with his daughter as she battles her horrible disease.
On the field Aviles struggled as he hit just .231/.282/.317 and had a -0.8 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement according to fangraphs.com). He did provide the Indians with versatility and started games at five different positions in 2015 and played a total of six throughout the season. He logged the most time in leftfield filling in at times for the injured Michael Brantley, and surprisingly handled the position well in a small sample.
Looking at the Tribe’s roster, there’s really no reason that Aviles should return. The Indians have several players on the roster who can fill the role Aviles had, including Jose Ramirez and Zach Walters. Aviles will also be 34 come opening day 2016. That said, Francona does seem to be a fan of veteran leadership and played Aviles a lot more than he probably should have. I would not be completely shocked if he returned on a deal, even a major league one. Going to be interesting to see what Aviles does as his daughter’s doctors are in Cleveland…
According to his baseball-reference page, Ryan Webb is a free agent after the 2015 season. However, this may be inaccurate now. Heading into the 2015 Ryan Webb had just over five years of service time (5.011 days to be exact). This would indicate that should he be on a big league roster all year he’d finish with over six years and be a free agent. He was, after all, in the last year of a two year deal he signed with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 2014 season.
However, earlier this year Webb was designated for assignment by the Orioles and after being traded to the Dodgers, was released outright. The Indians got him and sent him to Triple-A where he remained until being added to the big league roster on April 29th. By my calculations Webb, due to being cut before the season started and spending time in the minors, acquired 160 days service time in 2015. If this is accurate (and it may not be), it means he only has 5.171 years of service time (5 years and 171 days), and if you recall from earlier, 172 days is needed for a full season. This means Webb may in fact be one game short of qualifying for free agency.
If this is true, it would mean that Webb would still be under the Indians control and subject to the arbitration process again. However, the Indians would be under no obligation to extend him an offer and could non-tender (release) him. This would appear to be the logical step for the Tribe given how little he was used later in the year. He was passed up by Jeff Manship, and I doubt the Indians will want to pay Webb the $3M or so he’ll get via arbitration. There’s a chance they could try and bring him back on a minor league deal; however, my guess is he’ll be gone and free to sign anywhere this winter whether or not he’s an actual free agent.
Next: Raburn's 2016 Option