The sting of the World Series loss for the Cleveland Indians may stick with the team for a while, but the front office has moved on to the offseason.
The front office team of Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff kicked off the offseason for the Cleveland Indians just a day after the club fell in the seventh game of the World Series, making a quartet of moves. There are just over 100 days until spring training gets started, and these will surely not be the last maneuverings for the Tribe before that.
The first order of business was picking up Carlos Santana’s club option for 2017, which was about as big a no-brainer as you’ll find in baseball. Santana was as solid as ever for Cleveland this past season, slashing .259/.366/.498 and posting career-highs with 34 home runs and 87 runs batted in while splitting time between the leadoff spot and the middle of the order.
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The option will cost the club $12 million, which is a steal given Santana’s consistency and what a comparable replacement would command on the open market. The Indians also need to have a plan in place at first base in case they fail to bring back Mike Napoli, and Santana is more than adequate at that position.
Item number two on the Tribe’s agenda was a similarly simple move: picking up manager Terry Francona’s club options for 2019 and 2020. Francona perhaps cemented his Hall of Fame managerial career in the 2016 postseason, guiding a Cleveland team decimated by injuries to the Fall Classic.
In four years at the helm for the Indians, Tito is 352-294 (.545), and now has another American League pennant on his resume to go along with the two he won in Boston. More than any player, Francona is the key to the Tribe continuing their success next season and in the years to come, with few managers in the game today on his level.
The final two moves Cleveland announced involve names that most fans are probably not familiar with, but which are hugely important to the organization. Carter Hawkins, who has served as the club’s Director of Player Development the past two seasons, and Matt Forman, the Director of Baseball Operations in 2016, were both promoted to the rank of Assistant General Manager.
The reputation around Major League Baseball for the Indians’ front office is among the best in the game, being referred to as a “school for executives,” and much of that has to do with the grooming and development of young baseball minds such as Hawkins and Forman. It’s how Antonetti and Chernoff came to their current positions, and why there are 11 current or former top executives around the league who got their start in Cleveland.
The Tribe is certainly just getting started with its offseason work, and despite having the core of the team locked up for years to come, do have some decisions to make. We’ll look at them more closely in the coming days here at Wahoo’s on First, but the Napoli question, along with Rajai Davis and the free agent market, is sure to be at the top of the list.
While these first moves by Cleveland may not seem all that significant, they are each an important step in getting the offseason started on a positive note. The Indians’ front office has proven to be proactive in its efforts to put together a winning organization, and with attention turned now to 2017, fans of the club should feel optimistic knowing that the Tribe is in good hands.