Cleveland has made its desire to bring Napoli back known, and has exercised Santana’s club option, so first base may not seem like a priority. But in the case that Napoli does end up signing with another team, the Indians need to have a backup plan that can handle some first base and DH duties. Bobby Bradley, the best power hitter in the organization’s minor league system, is still a couple of years away in all likelihood.
Much like the utility options, none of the free agent first baseman scream excitement, but there are a few proven players that could fit the role for the Tribe. The first would be Adam Lind, who is coming off his first season with the Seattle Mariners. He’s 33 and coming off his worst season in years, so that could be a red flag, but he did slash .239/.286/.431, hit 20 homers, and drove in 58 runs for the M’s.
Next on the list is James Loney, who like Lind is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a subpar year. Loney slashed .265/.307/.397 in 100 games for the New York Mets in 2016, hitting 16 doubles and nine home runs, driving in 34, and posting an OPS+ of 87. It was the first time in four seasons that he failed to hit at least .280.
Sean Rodriguez is the third name that could be on Cleveland’s radar, coming off a year with the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he had a .270/.349/.510 slash line with 16 doubles, 18 homers, 56 RBIs, and a career-best OPS+ of 126. Rodriguez, who will turn 32 in April, can also play the second, third, short, and the outfield, and could also fit into the utility role.
The Indians are in the enviable position of not needing to overhaul their roster, so any free agents added this offseason are mere supplements to the players already in place. Given Francona’s love of platoon advantages, it is likely that at least a few such players will find themselves in Goodyear come February vying for a spot on the bench or in the bullpen. These may not be marquee names, but the Tribe doesn’t need them to be, and that’s a good position to be in.