Do you think the Indians will sign Corey Kluber to a contract extension before Opening Day?
-- Justin M., Columbus, Ohio
As of right now, there are no indications that the two sides have started to discuss a contract extension for Kluber. Really, there might not be a huge sense of urgency on the part of the Indians, who know they have the American League Cy Young Award winner under contractual control through the 2018 season.
This past weekend, Kluber said he was unaware of any talks to date about a long-term deal.
"Not that I know of," Kluber said. "My view on it is that's why I have an agent. I trust them. I'll let them take care of that stuff, if it ever came up. That would just be a distraction for me if I was going to get involved in it, first of all, because I wouldn't have any clue what I was talking about. Second of all, just because it takes away from what my job actually is. That's pitching. It's not worrying about my contract."
Kluber added that there is some comfort knowing that -- even without an extension this winter -- he is under Cleveland's control for the next four seasons.
"I really enjoy playing there," Kluber said. "I enjoy playing for [manager Terry Francona]. I think everybody in the organization obviously has the same goal in mind. It's not really like there's a negative outcome if nothing happens this winter. It's still the same situation either way, as far as where I'll be playing."
Kluber's situation is rare in that he will be 29 years old in April, but he still has fewer than three years of Major League service time. The right-hander will not even be eligible for salary arbitration until next winter. Cleveland's motivation for an extension would be to potentially keep his arbitration cost down, while the motivation by Kluber's camp would be to gain security in the event of an injury.
During the Winter Meetings, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti reiterated that the team likes to avoid having contract talks during the season. If Cleveland were to reach an extension with Kluber this offseason, it might be during Spring Training or close to Opening Day. That is the approach the Indians took last season with Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis.
"Corey's a guy that we value and are thrilled that he'll be here for a long time," Antonetti said. "Beyond that, I'll stay away from specifics on where we are or aren't in conversations with particular players. With Corey, or any guy in his situation, there's multiple opportunities to potentially address that. We obviously could have one this offseason, we could have one next offseason, we could have one the offseason after that.
"The thing we have generally tried to stay away from is having those discussions during the season, because they can be a distraction. Beyond that, we don't really have hard-and-fast rules."
Would the Tribe designate Ryan Raburn for assignment and eat the $2.5 million he is owed for next season? That seems unlikely to me.
-- Kyle G., Danville, Calif.
The Indians do have a bit of a logjam between first base, right field and designated hitter with Brandon Moss, Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, David Murphy and Raburn. That said, I find it hard to believe that they would just cut Raburn to solve the situation. The only scenario in which I could see that happening is if Raburn has an abysmal spring, there are no teams willing to trade for him and Cleveland determines that he just does not have a place on the Opening Day roster. If Raburn looks healthy during Spring Training and shows he can play the field and hit lefties, he could have a home on the Tribe's bench or be a trade candidate.
Is Lonnie Chisenhall locked in at third base for 2015 or do you think this is an area they'll look to upgrade?
-- Jeff N., Lakewood, Ohio
I think the Indians will continue to look for alternatives via the trade market, but the club was happy with Chisenhall's overall offensive showing last year. If Cleveland does not add a third baseman to the mix this spring, I'd expect Chisenhall to at least be in line to get the at-bats at third base against right-handed pitching. What will be interesting to monitor -- given Chisenhall's dramatic second-half decline -- is whether the Indians plan on mixing Mike Aviles in more at third on days when a left-handed pitcher is starting.
Last week, Santana tweeted that third base was his favorite position. We also heard that Swisher (when he recovers from his knee surgeries) might move to right field. With the logjam at first created by the Moss signing, is Santana as a third baseman back on the table? Could you see the Indians playing Moss at first, Santana at third and Swisher in right?
-- D.P. R., Marysville, Ohio
Santana may have loved playing third base, but the Indians did not love his defense there. What did happen, though, is Santana looked improved as a first baseman in the second half -- possibly due to all the work he put in at the hot corner. You seem to be forgetting about the DH role. Santana projects to open the year at first base. If Swisher is healthy, maybe he will see more time in right field than at DH, especially since Moss is also coming back from hip surgery. My guess right now is that Swisher and Moss will rotate between right field and DH, helping at first base as needed.
I'm worried about the bullpen. Will the Indians add a seasoned arm for the seventh and eighth innings?
-- Scott S., Bowling Green, Ohio
The Indians like the late-inning options they have at the moment. Cleveland has a strong closer in Cody Allen, and then a solid mix of right-handers (Scott Atchison, Bryan Shaw) and lefties (Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle Crockett and Nick Hagadone). Shaw will return as the main eighth-inning arm, while the others would project to mix and match between the sixth, seventh and eighth. What Cleveland will likely attempt to do is add some arms on non-roster deals to build depth and provide some more options for the final spot or two.
Is the ballpark renovation on schedule?
-- Tony I., Decatur, Ind.
So far, the Indians' renovation of the center-field gate, bullpens and upper deck in right field is on schedule. There was some unexpected snow that hit Cleveland before Thanksgiving, but it has since thawed out and allowed workers to keep to the expected pace. There have been no indications to this point that the project is anything but on target for the home opener.
With all of the moves happening in the American League Central, will the Tribe become more aggressive and pursue Alex Rios?
-- Mitch K., Parma, Ohio
I'm all for aggressiveness, but I'm not sure that the 33-year-old Rios is the answer. He has seen offensive decline in each of the past two years and posted a 99 OPS+ in 2014 (just below league average). Beyond his statistical regression, Cleveland already has a full outfield with Brantley, Michael Bourn, Swisher, Moss, Murphy and Raburn. The Indians would need to trade someone to clear a spot, and I'm not sure Rios would be a substantial upgrade over what is already in place.
Should we consider Francisco Lindor a bust yet? Shouldn't he have been able to make the jump to the Majors by now?
-- @HeyWNY (via Twitter)
I think you need to do a little more research into how baseball development works. Lindor has been the youngest player by far at each level he has played and he only has 38 career games at Triple-A. The 21-year-old shortstop's time will come. It may even come at some point in 2015. When the Indians feel he is ready both offensively and defensively to handle a full Major League season, Lindor will be in the big leagues.