CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians have plenty of decisions to make after finishing the 2017 season short of the goal of winning the World Series after a loss to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
Decisions made by front-office personnel are not always popular with the fan base, as has been the case many times in the past.
Here is a look at the top four most painful decisions the Indians may have to make during the offseason:
CONSIDER TRADING JASON KIPNIS
Kipnis suffered through hamstring injuries during the second half of the 2017 season, but was able to get healthy enough to play during the stretch run ahead of the playoffs despite being out of position in the outfield.
Not wanting to upset the balance of the Indians’ talented infield, manager Terry Francona moved Kipnis to center field and he came up with the defensive play of the postseason for the team.
If the Indians do not explore a trade option for Kipnis, they have to figure out whether they can switch him back to second base, keep him in the outfield or use him as a replacement should outfielder Jay Bruce and/or first baseman Carlos Santana not be re-signed.
Limited to 90 games in 2017, Kipnis hit .232 with 78 hits in 336 at-bats with 25 doubles, 12 home runs, 35 RBI and 43 runs scored.
NOT RE-SIGNING JAY BRUCE
Undeniably, Bruce was a huge part of the Indians’ stretch run, including the AL-record 22-game winning streak and second straight trip to the postseason.
In 43 games with the Indians after a mid-August trade from the New York Mets, Bruce belted seven home runs, nine doubles and two triples in 149 at-bats. Eighteen of his 37 hits went for extra bases, and he drove in 26 runs with 21 scored.
During the postseason, Bruce smashed three extra-base hits, two home runs and one double, with four RBI and five runs scored. In his Indians postseason debut, a 4-0 win over the Yankees, Bruce smashed a double off the wall in left field, a home run to the seats in right field and drove in three runs.
If the Indians were to sign Bruce, it would likely mean letting go of Santana, who is also a free agent.
LET SANTANA WALK IN FREE AGENCY
The Indians wasted no time in exercising Santana’s option for the 2017 season after last year’s World Series run, and that one-year extension made him the second-highest paid player on the team, trailing only designated hitter/infielder Edwin Encarnacion.
During the 2017 season, Santana hit .259 with 23 home runs, 37 doubles, 79 runs batted in, another 90 scored and 148 hits over 154 games. Additionally, Santana struck out 94 times, but worked his way to 88 walks.
In his eight years with the Indians, Santana had a .249 batting average with 995 hits in 3,994 at-bats over 1,116 regular-season games. He belted 236 doubles, 13 triples and 174 home runs, drove in 587 runs, scored another 573 and drew 726 walks against 812 strikeouts.
Originally a catcher when promoted to the Major League club, Santana has played behind the plate, at third base, in left field and settled into a starter’s role at first base over the last three seasons.
RETIRE CHIEF WAHOO
Every year, the debate around the Indians seems to intensify on their logo, Chief Wahoo, more than about the play on the field.
Cartoon character or not, Chief Wahoo is offensive, and not only to Native Americans. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred met with the Indians’ top executives after the 2016 World Series about the future of the logo, and since the organization has phased out Chief Wahoo and made the “Block C” their primary emblem in recent seasons, it is time to end the discussions.
Having the conversation about the Indians focus mainly on baseball would be a much better idea for the franchise moving forward.
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