WASHINGTON — For the first time in four years, there will be no October baseball for the Cleveland Indians.
After their 8-2 loss to the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. and the Tampa Bay Rays’ 6-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, the Indians were officially eliminated from contention for the two American League Wild Card spots in the 2019 Major League Baseball Playoffs. Earlier in the week, the Tribe's three-year run atop the AL Central division came to an end when the Minnesota Twins earned their first championship since the second of back-to-back titles during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Cleveland was actually tied with Washington 2-2 tonight heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, but a five-run burst by the Nats put the game out of reach. Nick Goody, one of the main culprits from what has been a shaky bullpen of late, picked up the loss after allowing four of those runs.
Despite injuries and illness ravaging the starting rotation and extended offensive slumps affecting key players, the Indians will finish 2019 second in the AL Central Division and less than a handful of games in back of the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card race. They have currently won 93 games, two more than last season's team that won the Central.
The Tribe will enter the offseason following Sunday’s game against the Nationals, who are set to compete against the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday. At that time, they will have several difficult decisions to make with regard to the roster.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, 32, is due a $16.5 million option if the club chooses to exercise it, but it is likely he will head into free agency after spending his entire career with the Indians’ organization, including the last nine years at the MLB level.
Also, there is the matter of what to do with starting pitcher Corey Kluber, whom they reportedly listened to trade offers for last offseason. The Indians hold a $17.5 million option for Kluber for the 2020 season, and he will be coming off of the longest injured stretch of his MLB career.
Kluber was out of the lineup since May 1 when he suffered a broken ulna in his pitching arm after being struck by a line drive in a start against the Miami Marlins. Kluber suffered the injury in the fifth inning of his seventh start of the season, but prior to the broken bone, he struggled with consistency.
Kluber had a 2-3 record with a 5.80 earned run average and allowed 44 hits, 26 runs, four home runs and 15 walks against 38 strikeouts in 35.2 innings of work before suffering the injury that kept him away from the balance of the season.
Kluber has posted a 98-58 record with a 3.16 earned run average in 208 games, including 203 starts, over parts of nine seasons with the Indians.
In addition to Kluber and Kipnis, the Indians will have to decide whether they will pursue outfielder Yasiel Puig in free agency or stick with a younger corps of players. Puig made $9.7 million during the 2019 season.