Indians offseason outlook: First base

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The Indians enter the offseason with a potential big hole at first base. Carlos Santana is a free agent and the chances of him returning to the Indians are looking slimmer by the day. The Indians offered him the $17.2 million dollar qualifying offer on November 6th. It appears Santana will decline the offer and test the free agent market. Santana hit .259 with 23 homeruns and 79 RBI. He also played a solid first base defensively as he was named a finalist for the gold glove award. If Santana decides to go elsewhere the Indians will look at both internal and external options to fill the void.

Internal options

– Edwin Encarnacion (.258 – 38 – 107)

Edwin Encarnacion was the primary designated hitter in 2017 playing only 23 games at first base. He is a capable defender at the position but the Indians prefer that Encarnacion remains as the full time DH capable of filling in at first on occasion.

– Lonnie Chisenhall (.288 – 12 – 53)

Lonnie Chisenhall will most likely be the top internal option at first if Santana does not return. He does have limited experience at first base having played 13 career games at the position. One issue with Chisenhall playing first is he does not play a lot against left handed pitchers.

– Michael Brantley (.299 – 9 – 52)

The biggest longshot internal option is Michael Brantley. This was not even a thought until team president Chris Antonetti mentioned that Brantley could possibly see time at first next season. Brantley certainly has the athletic ability to make the move but the question is how quickly he could learn the position having been an outfielder his whole major league career.

– Yandy Diaz (.263 – 0 – 13)

Yandy Diaz is a darkhorse candidate for the position. He is currently in line to start at third base next season. Should the Indians choose to add a third baseman either via trade or free agency this offseason Diaz is certainly capable of making the move across the diamond.

 

There are a few intriguing options on the free agent market. Let’s take a look at the top available free agents at the first base position.

– Eric Hosmer (.318 – 25 – 94) – Kansas City

At the top of the free agent list is all-star Eric Hosmer. He is coming off of a fine season which saw him hit .318 and win his first silver slugger award. Defensively it doesn’t get much better than Hosmer as he won his fourth gold glove award. The big issue with signing Hosmer is money. He will most certainly demand a salary that is out of the Indians price range. Never say never though as nobody expected them to sign Edwin Encarnacion last offseason.

– Logan Morrison (.246 – 38 – 85) – Tampa Bay

Logan Morrison is coming off of a power packed 2017 season as he slugged 38 homers for the Rays. He held his own defensively in the 124 games he played at first base. This was a breakout season for Morrison as he hit only 42 homeruns combined the previous three seasons. Was is a fluke or has he turned the corner?

– Yonder Alonso (.266 – 28 – 67) – Oakland / Seattle

Yonder Alonso was a solid producer offensively in 2017 with the Athletics and Mariners. Given the openings at first base around the league Alonso should get himself a decent contract.

– Lucas Duda (.217 – 30 – 64) – New York Mets / Tampa Bay

Lucas Duda played 92 games at first base in 2017 most of which came with the Mets before being traded to Tampa Bay. Duda’s power numbers were solid as he slugged 30 homers but only batted .217 for the season including only .175 with Tampa Bay.

– Mitch Moreland (.246 – 22 – 79) – Boston

Mitch Moreland was a bit of a disappointment last season in Boston. With the short fence in right field at Fenway it was thought that Moreland could strive with his power numbers. He hit only 10 homers in 77 games at Fenway.

– Mark Reynolds (.267 – 30 – 97) – Colorado

Mark Reynolds put together a solid 2017 season with the Rockies hitting 30 homers and just missing 100 RBI with 97. He played 137 games at first and did a solid job defensively. The biggest question is how inflated were his numbers playing at Coors Field?

– Mike Napoli (.193 – 29 – 66) – Texas

A Mike Napoli reunion with the Indians is not out of the realm of possibility. Last season with Texas he hit 29 homeruns but only batted .193 striking out 163 times in 425 at bats. Defensively Napoli is always solid at first base. Napoli was a fan favorite and clubhouse leader in his 2016 season with the Tribe.

 

On the horizon is power hitting prospect Bobby Bradley who hit .251 with 23 homers and 89 RBI in 131 games with the AA Akron Rubberducks. Bradley should start the season at AAA Columbus and is still at least another year away from seeing time in the big leagues.

 

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