CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Albert Einstein once referred to compound interest as the most powerful force in the universe, but what about mutual interest?
It is that force, mutual interest, that could be the turning point for the Cleveland Indians this off-season, and possibly their window of contention.
Multiple reports coming out of the winter meetings say that the Indians offered free agent first baseman Carlos Santana a 3-year, $36 million deal that was not enough to bring him back. It should not have been.
The bigger news came from Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes, who reported that Santana’s agents will give the Indians the opportunity to counter any deal offered to their client. Santana has long indicated his desire to remain in Cleveland, and the front office will have every opportunity to keep him there.
Jon Heyman of Fanrag Sports reports that the Indians are willing to go higher than their $36 million offer, as they should, and as they will have to while competing against the likes of Boston, San Diego, Texas, and Philadelphia.
While the Red Sox, Rangers and Phillies all have plenty of capability to outgun the Indians monetarily, it will more likely be the addition of years that will entice Santana, who will be 32 shortly after opening day.
No team is going to offer their Godfather effort on their first offer, and the Indians would likely be able to go somewhere near $45 million if they really wanted to retain Santana. But the likelihood of a small-market team offering that fourth year is where the difference is.
Edwin Encarnacion is locked in over the next two years at $37 million, with a $20 million club option for 2020, when he will be 37.
The Indians obviously made that deal with Santana’s pending free agency in mind, but it would seem silly for that small-market team to be locked into upwards of $35 million to a 37- and 34-year-old beyond 2020. Not to mention, by then power-hitting first base prospect Bobby Bradley would definitely be ready, if still with the club.
At an extremely sub-premium position, there are few reasons for the Indians to tie their hands on aging players. One of those few reasons just happens to be winning now.
There are options available at the position, with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reporting the Indians have tested the waters trade talks for former Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams. The 29-year-old had a career year with the rebuilding Braves, slashing .274/.319/.522 with a 1.6 fWAR, worth $12.8 million according to Fangraphs.
Adams still has one year of arbitration after making $2.8 million in 2017, and would cost relatively little relative to Santana’s value. The Indians could then reassess their first base spot for 2019 when Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall hit free agency.
If the bigger guns outprice the Indians on Santana, there is a chance they can retain him on a hometown discount. They likely will not match a fourth year, with shorter-term options available.