Players Battling for Final Roster Spot
All winter long, we have praised the Indians for the amount of vertical depth they have acquired. Over the span of a couple of months, they successfully added a number of players on minor league deals to go along with players already in-house at various levels of the organization. This includes a number of minor league prospects and players already on the big league roster.
Here’s the thing, though. The Indians have acquired all of these players to fill one, or at the most two spots on the opening day roster. As it currently stands, the Indians roster is already ripe with players that we know will be on the roster to start the season. They are, in no particular order:
Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, David Murphy, Mike Aviles, and Yan Gomes. One additional player who is projected to be on the opening day roster is veteran slugger Jason Giambi. The spot is believed to be his as long as his wants it, or is physically able to fill the role of part-time designated hitter/pinch hitter.
For those of you counting, that is 11 players without Giambi and 12 if you include him. That means, the final roster spot(s) will be determined by two things – the previously mentioned status of Giambi and whether Terry Francona chooses to carry 12 pitchers or 13 pitchers on the 25-man roster.
Based on what we know about the status of Giambi and Francona’s affinity for him, let’s assume he is on the 25-man roster to begin the year. Now, for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the Indians break camp with only 12 pitchers. That leaves one final spot for a positional player to snag. Here are some of the most likely candidates:
- Jose Ramirez
- Nyjer Morgan
- Jeff Francoeur
- David Adams
- David Cooper
- Matt Treanor
- Matt Carson
- Elliot Johnson
- Bryan LaHair
- Tyler Naquin
- Francisco Lindor
Now, we can quickly eliminate the two prospects on this list, Naquin and Lindor. Neither player is ready to advance to the big league level and it is doubtful either would be promoted in order to assume a role on the bench. Due to concerns over service time and team control, neither is likely to advance to the big leagues until they are ready to play every day, especially Lindor.
Ultimately, the decision will be based on need. Which do the Indians need more, a fifth outfielder, an additional infielder, or a catcher? As things currently stand, the Indians current roster is already pretty flexible with the all of the possible scenarios in play:
Outfield: Murphy and Raburn can play both corner spots, Brantley can play center and left, Swisher can play right field, and Mike Aviles can play either corner spot in an emergency.
Infield: In addition to the regular starting lineup, it appears that Santana will be able to play first, third, and catcher. Aviles can play either second, third, or short. Raburn can spot start at either second or third.
As you can see, the Indians already have a remarkable amount of flexibility on the roster. That means that whoever wins the final roster spot is going to have to impress during spring training, because this is wide open.
If the Indians want an additional speed guy as a late inning pinch runner, they could go with Morgan or Ramirez. If they want to stick to the outfield, they could go with Francoeur, Morgan, LaHair, or Carson. On the Infield, they could roll the dice on Johnson, LaHair, Cooper, or Adams. If power is something they are looking for off of the bench, they could bring LaHair, Francoeur, or possibly even Adams or Cooper to Cleveland. If the end game is a third catcher (unlikely), then Treanor is their man.
In the end, this will more than likely turn into a battle for supremacy. One of these eligible candidates will have to make their case on the field and make it so convincing that there is no possible way the Indians could break camp without them. It’s that type of competition that can bring out the best in some players. Knowing that their major league lives are on the line, look for them to come out with the pedal to the metal.
What the Indians decide to do with their final roster spot is anyone’s best guess. As I mentioned earlier, they could decide to break camp with 13 pitchers and render this entire argument a moot point. But, if having a bit more flexibility with their everyday lineup is something they are looking for, then they have any number of candidates from which to choose.