The conference call was supposed to be about their newest infielder, but their best player stole the show.
Antonetti fielded multiple questions about trade talks for Francisco Lindor and his future in Cleveland. He wouldn’t elaborate on specific negotiations, but made it clear that he thinks Lindor will be a member of the Indians organization in 2020.
“I still have every expectation that Francisco will be our shortstop Opening Day,” Antonetti said. “I’m more confident today in saying that, as more of the offseason has passed.”
Lindor is available if the right offer comes along. The Indians are willing to trade the four-time All-Star, but their asking price is “sky-high” according to multiple sources. Organizations like the Reds and Dodgers have shown interest in Lindor, but it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll be back with the Tribe this season.
Antonetti believes the Indians can compete in 2020 with their current roster. The addition of Hernández means that their starting infield is set. Oscar Mercado is expected to remain in center field and they like the additions they've made so far this offseason.
Bringing in a free agent outfielder would make sense. Reuniting with fan favorite Yasiel Puig should be on the table. He was a good fit in the Indians’ clubhouse and seemed to impress manager Terry Francona after joining the team in July. Is he willing to sign a short-term deal? The longer he’s a free agent, the more likely a reunion becomes.
Antonetti declined to comment specifically about Puig, but did say the team is open to adding talent in free agency.
“We’ll always continue to examine opportunities to improve the team and see what those might be moving forward, but we do feel pretty good about where we are,” he said.
One outfielder that could make an impact in the big leagues this season is Daniel Johnson. The 24-year-old posted a .290/.261/.507 slash line in 123 minor league games last season. He spent most of his time in Columbus and joined the organizations top prospect — Nolan Jones — in the Future’s Game during the All-Star break.
Jones, 21, underwent surgery on his right thumb in October. He’s expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of Spring Training. Jones could still be a year or two away from being a significant contributor for the Indians, but they love his potential.
“We feel he’s a really good all-around baseball player,” Antonetti said. “Offensively, he has a history of controlling the strike zone. As a switch-hitter, (he’s) productive from both sides of the plate.
“We think he has a chance to contribute to the team in a variety of ways: offensively, defensively and on the bases, and think he’ll fit really well in our clubhouse. He was a target for us from very early on in the offseason.”
Hernández posted a .279/.333/.408 slash line in Philadelphia last season, finishing with 15 home runs and 71 RBI.
The Indians also traded catcher Eric Haase to the Tigers for cash considerations. Haase was designated for assignment to make room for Hernández on the 40-man roster.