Inbox: Will Chisenhall start season in Majors?
Indians beat reporter fields queries on promising third baseman
The offseason can often be an unpredictable beast for a baseball writer. A seemingly harmless trip to the grocery store can turn chaotic when news breaks, press releases land, stories are required and quotes are suddenly sought.
Sometimes it seems as though the baseball gods are conspiring against you, too. Consider the time two winters ago -- back during my days in Toronto -- when serious back pain landed me in a doctor's office. Of course, that precise moment was when news broke that Roy Halladay (appropriately nicknamed "Doc") was being traded to the Phillies.
A few days ago, I was going through the evening routine of reading some books to my son at bedtime, while my wife was out with a girlfriend watching some teenage vampire movie that apparently is all the rage. While I spun a tale about an old lady swallowing a fly, my cell phone began to buzz with news that the Indians were in contract talks with Grady Sizemore.
I tucked in my son, said goodnight and went to work.
This is our life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It is a winter storm before a Spring Training calm. It is a whirlwind that has writers -- like baseball fans -- counting down the days until the next season begins. The last leaves are falling. Snow will soon be coming, along with plenty more offseason moves.
Here is this week's Indians Inbox ...
Are third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and second baseman Jason Kipnis going to start the year in the Majors or Minors? If they're not with the Indians on Opening Day, who do you see starting the season at those positions?
--Menachem I., Monsey, N.Y.
The way things look right now, second base appears to be Kipnis' job to lose. He hasn't been guaranteed the Opening Day job, but he made an immediate impact on the Tribe this past season and will head into Spring Training as the leading candidate for the starting second base job.
Chisenhall was rushed to the Majors a tad sooner than Cleveland would've preferred last season and he had an up-and-down showing in the big leagues. That said, the Indians were very encouraged with how Chisenhall finished the season, especially given the strides he made against left-handed pitching.
I'd say Chisenhall would be the more likely of the two to start at Triple-A. Cleveland feels he still needs to improve his plate discipline and the third baseman's defense continues to be an area in need of further development.
Barring an offseason addition at third base, though, the most likely scenario at the moment has both Chisenhall and Kipnis in the starting lineup for the Indians come Opening Day. If for some reason one or both of them are not in that mix, Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan could fill second and third base, respectively.
How are the Indians going to sign a right-handed bat this offseason? Will it be via free agency or trades? Or can someone within the organization be that option the Tribe is looking for?
--Kenny K., Elyria, Ohio
One internal option -- often mentioned in this space -- is Shelley Duncan. He has the potential to help at first base or in left field, which are both areas of need. As for the alternatives, Cleveland is exploring both free agency and trades. I spoke with general manager Chris Antonetti on Monday, and he said it remains too early to say whether a signing or a trade was more likely.
As I've also written before, I believe too much is made of Cleveland's need for a right-handed hitter. The Indians have two solid switch hitters in Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera and Progressive Field is a stadium that plays better for left-handed hitters. Sure, the Tribe could use some legitimate right-handed power, but adding more power in any shape or form seems more important.
Is there any chance the Tribe will consider Aramis Ramirez? Why not try for him?
--Daniel Z., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
The only way I could see Ramirez being a fit is if he were willing to switch to first base.
I know this would be a long shot, but do you see the Indians trying to reunite with Victor Martinez? He still has a few years left in his contract with the Tigers but we know he could help the Indians at first base, catcher and designated hitter.
--Jordan S., Findlay, Ohio
It's not going to happen. Besides, you just described the precise role currently filled by Santana, who just finished his first full season in the Majors with the Tribe. Santana will catch, play first and get a few nods as a DH. His potential as a middle-of-the-order power threat remains strong.
Michael Cuddyer is one of my favorite non-Indians. He would be a great fit for the Tribe. What are the chances of signing him?
--Jeffrey C., West Lafayette, Ohio
The thin crop of free-agent outfielders made the chances of a Cuddyer-to-Cleveland contract slim from the beginning. The market is such that teams likely would need to overpay in order to land one of the better available outfielders. Now, with the Tribe reportedly on the cusp of re-signing Sizemore, it seems such a signing is incredibly unlikely. Cleveland could still benefit from adding outfield depth, but probably not through high-priced free agents.
Do you think there would be any chance of the Tribe getting C.J. Wilson and maybe moving Justin Masterson to the bullpen?
--Kevin T., Charlotte, N.C.
No and no. The Indians' rotation appears to be set with Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona and Derek Lowe. Even if the starting five were not already established, Wilson's asking price will be far too rich for the Tribe. As for Masterson, he emerged as one of the most promising arms in the American League last year. He's a solid sinkerballer with a workhorse mentality and he's in the rotation to stay.
Can I have an update on Shin-Soo Choo please?
--Gary B., Cleveland
Hey, anything for you, Gary. The expectation is that Choo will be completely recovered from his 2011 injury woes (left thumb and left oblique) come Spring Training. He's still considered an integral part of Cleveland's lineup and will be in right field for the team in 2012. The Tribe believes his struggles last season were more of anomaly than a downward trend.
I have been seeing a lot of questions concerning the Indians' outfield. What about Kosuke Fukudome? He brought good hitting to the Indians' lineup. Do you think the Tribe will sign him for next season? P.S. He has the best name.
--Ian L., Akron, Ohio
The Indians were thrilled with Fukudome's contributions down the stretch last season, but healthy returns for Choo and Michael Brantley, combined with the expected re-signing of Sizemore, make it doubtful that he'd be in the Tribe's 2012 plans.
If it makes you feel any better, the Indians still have some pretty good names in the fold (Asdrubal, Fausto, Ubaldo, Shin-Soo, etc).