Feeling the financial pinch from a shortened season, Cleveland declined Hand’s $10 million contract option on Friday and also chose not to exercise options for either first baseman Carlos Santana ($17.5 million) or outfielder Domingo Santana ($5 million).
The club did exercise its $5.5 million option for catcher Roberto Perez, who has been exemplary in handling one of the American League’s best pitching staffs.
The team owes buyouts of $1 million to Hand, $500,000 to Carlos Santana and $250,000 to Domingo Santana, who are all free agents.
Cleveland previewed the Hand decision on Thursday, when the club placed him on outright waivers, hoping another team might claim him so the Indians would avoid the buyout. The 30-year-old Hand led the majors with 16 saves; but after they were unable to find a trade partner, the Indians decided to move on without the left-hander.
“With Brad, it was a really difficult decision,” said Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations. “He’s been such a critical part of our team for the last few seasons. He did an extraordinary job in his role as a closer and also was a leader in the clubhouse, specifically within the bullpen group.
“In the end, we did take some time to explore the trade market for Brad and weren’t able to find a fit for him. Again, a very difficult decision.”
Antonetti had pointed toward the moves and a substantial cut in payroll earlier this month due to the team’s financial hit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB teams were not permitted to have fans at game in 2020.
There could be other, bigger moves this winter as the Indians consider trading All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor before his final season under contract. Antonetti isn’t sure what’s ahead at this point.
“It’s very early to tell, and I’m not sure it makes a whole lot of sense to forecast things,” he said. “What we’ve been focused on are the decisions we have in front of us and engaging with teams to help inform those decisions. That’s really where we’ve spent most of our energy.”
Hand was acquired by the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in 2018. In two-plus seasons with the Indians, he had 58 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 111 games. The left-hander went 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA and was 16-for-16 in save chances in the 60-game season.
Carlos Santana struggled in his second season back in Cleveland after leaving as a free agent in 2018. The switch-hitter batted a career-low .199 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 60 games. Antonetti said it’s possible the club could re-sign the 34-year-old Santana, who has spent 10 seasons with the Indians.
“We’d be open to anything,” Antonetti said. “In fairness to Carlos, he probably needs to take some time and examine what his alternatives might be and gain some additional information. It will be important for us to get a little bit more clarity as the offseason goes on, but we’ll stay in touch because, as you know, Carlos is near and dear to our hearts and has been such a huge part of our team for the better part of the last decade at this point.”
Perez was slowed by a shoulder injury for most the season, and the injury might have contributed to him batting just .165 with one homer and five RBIs in 32 games.
“We’re excited to have him back as a key component for us, and we’ve seen the difference he can make when he’s behind the plate and leading a pitching staff,” Antonetti said of Perez. “He’s also been able to put together productive offensive seasons when he’s been healthy, so we’re hopeful that will be the case again next year.”
Former All-Star reliever Corey Knebel, 29, traded by Milwaukee Brewers to Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Knebel, a 29-year-old reliever who was seemingly on his way to being let go by the Milwaukee Brewers, was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers moments before the non-tender deadline came and went on Wednesday night.
The reigning World Series champions will send a player to be named later or cash considerations to the Brewers in exchange for a former All-Star, who struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery but might possess some upside.
Knebel broke out with a 1.78 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 76 innings in 2017 but tore his ulnar collateral ligament in March 2019 and spent most of the next 16 months working his way back. His 2020 surface numbers — 6.08 ERA, 15 strikeouts, eight walks and a fastball that averaged less than 95 mph — were discouraging.
But the Dodgers saw signs of Knebel recapturing his old self when he returned from a hamstring injury in early September and believe there are other adjustments they can help him through to trigger a bounce-back season.
Knebel will be a free agent after the 2021 season and was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make a little over $5 million in his final year of arbitration.
Minnesota Twins non-tender Eddie Rosario
The Twins also decided to non-tender reliever Matt Wisler prior to MLB’s deadline. They reached one-year deals with five of their arbitration-eligible players: Jose Berrios ($500,000 signing bonus and $5.6 million salary), center fielder Byron Buxton ($5,125,000), reliever Tyler Duffey ($2.2 million), catcher Mitch Garver ($1,875,000) and reliever Caleb Thielbar ($650,000).
Rosario cleared waivers this week, another sign of the economic uncertainty around the industry.
“We very much appreciate everything Eddie has done up to this point. He’s been a big part of this team over the last number of years. So those are always difficult decisions. But he was a pro about it,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.
Though Rosario and Wisler were the only players on the 40-man roster not offered new contracts, Falvey said the team remains open to negotiating with them as free agents.
The 29-year-old Rosario made $7.75 million last season, batting .257 with 13 homers and 42 RBI with a .792 OPS in 57 games. He hit a career-high 32 homers with 109 RBI in 2019 and was voted the team’s most valuable player in 2018, but the club’s top prospects are in the outfield. Alex Kirilloff, a 2016 first-round draft pick, is likely ready for an everyday role after landing on the postseason roster. Brent Rooker and Trevor Larnach are close behind.
Rosario, who was eligible for his third and final year of arbitration that likely would have driven his salary over $10 million, became a free agent one season early. With the pandemic putting the squeeze on revenues and payrolls, Rosario, whose career on-base percentage is just .310, was a logical candidate to non-tender.
Wisler was a waiver claim success story for the Twins, posting a 1.07 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings after splitting the 2019 season with San Diego and Seattle. He made $725,000 in 2020.
The moves left only one player in the salary arbitration eligibility pool, closer Taylor Rogers, with two more months to reach an agreement before the Twins would be forced to go to a hearing. Rogers took a step back this season, compiling a 4.05 ERA in 21 appearances with nine saves and two blown chances. He made $4.45 million in 2020, after notching 30 saves with 90 strikeouts over 69 innings in 2019.
Berrios, a two-time All-Star, had a 4.00 ERA in 12 starts during the 60-game season to help the Twins win their second straight AL Central title. He made $4,025,000 in 2020.
Buxton battled injuries again but posted a career-best .844 OPS, with 13 homers in 39 games while providing elite defense in center field. He made $3,075,000 in 2020.
Duffey, who turns 30 on Dec. 27, had a career-best 1.88 ERA in 24 innings this year with 13 hits allowed and 31 strikeouts. Over the last two years, the right-hander has been a key late-game cog in Minnesota’s bullpen, logging a 2.31 ERA and 113 strikeouts over 81 2/3 innings with 57 hits allowed. He made $1.2 million in 2020.
Garver and Thielbar entered their first year of arbitration eligibility. After a breakout 2019 season with 31 homers in 93 games, Garver slumped in 2020 and spent much of the summer on the injured list.
In addition to Rosario and Wisler, the Twins have a long list of notable free agents: designated hitter Nelson Cruz, starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill, multi-positional player Marwin Gonzalez, relievers Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard, and backup catcher Alex Avila. Relief pitcher Trevor May signed with the New York Mets.
Tampa Bay Rays tender Tyler Glasnow, 6 other arbitration-eligible players
Right-hander Edgar García, who was not yet eligible for arbitration, was non-tendered and becomes a free agent.
Glasnow went 5-1 in 11 regular-season starts in 2020. The 6-foot-8 right-hander was 2-3 during the postseason, including a pair of losses in two World Series outings against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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