Several former Cleveland Indians could return to the team via free agency this offseason.
The Cleveland Indians had a clear window of contention that may come to an end with the eventual trade of Francisco Lindor at some point this offseason. The team nearly won it all in 2016 and started spending to chase a World Series, but now the focus appears to be on having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
That means getting rid of the top contracts and if veteran help is sought, it must come cheap. The Indians aren’t a franchise that is tanking, so some cheap veteran talent should be sought out as they try to follow the Tampa Bay Rays model and win at a low cost.
One option is to look at familiar names who have suited up in Cleveland before. A few players stand out as the Indians look to avoid a total rebuild beginning in 2021.
Which former Indians could return and upgrade the roster for next year?
3. Jason Kipnis
Kipnis was a true mainstay in Cleveland throughout the past decade. The Indians drafted him in 2009 and he was with the big league club from 2011-2019.
He then got a bit too expensive and was let go last year in favor of Cesar Hernandez at second base. Kipnis was able to land a minor league deal with his hometown Chicago Cubs and made the most of it, appearing in 44 games.
2020 was obviously a weird season and the Cubs are entering a new era with Theo Epstein leaving town. Kipnis is on the open market and the 33-year-old is now in search of a new team.
The Indians cut ties with Kipnis because he had a $16.5 million option for 2020. His value is now well below that mark and he could get a one-year deal worth a few million dollars to return to his old club. A minor-league deal is also an option, depending on if those will even be offered given the effects of COVID-19 on minor league baseball.
He is capable of holding down second base if the Indians want Jose Ramirez at third while top prospect Nolan Jones continues to develop. And while Kipnis is no longer playing at an All-Star level, he does have a career .333 on-base percentage and averages well over 20 doubles per season. He is once again a suitable option as develops younger talent.