Posted on November 4, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Cleveland Indians Carlos Santana

Image via espn.com

After falling one game short of a world championship this year, the Cleveland Indians are hoping to keep much of their roster in tact for next season, setting them up for another deep postseason run in 2017. On Friday, the Indians took the first step towards retaining many of the key players by picking up the $12 million option on slugger Carlos Santana for 2017.

Santana had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016, hitting .259 with a career-high 34 home runs. He was a force in the middle of Cleveland’s lineup who also spent time in the leadoff spot when called upon. Santana split time between DH and first base, and even played a little left field during the World Series when the Indians needed to get his bat in the lineup.

“Carlos’ team-first effort was there throughout this season,” said Indians GM Mike Chernoff. “Carlos has contributed a tremendous amount over his time with the organization. He’s a huge part of who we are, and we’re happy to bring him back for next year and continue that for another year.”

Chernoff also praised manager Terry Francona for his use of Santana. “All the buttons Tito pushed seemed to be right,” Chernoff said. “That sort of goes to the open-mindedness of Tito. He tapped into our analytics department to kind of research that for him, and [it’s a credit] also to our players’ willingness to do what was best for the team.”

With Santana on board in 2017, the next step for the Indians may be to bring back Mike Napoli, keeping the Santana-Napoli tandem that carried Cleveland’s offense for stretches this season in tact for another year. Napoli is a free agent this winter after signing with the Indians for $7 million before the season, although with incentives Napoli will end up making close to $10 million during a productive 2016 campaign in which he set a career-high with 34 home runs.

The Indians are expected to make Napoli a qualifying offer of $17.2 million, as the team would like to see Napoli return to Cleveland. Napoli has also expressed interest in returning to Cleveland, but he will also be cognizant that he will likely receive multi-year offers if he hits the open market, despite turning 35 during the World Series.

While a guarantee of $17.2 million for one year sounds appealing to someone in Napoli’s position, he may turn down the qualifying offer if he thinks he can get more guaranteed money as part of a long-term deal. This could entice the Indians to act quickly to re-sign him during their exclusive negotiating window, which ends on Tuesday.

In addition to Napoli, re-signing outfielder Rajai Davis also appears to be a priority for the Indians, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the health of Michael Brantley, who missed most of 2016 with a shoulder injury and is far from a guarantee to be healthy in 2017. Of course, even if Napoli and Davis don’t return to Cleveland, the Indians would appear to be one of the best teams in the American League heading into 2017, at least on paper.

“We believe we’re in a position to contend for a while,” said Indians President Chris Antonetti. “I think one of the things we’re most encouraged about is the nucleus of our team will be here for the foreseeable future. We are potentially losing two guys in Raj and Mike, but beyond that we’ve got a lot of guys that are going to be here for a while, and that was a group of guys who found a way to win a lot of games this year.”

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