Offseason Transactions Shuffle Possible Tribe Roster

Some 2017 talent heads elsewhere while fresh faces bring big league experience

After signing a minor league deal with the Pirates, veteran catcher Ryan Lavarnway could sport a Tribe uniform in 2018. (Photo by Mike Strasinger/Nashville Sounds)

By Blake Baker / Indianapolis Indians | February 8, 2018 9:40 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS - Less than one week from the start of Spring Training, the Indianapolis Indians wrap up an offseason full of roster moves. The Tribe's MLB affiliate, the Pittsburgh Pirates, traded away two All-Stars but added several names to the non-roster invite list to Bradenton, many of whom are expected to play in Indianapolis in 2018.

TOP TALENT TRADED

January saw Pittsburgh trade right-handed starter Gerrit Cole to the defending World Series champion Houston Astros for third baseman Colin Moran, right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, and outfield prospect Jason Martin. Two days later, Andrew McCutchen became the newest San Francisco Giant when the Pirates agreed to trade him and cash for reliever Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.

The young outfielders have drawn interest since starting their careers, and each are among the Pirates' top 20 prospects. 

Bryan Reynolds: Reynolds is intriguing scouts as he ranks number four on Pittsburgh's top prospects list. The 23-year-old switch-hitter played 121 games with High-A San Jose, finishing with a .312 batting average. A former Vanderbilt standout, Reynolds also recorded 47 multi-hit games, including 16 games with three or more hits and a season-high 17-game hitting streak. Scouts also note his speed in the outfield as he posted a .982 total fielding percentage from all three outfield spots.

Jason Martin: Primarily a left fielder with Double-A Corpus Christi, Martin received the non-roster invite to Bradenton as the organization's 19th-best prospect. Drafted at 17 years old, Martin had breakout seasons in 2016 and '17. Last season in 125 appearances for High-A Buies Creek and Corpus Christi, he notched career highs in batting average (.278), hits (132), and doubles (35). The speedy outfielder also drew 39 walks and stole 16 bases while committing just two errors defensively. 

DEPARTURES

The Indians will be without some big names from last season to start the 2018 campaign. Perhaps most notably, two of the most productive first basemen from the 2017 squad elected free agency this offseason; Edwin Espinal landed in the Tigers' system while Joey Terdoslavich is still available as a free agent. 

Edwin Espinal: He earned Eastern League mid and postseason All-Star honors with Double-A Altoona and was named an organizational All-Star for Pittsburgh by MiLB.com after last season. Appearing in the heart of the lineup during his time in Indianapolis, Espinal's hot bat in August proved critical in the Indians' run at an International League West Division title. During that month, the 24-year-old Dominican turned in 31 hits and 11 RBI as well as a .316 average. His success on offense and defense, where he showed off an impressive glove (no errors in 35 games), contributed to 18 wins in August and a trip to the postseason. Espinal's shimmering 1.000 fielding percentage between Altoona and Indy resulted in his first MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award. 

Joey Terdoslavich: No one played more games at first base for the Tribe than Terdoslavich a season ago. The eighth-year man out of Long Beach State recorded 27 multi-hit games in 2017 and the second-best batting average among the team's league qualifiers. His 29 hits with runners in scoring position resulted in 47 RBI, the fourth-best mark on the team. With the departure of two productive first basemen, the position will be an area of transition for manager Brian Esposito entering his first season. 

Danny Ortiz: After a stellar 2017 season in Indianapolis, Ortiz joined Philadelphia's farm system in free agency. The 28-year-old outfielder contributed 63 RBI last season, the most on the team, and his 46 extra-base hits tied for the team lead as well. Though 15 homers in 2017 is a slight step back from 17 in each of the two prior seasons, Ortiz belted double-digit home runs for the eighth time in his career. Not to mention he posted his lowest strikeout total since rookie ball. All things considered, it's no wonder he received an invite to Phillies' spring training on a minor league deal.

Gift Ngoepe: In 2017, the South African made a name for himself after a killer spring training and made headlines in April as the first African-born player to make an MLB debut. This season, however, Ngoepe will begin the spring in a Blue Jays uniform. Serving as a versatile infielder for Indianapolis a season ago by splitting time between third base and the two middle infield spots, Ngoepe knocked 58 hits, scored 33 runs, and drove in 27 through 77 games with the Indians. He currently sits on Toronto's 40-man roster entering the spring.

Drew Hutchison: In an offseason full of additions on the mound, one of last year's midseason All-Stars in Indianapolis elected free agency after a successful season. The right-handed starter appeared in 28 games and threw for an even 9-9 record. His 124 strikeouts gave him the second-best total on staff, and the 27-year-old surrendered just a .167 opposing average with runners in scoring position. His solid run in August, when he boasted a 1.91 ERA and nearly three strikeouts for every walk, came during a crucial stretch for the Indians.

Brandon Cumpton: He started 2017 in High-A Bradenton and finished in Indianapolis, but now the righty reliever will begin the season with the Texas Rangers. Cumpton entered 24 games in relief in 2017 with only five appearances for the Indians. Some of his best numbers all year came in his time with Indianapolis as the former ninth-round pick posted a 1.20 WHIP and .217 opponent batting average. The organizational journeyman also forced three ground balls for every fly ball in his stint with the Indians last year.

More departures from 2017: RHP Johnny Barbato, UTL Anderson Feliz, LHP Wade LeBlanc, OF Justin Maffei, LHP Dan Runzler, RHP Angel Sanchez, LHP Daniel Zamora (italics = did not play for Indy in 2017)

ADDITIONS

The Indians kick off 2018 with two of last year's three All-Stars now playing outside the organization. However, several players with big league experience could call Indianapolis home in April.

Ryan Lavarnway: The 30-year-old catcher made appearances for Triple-A Nashville and its parent club, the Oakland A's, last season. He saw decent results at the plate in 82 games at Nashville as he hit .239 and slugged .341. More significant contributions came defensively as he touted a .987 fielding percentage, allowed a mere seven passed balls, and caught a runner stealing 12 times. Lavarnway will likely split time behind the plate with Jacob Stallings in Indianapolis but could see some time in Pittsburgh as one of four at the position to be included on the non-roster invite list to Bradenton.

Todd Cunningham: After Ortiz's departure, outfield depth became a mild concern for the Pirates. Enter Cunningham, who signed with Pittsburgh on a minor league deal in December. The switch-hitter recorded 83 hits in the Pacific Coast League in 2017, 44 coming from the leadoff spot. Cunningham also drew 29 walks and smacked all four of his homers while batting first in the lineup. The reliable center fielder has seen three stints in the majors, mainly with Atlanta, and joins Reynolds and Martin as outfielders who received non-roster invites to spring training next week.

Richard Rodriguez: A hard-throwing right-hander, Rodriguez adds even more organizational depth to the bullpen. He pitched 5.2 innings in relief for Baltimore in 2017, but his 42 games in Norfolk gave the Pirates reason to extend a minor league deal. Utilizing a mid-90s fastball, the Dominican compiled a 4-4 record for the Tides out of the 'pen as well as 10 saves, not to mention 80 strikeouts compared to just 18 walks.

Josh Smoker: When the Pirates traded Zamora to the New York Mets for the 29-year-old Smoker, the Bucs completed their 40-man roster entering spring training. Smoker, who the Mets designated for assignment a week ago, appeared in just over 56 innings as a reliever in 2017. The southpaw delivered 68 strikeouts, but also walked 32 batters and allowed 32 earned runs. He found more success at the minor league level, ending seven games for three different clubs with a 1.93 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00. With inclusion on the 40-man roster to begin the spring, Smoker could soon find his way onto Pittsburgh's bullpen staff.

Bo Schultz: Coming off Tommy John surgery, Schultz hasn't pitched since 2016, but was not far removed from his best pro season at the time of his injury. In 2015, Schultz tossed 31 strikeouts and logged a career-best 3.56 ERA in 43 innings for Toronto. He even made 16 appearances a year later before surgery kept him sidelined. The 32-year-old reliever has pitched in the minors since 2008 and adds some MLB experience to a platoon of younger bullpen arms this spring.

More additions for 2018: RHP Nick Burdi, RHP Tyler Jones, RHP Damien Magnifico, RHP Jordan Milbrath, OF Daniel Nava, RHP John Stilson, LHP Nik Turley

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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