CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer have still not left the building.
The top two starters in a talent-laden Indians rotation have reportedly been dangled as trade bait all offseason, but team president Chris Antonetti has yet to locate the right deal or the team ultimately won’t trade one, both or either of their All-Star right-handers.
Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, is scheduled to make an appearance at Tribe Fest today — the annual interactive fan event at Progressive Field.
As is Bauer, who spoke with reporters — albeit briefly — Friday from Cleveland’s clubhouse.
Bauer, who is arbitration eligible after winning his case to earn $6.52 million this year, said hearing his name in trade rumors hasn’t made for a difficult offseason.
“That’s gonna be my career. I’m gonna be on one-year deals the whole time, so you get used to it,” he said. “Ultimately, nothing changes. You work on getting better, work on becoming a better pitcher, throwing harder, being in better physical shape, developing a new pitch, being smarter or whatever. And then you show up for the season and wherever I’m at, try to be better.”
The Indians announced Friday they signed All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor to a one-year deal for $10.55 million to avoid arbitration, but no deal was worked out with Bauer. Lindor made $643,200 last season.
Bauer ended Friday’s interview and walked out of the clubhouse when a reporter asked about a recent Twitter harassment allegation against him by an Astros fan.
He offered an explanation Wednesday, tweeting that he would “wield the responsibility of my public platform more responsibly in the future.” ESPN did a segment on the story Friday.
Fellow rotation mate and friend Mike Clevinger defended Bauer.
“In my opinion, looking from the outside in, I think it’s a guy that’s being very, very vocal about what’s on his mind,” Clevinger said. “A lot of people want the freedom of everything, but people don’t like opinions at the same time.
“That’s the world we live in, it’s 2019. You can identify as whatever you want now and get mad at everything you want and tell people to act this way or act that way. All they’re doing is putting weirder or stranger guidelines on it. If you want to see the person, you want to meet him or know him, just let him be himself.”
It appeared a foregone conclusion that at least one of the star pitchers would be on the move when a report shortly into the offseason indicated that the Indians, who are in need of assistance in the outfield and bullpen, were willing to listen to offers for both.
But after reports of talks with a number of teams including the Dodgers, Padres and Reds before and after the Winter Meetings on Dec. 9-13, there has been nothing significant on the trade front.
Though they lost a ton of talent this offseason in Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso and likely Cody Allen, the Indians will enter next season as the favorite to win their fourth straight Central Division title.
Much of the reason for that is a star-studded rotation headline by Kluber and Bauer.
The Indians traded All-Star Yan Gomes to Tampa Bay this offseason, which means Roberto Perez will begin 2019 as the starting catcher.
Perez and Gomes were expected to split time last year, but Gomes was the regular, excelling offensively, while Perez batted only .168 with two home runs and 19 RBIs in 62 games.
“I’m excited, man,” Perez said. “I think I’m gonna prove some people wrong. I think I’m ready for the opportunity, for the challenge. Whatever happens, whatever it takes, I’m there. I can’t wait to get going.”
Cleveland acquired Kevin Plawecki from the Mets to serve as Perez’s backup.
Back from the brink
It couldn’t have gone any worse for Leonys Martin once he was dealt to Cleveland at the trading deadline last year.
Shortly into his Indians career, Martin developed a bacterial infection that not only ended his season, but threatened his life.
“Everybody knows about what I went through last year,” Martin said. “It was a really tough moment for me, my family, my teammates, but things happen in life. Everything’s over. It’s a new year, more opportunities and I’m happy to be back with the team to keep doing what I love to do.”
Martin, a career .248 hitter over six seasons, is expected to open the season as the starter in center field.
Martin might have had some competition in center, but it’s unlikely Bradley Zimmer, the Indians’ first-round draft pick in 2014, will be ready when the season begins.
Zimmer underwent surgery on his right shoulder in late July and was expected to be sidelined for 8-12 months. Ideally, he could return at some point during spring training.
“In a perfect world, I’d like to be healthy, ready to play by Day 1, because I believe I belong on this team and can contribute from the start of the season, but the timetable is not really in my hands,” Zimmer said.
Prior to the injury, Zimmer, who was the Opening Day starter in center, struggled, hitting .226 with two homers and nine RBIs in 34 games before being sent to the minors.
The Indians claimed right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole from the Yankees on Friday, bringing their 40-man roster to 39. Cole, 27, spent most of last season with the Yankees. He had a 4.26 ERA in 28 relief appearances, striking out 11.6 batters per nine innings. He started the season as the Washington Nationals’ fifth starter.
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