With the deadline passing for declaration of minor league free agency, there is a very good chance that a fairly large group of athletes have seen the end of their time with Cleveland. Despite not playing the 2019 season, it still counted against minor league years of service and 15 players will test the market. While they could come back on a new deal, the Indians have done so only rarely in recent seasons (Nellie Rodriguez in 2019 was one exception). Below is a breakdown of those 15 players sorted into how they came to Cleveland.
2014 Indians Draft Picks
Since it has been seven years since the 2014 draft, it makes sense that the largest group of free agents came from that class. Of these, a pair of relievers will be the biggest loss, Argenis Angulo and Jared Robinson. Robinson is a hard throwing right hander who saw great success in 2019 in Akron, but wasn’t able to replicate that success in Columbus or the Arizona Fall League. His primary problem in recent seasons was control. Angulo has a similar story as he was great in Akron in 2019, but struggled in AAA and the AFL later in that year.
The other pair from the 2014 draft were outfielder Jodd Carter and catcher Gianpaul Gonzalez. Gonzalez was always a glove first catcher and had trouble staying healthy enough to get on the field. In his six seasons, he played just 151 total games and hit .190/.269/.219 with only 19 games played above advanced A. Based on production, it’s a bit surprising he wasn’t released years ago, although the Indians lack of catching depth was probably the primary reason to keep him around.
Carter was a much stronger hitter with the Indians, smashing 42 home runs, 11 triples and 88 doubles in just over 500 games. He also played just a few games with Akron, however, and none above that level. Despite the Indians lack of outfield depth, Carter still wasn’t able to advance through the system, making his decision to leave a very understandable one.
2010, 2012 and 2013 International Free Agents
Firstly, Anderson Polanco, an international free agent from way back in 2010, retired following the 2019 season, but for some reason was declared a 2020 free agent. Slightly more recently, Kungkuan Giljegiljaw was signed in 2012 (as Li-Jen Chu) and made his debut in 2014 making him just eligible for free agency now. He is the most valuable player among the long time Indians on this list as a power hitting catcher. However, despite six seasons in the system and weak catching depth, he played just a handful of games in Columbus in 2018 and none in 2019. He was invited to MLB spring training in 2020, however, and I’d expect him to get a chance as some teams back-up catcher in 2021.
In addition to the two relievers gone from the 2014 draft, two quality relievers from the 2013 international free agent class are also heading to free agency. Randy Valladares (pictured at top) is a submarining lefty, an extremely rare sighting. After spending his first five seasons in short season ball (Mahoning Valley and Arizona), the Indians tried to catch him up quickly in 2019 as he jumped to Lynchburg where he had a very nice season. His delivery makes him so unique that, combined with his very high strike out rate, he is nearly certain to get a chance with another team.
Henry Martinez had a much quicker ascension as he reached AA in 2018, but struggled in Columbus in 2019. Despite his low level success, his lack of results in AAA kept him from cracking into the big leagues prior to this point. He added some extra velocity in recent seasons and was one of the hardest throwing Indians, making him an interesting add for a team looking for a bullpen depth project.
Minor League Free Agents
Every year every team adds a handful of minor league free agents to fill out rosters and add depth in spring training and those players often leave if they don’t make it to the big leagues. In this season, one is leaving despite getting such a shot. Domingo Santana was added to bolster the outfield last off-season and things didn’t go so well as he hit .157/.298/.286 in 24 games. The outfield still isn’t fixed, but Santana was certainly not the answer.
Joining him in free agency are fellow 2020 signings, Yojhan Quevedo and Cameron Rupp. Both were added as catching depth prior to the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season and thus never played in official games with Cleveland. Quevedo was one of two players on this list (the other being Giljegiljaw) to participate in the instructional league.
In a slightly different situation, first baseman Wilson Garcia was claimed off waivers in 2019 from the Phillies and spent the entire season in Akron. While he slugged a bit there, his advanced age made him a likely cut this off-season had he not become a free agent. In an odder situation, Anthony Gose joined the Indians as a minor league free agent in 2019 as a left handed pitcher following a moderate career as an outfielder with the Tigers. At 30 years old, he certainly stood out as a AA reliever, but he does have undeniable talent as a pitcher and a great metamorphosis story for any team wanting to give him a third chance.
The final two free agents for 2020 were brought in during recent seasons from Tampa Bay and Washington. Andruw Monasterio has been traded for big names twice, first going from Chicago to Washington for Daniel Murphy, then coming to Cleveland for Yan Gomes. He’s a decent fielding second baseman and a fair, but unexceptional hitter with a .256/.331/.320 line across 421 MiLB games culminating in Akron in 2019.
Hunter Wood should be more well known to Indians fans as he made 17 relief appearances in the big leagues in 2019 following his acquisition for outfielder Ruben Cardenas from the Rays. His departure means that the Indians now have nothing to show from that deal as Christian Arroyo was released in August and was claimed by the Red Sox.