Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley, Josh Tomlin, Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, Andrew Miller, Melky Cabrera, Raja Davis, Brandon Guyer, Oliver Perez and Josh Donaldson could be free agents at the end of the World Series. Carrasco and Bauer are the only players with club options for 2019.
The reality of that change hit home Monday after the Indians were swept out of the ALDS in three games by the Houston Astros. Houston completed the sweep with an emphatic 11-3 victory at Progressive Field.
Tomlin, Brantley and Jason Kipnis sat in a far corner of the locker room after the game. They talked quietly and seemed in no hurry to leave. They'll be cleaning out their lockers in the next few days, but while Kipnis is signed through 2019 with a club option for 2020, Tomlin and Brantley may not be coming back.
Players like Tomlin, Brantley, Kipnis and Chisenhall, who was not with the team in September or the postseason, have played together for a long time. They went to the World Series in 2016, reached Game 7 and fell short. They believed they had the talent to finish the job, but it didn't happen.
"It really would have been something special to finish it off (win the World Series) with the guys who have been here a long time because of how close we've gotten," said Kipnis. "That's why it's such a letdown. We've become a product of the high standards we've set around here, which makes it even more disappointing."
This is the second straight year the Indians have been eliminated in the ALDS, and the first year they've been swept in the postseason since the 1954 World Series.
"When you win a three division titles in a row and you keep going to the playoffs year after year, just getting there doesn't seem to be enough anymore," said Kipnis.
Kipnis said he doesn't know if he'll be back next year. The Indians tried to trade him last winter and his name came up again at the trade deadline in July and August.
Asked if he had an idea what the 2019 Indians would look like, Kipnis said, "Fortunately, that's not part of my job description. There will be questions a lot of guys in the front office have to answer. I'll be waiting to see if my name gets called, just like last offseason."
Regarding Monday's sweep, Kipnis said the Astros were just better.
"We were just outplayed," he said. "I wish it weren't that simple. It just seems from top to bottom we were out-scouted, out-pitched, out-coached a little bit. They really did just a fantastic job over there of being ready and prepared before the series.
"I don't think we were underprepared; they just went out and executed and played the way you need to play to win."
Brantley, like Kipnis, Tomlin and Chisenhall, has spent his whole big-league career in Cleveland. The Indians acquired him as part of the CC Sabathia deal in 2008. He's spent nine-plus seasons with the Indians.
"It's been an honor to wear this uniform," said Brantley.
Should Brantley sign elsewhere, he felt the Indians were well positioned to continue to dominate the rebuilding AL Central.
"This organization is in great hands," said Brantley. "You look around this room. They've got phenomenal leaders still, great players. They're going to be good for a long time. I hope to be a part of it."
The Indians' starting rotation of Corey Kluber, Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger should be back next year. So will Shane Bieber, who was scheduled to start Game 4 on Tuesday if the Indians had managed to win Monday's game, and Adam Plutko.
The Tribe holds club options on Carrasco for 2019 and 2020. They are expected to exercise the 2019 option in November.
Infielders Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Yonder Alonso, Yandy Diaz and Kipnis are expected to return next year. So, will catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. The bullpen and outfield will need a lot of help.
The Indians acquired relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from San Diego in July. They traded for center fielder Leonys Martin from Detroit, but he was stricken by a bacterial infection that ended his season. Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin will be available, but Bradley Zimmer is not expected to be available as he continues to recover from right shoulder surgery.
Cody Allen loves the culture the Indians have developed throughout the organization.
"This organization has done a good job of putting some pretty good teams on the field without making the big free-agent splashes," he said. "I know we went out and got Eddie (Encarnacion) and we've made some very good trades, but guys like Jose Ramirez, Frankie Lindor, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco — the backbones and the core and the centerpieces of this club — either came up in this organization or they got traded for in the minor leagues and were developed. This organization's going to be just fine with or without whoever the guys are that are free agents."
Allen, who set the franchise record in saves this year, was disappointed with his season, especially in the ALDS.
"You don't want to take getting into the playoffs for granted," he said. "I was not good. I was not good, and I feel bad for the guys who were extremely good this year and carried us to this point. I did not help in getting past a very, very good team in Houston. We knew we were going to have to play our best baseball and we didn't. . .and I didn't it."
Allen said he'd love to stay with the Indians, but that was a decision for later. If Monday was his last game in Cleveland, well, he was still processing that.
"It will take a few days probably," he said. "Right now, I'm just kind of numb to it all. This city. . .means a lot to my family and I. But guys move on. Carlos Santana was here forever and he moved. But, I mean, these places, they become home. My son was born here. So, we'll see."