Indians manager looking to improve at first and third next year

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The Indians recalled Matt LaPorta from Triple-A Columbus today, but it sounds like this could be his last chance to impress the brass in Cleveland.

Talking to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, manager Manny Acta said he needs better production from the infield corners next season:

“First and third base are positions where we should be looking into improving for next year, whether that’s within or from the outside.”

He’s absolutely right, of course.  Indians first basemen are 12th in the AL with a .748 OPS this year, while the team’s third basemen are 10th at .675.

The hope was that Lonnie Chisenhall would be an offensive upgrade from Jack Hannahan after getting the call to take over at the hot corner at the end of June, but the 22-year-old has hit just .226/.260/.377 in 146 at-bats to date, suggesting that he might need a little more Triple-A time next year.

The 26-year-old LaPorta has been a disappointment yet again, hitting .238/.289/.404 in 319 at-bats, and is likely running out of chances.  The Indians have gotten solid play from Carlos Santana at first base, but the team doesn’t want to commit to him there just yet.  It sounds like he’ll continue to get the majority of his starts at catcher again next season.

The Indians probably won’t want to spend a lot of money to address either position this winter, but they could go hunting for cheap veterans to hold down the fort.  Former Indians Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa could be couple of inexpensive possibilities.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.