Santana expected to return to Tribe next season

CLEVELAND — Fresh off a World Series appearance, the Cleveland Indians want to hang on to one of the players who got them there.

The team is expected to pick up their $12 million contract option on slugger Carlos Santana for next season. An announcement could come as early as Friday.

Santana hit a career-high 34 homers and drove in 87 runs this season as the Indians got to the Series for the first time since 1997. They had a 3-1 lead over Chicago before losing two straight at home to the Cubs, who won their first championship since 1908.

Cleveland had until five days after the final out to exercise their 2017 option on the 30-year-old Santana.

Manager Terry Francona used Santana primarily as his designated hitter this season with Mike Napoli taking over at first.

Santana has developed into a dependable middle-of-the-order run producer the Indians lacked for many seasons. The switch-hitter has batted leadoff and as deep as sixth in Francona’s lineup.

With Napoli eligible for free agency this winter, the Indians wanted to make sure they also hung on to Santana, who has walked at least 99 times in each of the past three seasons. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Indians are about singing Napoli, who also hit 34 homers during the regular season but struggled in the playoffs and the 35-year-old batted just .167 in the World Series.

The Indians can negotiate with him exclusively before free agency begins.

When the club signed Napoli in January, Santana willingly accepted the move to DH and he volunteered to play left field in Wrigley Field during the Series when the Indians had to play by National League rules.