The Cleveland Indians are coming off a miserable 2012 season in which they went 68-94. They have been aggressive this offseason revamping the entire roster, while adding a little AL East flare. Will this aggressive approach result in more wins, and a postseason birth?
This much is clear in the Al Central, it is Detroit then everyone else. It seems safe to say Detroit figured it out late in the year last season, and has improved themselves yet again. For the rest of the division it seems to be a race for the wild card spots.
The first bold move was the hiring of Terry Francona. Francona brings instant credibility and respect to the dugout. With his two World Series rings, won during his Boston days, having Francona on board has helped the Indians land free agents they otherwise might have lost out on.
One of these free agents is 32 year old Nick Swisher who signed a four-year $56 million contract. Swisher brings 209 career home runs and a .256 career batting avg. He will bring some much needed power to the Indians line up. The Indians only managed 136 home runs and 635 RBI, both in the bottom third of the league.
General Manager Chris Antonetti signed first baseman Mark Reynolds, and right hander Brett Myers to one year deals. Antonetti and Francona hope Reynolds fills their hole at first base and Myers can help shore up the starting rotation. Recently they inked Jason Giambi to a no risk minor league contract.
Antonetti then made a deal for top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. They acquired Bauer from Arizona via in a three team nine player deal that also included the Cinncinati Reds. The Indians gave up Shin-Soo Choo(Reds) to help acquire Bauer. Choo was a fan favorite in Cleveland, but the chance to acquire a talent like Bauer was one Antonetti couldn’t pass up.
The biggest position battle will be within the pitching staff. The top three starters in the rotation seem solid as Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers. The fourth spot in the rotation also seems to be Zack McAllister;s to lose. The Indians look for Bauer to compete for the last spot in the rotation along with Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco.
The bullpen seems pretty set with the returns of All-Star closer Chris Perez, along with steady setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. The top relief candidates for the remaining four roles include right-handers Albers, Shaw, Cody Allen, Frank Herrmann and Matt Capps, as well as lefties Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, David Huff and Rich Hill.
The Indians have much room for improvement and Terry Francona himself has much to prove. He wants to redeem himself for how his tenure with the Red Sox ended. The Al Central seems like a wide open race after the Tigers. The Indians can make major moves this season and if Francona has the clubhouse the Indians are a viable wild card contender. By Steve Kish