With Thanksgiving ahead of us, and merry thoughts of Turkey and Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Pumpkin Pie dancing in my head, I’m actually feeling very good about Cleveland Sports in general, and Cleveland Indians in particular. Granted, the Browns and Cavaliers have matching 2-8 records, and the Indians are coming off their monumental signings of Matt Carson and Cedric Hunter, but I can overlook all of that in the grand scheme of things. I’m downright thankful to be a Cleveland fan.
No, the Indians haven’t done a thing to change my mind about their approach other than to hire Terry Francona as their manager, but this is always the part of the offseason where the opportunity to improve the team remains a clear possibility. Terry Francona’s hire seems to lend some credence to the Indians as they move forward, and while it remains to be seen whether or not the Indians are going to do anything, there’s hope that this offseason may redirect this team towards winning. It may not be in 2013, but there certainly seems to be a steadfast belief within the organization that things just might be put into place going forward that will begin to right a sinking ship.
I can start by being thankful that the Indians were able to hire Terry Francona, who was arguably the most viable managerial candidate in all of baseball heading into this offseason. Francona is only a manager, but you have to love the fact that he chose to come to Cleveland. He’s a credible baseball guy, and while he isn’t going to immediately bring in free agents with his name-power, and while he isn’t going to immediately change the direction of this team with his baseball knowledge, the ability to do both over time is there.
There lies the problem for the Indians. Do they have the time? The market for the Indians is incredibly finicky right now. The Indians are held to extremely high standards that they often can’t meet, so it remains to be seen if anyone will be given any amount of time to create a winner. Francona has tied himself to his good friends, Antonetti and team president, Mark Shapiro, and I really doubt that this is going to be a three-year project. Can Francona and this front office improve the team over the next couple of years?
Francona breeds hope, and with that, I’ll always be thankful. It’s a catch-22 with Francona though, as the front office remained intact. Chris Antonetti will really need to step up his game in a limited market, but Francona does make it interesting.
I’m thankful that Sandy Alomar Jr. is remaining with the Indians.
I would have been 100% content had the Indians hired Alomar to be their newest manager. By all indications, he’s one of the top names out there to become a manager, but just can’t get the right opportunity. His best chance came this year with the Tribe, and the only thing that kept him from getting the job was Francona. Now, the Indians will have two MLB-ready-managers running this team.
Alomar and Francona should make a nice tandem leading this team. When you throw in Brad Mills
, you have an extremely viable group of coaches leading this team. While I liked Manny Acta
, the on-field coaching staff seems to have taken a serious uptick in ability. Of course, that’s all a moot point if the on-field talent doesn’t improve.
I’m thankful that Matt LaPorta was taken off the 40-man roster, and while he is still a member of the Cleveland Indians, the writing is on the wall that he’ll be gone soon.
The Matt LaPorta experiment has been a grandiose failure. The fact that he makes Indians fans miss Ryan Garko
says it all really, don’t you think?
I’m thankful that while Matt LaPorta was such a dismal failure, Michael Brantley has been the complete opposite.
Much was made of that player to be named later back during the 2008 CC Sabathia
deal, with rumblings that third baseman Tayler Green, outfielder Lorenzo Cain
or shortstop Alcides Escobar
would be that player. The Brewers wouldn’t part with Escobar, and the Indians ultimately chose Brantley over Cain and Green. Did they get the right guy?
The only player on that list that’s worthy of mention with Brantley right now is Escobar, who was included in a deal to Kansas City with Lorenzo Cain for Zach Greinke. Cain also has seen some moderate success in the bigs, while Green is still a minor league player, who has only a couple of tastes of big league baseball over the past two seasons. Of course, careers are long, and Cain and Escobar (and even Green) could turn the world on its ear, but it’s fairly clear that the Indians picked the right player. Without Brantley, that Sabathia deal is a complete loss.
What does Brantley bring to the team? While not an elite outfielder (yet), he is a solid defender with better-than-average (definitely not elite) speed, who can get on base and score some runs. In other words, he’s everything you would want in a centerfielder. I know some would argue that point, but I’m certainly not one of them. When healthy, Brantley showcases outstanding skills, and you get the feeling that the 25-year-old is just on the verge of being the player that he will be.
I’m thankful for Jason Kipnis, because there just isn’t enough dirt on the field for him to get into.
You can say what you want about the second baseman’s 2012 season, but when you realize that his struggles were based in the fact that the rookie was trying to hoist the entire team on his shoulders will give you an indication of this kid’s mentality.
Kipnis is the epitome of the type of player that Terry Francona was, loves, and develops. Think Dustin Pedroia
. There really isn’t a whole lot of difference in make-up between the two, and you’ll see this style of play really develop.
When the Indians build a team in which Kipnis become a part of instead of the focus of, he’ll be the heart and soul of the team. What am I saying? He already is.
I’m thankful for Asdrubal Cabrera.
While most know that I’ve always been a big fan of Cabrera, I’m an even bigger fan of what he can bring us. There isn’t a bigger name on the free agent market than Cabrera, and since he’s tied up for two seasons, the Indians can play the cards right and get a decent haul. I know that the history doesn’t bode well for any team, let alone the Indians, with regards to the amount of talent the Indians get in return, but I do think there are some big guns looking to add a player of his caliber.
I would be shocked if he isn’t traded…and would be equally shocked if the Indians don’t get at least one plausible 2013 starting pitcher in return for him. It may not be a big name starter, but it likely will be a big name, top 50 prospect. I know some won’t agree with me on that, but that’s all fine and good.
Trading Cabrera could be the cog that puts the Indians on a new course.
I’m thankful for Chris Perez and his big mouth.
He won’t be with the Indians in 2013, and while some of that can be attributed to his mouthing off, the real reason is that he’ll be making $7 ½ million dollars, and the Indians can’t afford to pay their third or fourth best reliever that kind of cash.
Perez won’t be bringing in the haul that a guy like Cabrera can bring in, but the Indians should expect a potential starter back. Folks don’t realize how good this bullpen can be without Perez, but if the Indians can get a usable part for their mercurial closer, they really have to go ahead and do it.
The funny thing is, his attitude, while slanted in Cleveland as a negative, could be viewed as a positive by many clubs. His “in your face” mentality is exactly what the doctor order for most teams that want a closer.
I’m thankful for the bullpen.
The bullpen is good, but the potential for a flat-out explosive bullpen is there, even with Perez gone. I absolutely love Vinnie Pestano
, and I don’t have to tell the tale about how good he has been, or could be. Here’s the thing: I don’t think he’s the best arm in that pen, although he would be the definitive closer.
may just be the best reliever in the pen, and his potential is grand. His turbo-ride through the Indians’ system is a pre-cursor to what he’s going to do in the big leagues. I don’t know that he’ll be the closer, nor should he be, but as a set-up man, he could be devastating. Imagine a pen where Pestano, the best arm in the pen in 2012, becomes the second best, with someone slightly better taking his place in the eighth inning.
Chen-Chang Lee was put on the 40-man roster yesterday, and while he’s coming off of Tommy John
surgery, he may be just as good as Allen, if not better. He’ll be making an appearance in mid-to-late 2013, but will likely be more of a factor in 2014. That said, he’s another explosive pitcher, that could become something beyond special.
is a guy that’s been floating around the system for awhile, struggling with control and injury. Of course, Haley can bring it, often touching triple digits, and he finally seems healthy and mature. I’ll make this bold prediction: Haley will be in the big leagues in 2013, and he’ll be there from the front end of 2014.
Don’t forget about the back-end of this pen either, led by Joe Smith
, although Smith could be traded as well. From top to bottom, this is a pen that shouldn’t be messed with.
I’m thankful for Zach McAllister, who may be the one bright spot in this Indians rotation from 2012.
While that isn’t saying much, it is distinctly possible that his emergence as a back-end starter will be the one piece that makes it easier for the Indians to complete their 2013 rotation. Hear me out here.
Say Justin Masterson
and Ubaldo Jimenez
remain inconsistent to bad, but the Indians acquire two prospect or major league starters that can take up two more slots in this rotation. No, it’s not optimum to create a rotation without an ace, or with a youngster in that role, but having Masterson and Jimenez as multiple-middle-of-the-rotation guys with McAllister can at least fill in the starting role long enough for Danny Salazar to get to the big leagues, which reminds me…I’m thankful for Danny Salazar.
He’s the one mid-to-top-of –the-rotation guy that we have in the minors, and he’s coming on strong. My bet here is that the Indians are going to monitor him over the first half of the season, moving him from Akron to Columbus, than perhaps give him a shot in the bigs sometime between July and September. He’s not necessarily an ace, but I do think he can be.
We’ll see if I’m right.
The potential of a team with McAllister and Salazar as complimentary pieces in a rotation is a good thing, and I haven’t even mentioned Carlos Carrasco.
The rotation, as it stands now, isn’t very good, but it can be decent.
I give thanks for Carlos Santana.
Why? He can be a superstar. I’m relatively tired of the critics, and absolutely credit his mid-season swoon to his concussion. Carlos Santana is going to be a monster in 2013,
and I can’t wait to see it, and to see the media ducking and covering.
First base…catcher…DH…it doesn’t matter…Carlos Santana is a valuable player. I don’t buy the talk that he wouldn’t be as valuable as a first baseman, but wouldn’t move him to first base either. The point is, Santana is going to be a big time star for a long time…he IS that good.
I’m thankful for Lonnie Chisenhall, because the kid is just going to be better than people think.
Don’t forget, he was Jason Kipnis, before Kipnis flew past him in 2011.
I’m thankful for the Carolina Mudcats, who may just have Dorssys Paulino in town at some point in the season, with Francisco Lindor.
I doubt it, but a kid can dream, can’t he? This Mudcats team is going to be stacked, and I can’t wait to see the talent of Lindor and Smith, amongst others.
I’m thankful for Mike Napoli and Kevin Youkilis, who are about to sign with the Indians for much less than they are asking because the fan in Cleveland would respect them a ton more than any other city (okay, none of that sentence is true, but hey, you gotta dream, right?).
In all seriousness, perhaps the Indians can find a way to get one of these multi-dimensional players on the roster without breaking the bank. I doubt it, but you just never know. They’ll go starter first, but watch closely what they do on the trade front. If they can dump some salary in Shin-Soo Choo
, Perez and/or Cabrera, they may just be able to swing one of these guys, or another big stick.
Lastly, Thanks for reading this small little corner from week-to-week. IPI has the best fans on the internet. We don’t always agree with each other, but I can safely say that the group of folks that consistently read the articles over here know what they are talking about. I can’t say that about every site. I can safely say that Tony, the staff and I work really hard every day to bring unique and differing perspective on this team, from every angle. The Indians aren’t just a major league team, but a system of players striving to bring this town a title…its first since Boudreau.
Without you, none of us would be here…
HAVE A FANTASTIC THANKSGIVING EVERYONE, and watch out for Tribe News…right here at IPI.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.