The Cleveland Indians opened the 2013 season at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, home of the Blue Jays. Check out a photo gallery from the Tribe's second game of the season there.
On Thursday, March 21, the Cleveland Indians visited the beautiful Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for a Cactus League exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On Wednesday, March 20, the Cleveland Indians visited the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona for a Cactus League exhibition game.
(CLEVELAND) -- The MLB general managers are wrapping up their annual meetings in California and already it appears the Indians could be one of the more active clubs when it comes to offseason moves.
Three days after the San Francisco Giants were crowned World Series Champions the Indians quickly announced decisions on club options for 2013 and filled out the rest of new manager Terry Francona's coaching staff. More decisions will be made in the next couple of months when it comes to both the 40-man and 25-man roster.
Let's take a quick look at some things the Tribe could encounter over the next few months and discuss some conversations they may be having while you read this blog.
10 Quick Thoughts on the Indians Offseason:
1. Asdrubal Cabrera's future: Why would any club want to trade a two-time All-Star shortstop who recently signed a three-year contract? It might seem strange, but for the Indians it actually makes sense. Last season Cabrera hit .270 with 16 HRs and 68 RBIs, but faded considerably in the second half for the second-straight year. To Cabrera's credit, he played through various injuries, but the 26-year-old switch hitter could have helped himself coming to spring training in better shape too. Cabrera is undoubtedly one of the Indians best players, but with contenders in need of a shortstop having interest and the Tribe adding former Boston Red Sox everyday shortstop Mike Aviles a week ago, not seeing Cabrera in a Cleveland uniform should not come as a surprise come Opening Day if it actually happens.
2. Bullpen has pieces: In order to add to a 25-man roster that desperately needs help if they are serious about contending in the AL-Central Division, the Indians must take from an area of strength; that happens to be the bullpen. Already this offseason the Indians traded hard-throwing right-hander Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for INF Mike Aviles and C/INF Yan Gomes. Could there be more bullpen arms dealt? Don't be surprised. Right-handers Chris Perez, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano make up a nice trio at the back-end of the bullpen, but the Indians may have to part ways with one of those pitchers in order to add depth at other areas. Left-handers Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez were big-time disappointments this past season, but even they might have value to a contender. Let's remember, Edward Mujica pitched important innings for the St. Louis Cardinals during the MLB Playoffs. Sometimes arms not viewed as valuable in one town, is just what another club is looking for.
3. Travis Hafner & Grady Sizemore: Two names Indians fans are probably sick of hearing or reading about, but it is a realistic possibility at least one of them could be back in Cleveland next season. Both oft-injured players would never be paid what they have been the last few seasons (Hafner $13 million & Sizemore $5 million) to return, but they could still fit if other pieces are not added this offseason. Health is such a wildcard with either guy, that a major fiscal investment just cannot be made into the DH or CF, but if one or both were willing to come back for $1 million or less, the Indians might try to catch lightning in a bottle one final time believe it or not.
4. Shin-Soo Chooooooooooooo: The longer the right fielder stays in a Cleveland Indians uniform the lower his value goes. If the Tribe had dealt Choo before last season's July 31 MLB trade deadline they probably would have received more than what they could get this offseason. But if the Indians pass on dealing him to another club again, his value will fall even more by next July. Why is this? Choo is represented by maverick agent Scott Boras who probably thinks he can still get top dollar for Choo, despite the right fielder hitting .283 with 16 HRs and 67 RBIs last season. Other teams will not value Choo as high if they only get him for six weeks of a playoff push. Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com reported this offseason that the Boston Red Sox might have interest in Choo, if this is true and the Indians can get a boat load of prospects in return, deal would fit both clubs perfectly.
5. Contending in 2013 doubtful: It is only the beginning of November, but if the Cleveland Indians do in fact trade pieces like Choo or Cabrera, you can likely kiss the 2013 season goodbye when it comes to contending in the AL-Central Division. The Tribe may add to its core of Choo, Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano, but in the long-term that might not be the best route to building a long-sustaining contender baseball team. Current players/pitchers and Cleveland fans hate hearing it and reading it, but in order for the Indians to build things the right way, they need to rebuild this club for the next season or two. New skipper Terry Francona is on a four-year deal, so he isn't going anywhere. It might take longer, but building this organization through pitching, a deep farm system and young core players might be the best way to get this team back atop the Central Division for a longer period of time, not just one year like 2007.
6. Starting pitching: Justin Masterson was linked in to Morosi's report of the Boston Red Sox having interest in him, but if he stays in Cleveland it'll be the right-hander and Ubaldo Jimenez once again leading this rotation. The Tribe exercised Jimenez's $5.75 million option for next season, but they still have a lot of work to do with the 2010 All-Star who won 19 games that year. This past season Jimenez seemed painful to watch at times and that doesn't include his 9-17 record and a 5.40 ERA. In order to win in MLB you need pitching. Sure, there are sometimes exceptions to the rule like the Texas Rangers or even Detroit Tigers, but the Indians simply cannot go that route. Consistent starting pitching is vital. Just ask the Wolrd Champion San Francisco Giants or the club that came out of nowhere with young starting pitching, the Oakland Athletics. It has to start with Masterson and Jimenez though. If neither of the two right-handers can be anchors for this Indians starting rotation, it is time to look elsewhere.
7. Kevin Youkilis: Last year the Indians swung and missed on Josh Willingham in the offseason and come mid-season they did the same with Youkilis. Instead "Youk", as he is affectionately called, helped the Chicago White Sox in their playoff push before just falling short at the end of the season to the Detroit Tigers. Youkilis has played under Francona in Boston and can DH, as well as play 1B and 3B. With the Indians he could play 1B and DH, because it seems unlikely that the 33-year-old can continue to grind it out at the hot corner for another full season. A great clubhouse presence that has an edge to him, it might not hurt to add this type of piece if you're serious about contending over the next two seasons.
8. Core core core...careful: The Indians are always quick to mention their core of players and the optimism they have for that group, especially if they can add to it. My advice: be careful with the "core" love affair. Yes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano are solid young pieces that can perhaps play championship caliber baseball. However, the last I looked every club in the AL-Central Division, including the Minnesota Twins all have nice "cores" too. A core of Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe does not seem like that bad of a core. Neither does a core of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and now Ervin Santana. We haven't even discussed the Detroit Tigers or Chicago White Sox, the two clubs who stood atop the division come season's end. This blog item isn't to be a "Debbie Downer", it's just to caution those who get excited when they hear about the Indians beloved "core". Every team has a core, now the job is to add to it.
9. Franonca = A+ hire: It is not even an argument, the Cleveland Indians hired the best possible candidate to be their next manager. I still can't believe Terry Francona is the next Tribe skipper because he could very well be the best manager in MLB. Now with that said, the Indians still have a ton of work to do when it comes to player development, replenishing the farm system, drafting and making key trades. But Francona is a nice piece to start the rebuilding process with. The Chicago White Sox this past season showed that it is still possible to rebuild and compete at the same time, something the Indians may just try. Here in Cleveland we have seen that not work too well, but with a guy like Francona in charge, this club could be on an accelerated route to becoming contenders a whole lot quicker. They definitely have the right man for the job and knocked it out of the park with that hire, now they need to do the same thing in a few other areas of the organization.
10. With low payroll it can be done: If fans think the Indians will suddenly spend $90 - $100 million on payroll this upcoming season they are in for a rude awakening. Ownership and the front office have given no indication that anything will change when it comes to how they spend their money on players. They likely will not overpay for free agents, so when it comes to spending money do not expect any changes. However, the Tampa Bay Rays have proven year after year for the last five years that it can be done without a high payroll. Even the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics showed that this past season. Having a higher payroll allows you to make more mistakes, but it does not buy you World Series titles. So, despite fans wanting a payroll over $100 million, it is not going to happen. The good news is, if new philosophies are put in place and more of an emphasis is put on starting pitching, drafting and developing young talent, the Indians can become a team that consistently competes. The MLB model will always gut teams of their top players, just look at the Rays, but they have also found solutions to overcome that. The Indians need to find those solutions. The quicker they do that, the quicker they will be back near the top of the AL-Central Division.
- Nick Camino