Well, the Cleveland Indians kept it interesting for a little while.
They hung in the race for a post-season spot until the middle of September, but last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers means there will not be consecutive post-season spots for the first time since 1999, and it is time to look forward to the 2015 season.
We understand that Terry Francona and the players will not make any changes to the lineup or the starting rotation until the Tribe is officially eliminated from playoff consideration, which probably won’t happen until the weekend, but we can still speculate on what needs to occur prior to spring training in February.
The Indians do have a good young core of players. They can build on several solid position players in Michael Brantley (who will turn 28 next May), Carlos Santana (29), Yan Gomes (28), Lonnie Chisenhall (26), and we believe Jason Kipnis (28) will rebound next year based on his track record and the fact he was battling injuries this year.
They also have Jose Ramirez (23), who has impressed this year since playing everyday after the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, and of course, Francisco Lindor, one of the game’s best prospects.
The organization will likely do the service time game with Lindor, which would be a mistake if he shows in spring training that he is ready to play everyday at the big league level. Too often, the Tribe gets off to slow starts because they don’t keep the correct players on the Opening Day roster.
The starting rotation is also very young with a lot of room to get better. Staff ace Corey Kluber will be just 29 years old in 2015, and he is joined by Carlos Carrasco (28), Danny Salazar (25), T. J. House (25) and Trevor Bauer (24) to form a rotation with a lot of upside.
However, Francona has said in the past that when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get some more. Therefore, the front office cannot stand pat with the rotation and should look to bring in some reinforcements during the winter. You have to think at least one of those guys will not perform up to this year’s standards next season.
The one area that will need to be addressed in the off-season is the bench, which was a key component of last year’s squad, but had a huge drop off in ’14. We know Jason Giambi won’t likely be back, but GM Chris Antonetti should also look to replace Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles, both of whom haven’t produced offensively.
Raburn is under contract for 2015, so that may be a challenge, but whenever Francona has wanted to rest a regular or an injury keeps a starter out of the lineup for an extended period of time, there has been a drop off in the offense.
Perhaps David Murphy can fit in as the fourth outfielder if Antonetti comes up with another alternative in right field.
And you really can’t use young players in bench roles because they don’t know how to handle it. It is better to find veterans who used to play everyday that can accept not doing that anymore or guys who have made a living playing in a reserve role.
It is difficult to be productive playing sporadically, and it is a challenge to find guys who can hit while getting 200-300 at bats in a season.
Yes, the Indians future does look bright, or at least it isn’t dismal. However, Chris Antonetti can’t afford to stand pat like he did last winter. They have to improve this club in order to avoid the wild card race and win the American League Central Division.
The bigger question is whether or not they will do just that.