If you put limits on yourself, you put a limit on what you can achieve.
That may be profound, but it applies to the Cleveland Indians organization.
A few years ago, Paul Dolan said something to the effect that the best a smaller market team like the Tribe can do is contend every few years.
If that’s not setting yourself up for failure, nothing does.
That’s the way the Indians run their organization right now. Many people said the trade for Ubaldo Jimenez was made because the team sees their window of opportunity to win closing after 2013.
The question here is why?
The Indians will tell you that guys like SS Asdrubal Cabrera and OF Shin-Soo Choo will be eligible for free agency at that point and will likely no longer be affordable for the franchise.
The contrasting opinion to that viewpoint (shared here) is why not keep a pitcher like Drew Pomerantz, and have a potential #1 starter in your control for six seasons.
Instead of having three poor seasons, followed by three contending seasons as a cycle, why not put yourself in position to be able to compete every year. And that can be done by building an excellent farm system.
Supporters of the current regime spout the usual things about small markets, poor economy, etc. However, according to projections on BaseballReference.com, Cleveland will have the sixth lowest payroll in the big leagues in 2012, ahead of only Toronto, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Tampa Bay.
Of those teams, Tampa made the post-season, and the Indians were the only other squad in contention for most of the 2011 season.
Cleveland and Kansas City spend around $40 million less in payroll compared to the other three teams in the AL Central Division. That’s three to four good players difference.
The real reason the Indians have to take this cyclical stance for contention is that the Dolan family doesn’t have the revenues to spend more money.
This is understandable, but not fair to the baseball fans of Cleveland.
The apologists will tell you the Indians couldn’t get a certain player, because they couldn’t spend that kind of money.
Let’s get one thing straight: They could spend the money, there’s no salary cap in baseball. They choose not to. There’s a big difference.
No one expects the Indians to spend at the same level as the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Angels. There is no question this market cannot sustain that high of a payroll.
However, it’s very difficult for teams to compete if they spend around $70 million on players, unless they have a fabulous farm system, which the Rays have.
They did have a system that was on the rise, but the deal for Jimenez and the promotion of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall stripped the organization of half of the team’s top prospects.
The Indians have some highly regarded players in the system, but most are in the low minors, several years away from competing at the big league level.
They do have a young core at the big league level with players like Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Kipnis, Chisenhall, and perhaps Michael Brantley. But there isn’t any help on the way soon, so they are forced to look elsewhere to add talent.
They’ve tried and failed to bring in free agents like Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer, and Carlos Beltran, three established hitters who would’ve put the team into contention.
The Indians will say those guys couldn’t fit into their budget constraints. Just remember who created those limitations.