The Cleveland Indians continue to say they are searching for another bat this winter. From that standpoint, the off-season has not been a success, because unless Grady Sizemore returns to the player he was five years ago, the Tribe will continue to struggle at the plate as a team.
Last year, Cleveland finished ninth in the American League in runs scored with 704, behind such teams as Baltimore, Kansas City, and Toronto. The Tribe does play in a better pitchers’ park than those other three teams, but in the junior circuit, you have to be able to score runs to win games.
And let’s not forget the pitching either. One of the great myths about the Indians is that they had solid pitching. Well, they ranked 11th in the AL in ERA, and were second from the bottom in striking people out.
Therefore, it’s not just the hitting that needs to improve for Cleveland to contend. They have to improve in preventing runs as well.
GM Chris Antonetti did pick up veteran starter Derek Lowe, but he’s more of a back of the rotation guy at this point.
The organization seems to be counting on the influx of good young players to help the Indians challenge for the division title in 2012.
Certainly, players like 2B Jason Kipnis and 3B Lonnie Chisenhall should help the offense, but they have no track record, so they can’t be counted on at this point in their careers.
That’s why getting a proven stick, particularly a right-handed one, would have be a key acquisition for the Tribe.
A lot of jokes have been made, even some here, about some of the signings Antonetti has made this winter, getting OF Felix Pie, INF Jose Lopez, and RHP Robinson Tejeda as minor league free agents, and trading for Padres’ OF Aaron Cunningham.
Seriously, those moves are low risk, high reward transactions.
Lopez is just 28 years old, and in 2009 hit .296 with 25 HR and 96 RBI for the Mariners. If he can find that stroke again, he could be a nice contributor as a reverse infielder. He can play both 2B and 3B.
Pie is now just 26 years, but at one time he was considered one of the brightest prospects in the game, ranking in Baseball America’s top 50 from 2005-07. He hit .362 in 55 games at AAA Iowa in the Cubs organization in ’07, so he has ability.
Cunningham will turn 26 in April, and hit .288 in 53 games with San Diego in 2010. He was ranked the 55th best prospect in the minor leagues prior to the 2009 season. He hit .329 in Tucson last year, although the Pacific Coast League is a notorious hitters league. He will probably make the opening day roster as a reserve outfielder, and as some have speculated, will fill the Austin Kearns role. He’s a right-handed hitter.
Tejeda suffered with arm problems in 2011, but has been a successful pitcher in the majors prior to that. In both 2009 and 2010, he had an ERA of 3.56 for the Royals, being used as both a starter and reliever. In the first of those years, he allowed just 43 hits in 73 innings, striking out 87 batters. His problem has been control throughout his career, walking around five batters per nine innings.
He’s a much more solid pick guy to take a chance on than Chad Durbin, who Antonetti signed prior to spring training last season. Durbin had never been able to be effective in the AL, while Tejeda has shown he can be.
While everyone, including Antonetti, would like to see the Indians make a big move this off-season, the minor moves they have made are good ones. It would not be surprising if one of these guys turned out to be a big contributor to the 2012 Cleveland Indians.