Tribe Has Much to Do Before ’13

A few weeks ago, we advocated that the Cleveland Indians be buyers to try to stay in the race for the AL Central Division title.

They were around 3 games out at that point.

We aren’t backing off that statement because if you are that close, you owe it to your ballclub and your fans to try to win and get into the playoffs.

That seems kind of ridiculous considering what has happened since the All Star break.

The purge has started with veterans Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon, Jeremy Accardo, and Jose Lopez all being jettisoned recently, and more moves are likely to follow.

So, if the front office is looking ahead, then we need to as well.  And the future is very pretty, at least for 2013.

The lineup has just six players who figure to be in the Opening Day line up for certain:  CF Michael Brantley, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B Jason Kipnis, RF Shin-Soo Choo, C Carlos Santana, and 3B Lonnie Chisenhall.

That leaves gaping holes at 1B, LF, and DH.  Oh, and also, the Indians need a quality right-handed hitter to fill in at least one of those spots.

The starting rotation is a mess right now.  Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are the only for sures that have any kind of track record, and both are those hurlers have been inconsistent to say the least.

Josh Tomlin?  He has marginal stuff and needs pinpoint control to win.  He can’t be counted on.

Zack McAllister? No track record.  He’s made less than 20 major league starts.

Roberto Hernandez?  Another up and down pitcher, and he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues this year.

That’s not to mention other guys who haven’t proven anything in the majors like Jeanmar Gomez, Corey Kluber, and dare we say, David Huff.

That’s no way to go into next season expecting to win, having a starting rotation full of question marks.

So, from this view, the 2013 Cleveland Indians need at least one solid bat (same as last year), two other regular players, and two solid starting pitchers.

With a farm system without a lot of talent in the upper levels, how does the organization accomplish this?

Well, one way would be to fill a hole by signing a free agent.  The Indians have a lot of money coming off the books this fall (Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore’s deals expire, among others), so there may be room to sign one.  A reliable starter would be a good choice.

Another avenue to explore is to deal from strength, and the Indians have a pretty good bullpen.  Perhaps dealing Chris Perez, who despite recent struggles has proven to be an elite closer, to fill some holes is a move that needs to be made.

Keep in mind what former Indians’ GM John Hart used to say, “closers grow on trees”, meaning they come in all different forms.

Vinnie Pestano is perhaps the game’s premier set up man.  Can he close?  No one knows for sure, but he is used to pitching in pressure situations.

Heck, for all anyone knows, Esmil Rogers might turn out to be the closer.  Did anyone think Jose Mesa would be a good closer when he was a back of the rotation starter for the Indians in the early 90’s?

No matter how they do it, it isn’t just a piece or two that the Tribe needs to address for next season.  It’s four or five pieces.

So, Chris Antonetti or someone else has a tall task.

If the Indians want to compete with the White Sox and Tigers next season, they have to do a lot more than they did last off-season.

MW

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