The Cleveland Indians made their first move of the off-season on Saturday, dealing reliever Esmil Rogers to Toronto for infielder Mike Aviles and C/INF Yan Gomes.
Although Rogers was pretty effective for the Tribe since coming over from Colorado on waivers during the season, and may have been a closer option should the team trade Chris Perez in the off-season, it was a good move for GM Chris Antonetti, and an aggressive move at that.
If the Indians have any depth in their organization it is in the bullpen where they have several young arms ready to move up to the major leagues.
We have said the Tribe needs to get better with every move they make this off-season, and they did so with this move.
The 2012 edition of the Indians did not have a legitimate utility infielder to give SS Asdrubal Cabrera or 2B Jason Kipnis a day off. This took its toll after the all-star break when both were running on fumes and were producing.
Aviles, who will be 32 at the beginning of next season, is a legitimate major leaguer with a .277 lifetime batting average. However, last year was his first year with over 500 at bats and his hitting suffered, with his average dipping to .250.
So it appears he would be solid in a reverse role. He can hit lefties, with a lifetime .295 batting average and 797 OPS.
If the plan is to trade Cabrera and use Aviles everyday at short as a stop-gap until Francisco Lindor is ready, then it is not a good plan.
Aviles is not regarding as a good defensive shortstop and has a lower range factor than Cabrera did in 2012.
Still, the veteran is a better stick than Jack Hannahan and Brent Lillibridge, so the Indians are better after the deal than they were before, and that’s exactly what the front office needs to do.
Gomes is another right-handed hitter, which means perhaps the organization has come off the all left-handed hitter theory they embraced last season. He’s a corner infield guy who can also catch, meaning he’s a good bench player. And he has some pop in his bat, hitting four home runs in 111 big league at bats.
He hit .328 at Las Vegas last season, but the Pacific Coast League is a notorious hitters circuit and Vegas is one of the chief reasons for that reputation. From his minor league numbers, he looks like a free swinger. So he will likely open the season at Columbus and provide organizational depth.
After a slow hot stove season last winter, the Indians took a step toward addressing one of their weaknesses very quickly after the 2012 season ended. They should get kudos for doing that and for the move they made here.
Hopefully, this is the first move in a busy winter for Antonetti. And we also hope he is working very closely with Terry Francona to assemble a roster that the manager wants.
It feels like in recent years that the manager and front office weren’t on the same page when it came to who should be on the roster and get playing time.
Building some roster depth was needed, but the Tribe still needs a 1B, LF, and a DH or a catcher if Carlos Santana is moved to fill one of those other needs, as well as a couple of starting pitchers.
It may be that Francona has brought the sense of urgency that has been lacking since the Ubaldo Jimenez trade in July 2011.
That might be the new skipper’s biggest impact of all.