We have been critical of the management of the Cleveland Indians in the past, particularly for not being able to sustain success.
After a division title in 2007, the Tribe got off to a horrible start in ’08. They finished strong to wind up at .500, but the season was over in July, leading to the trade of C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers.
That was followed by three out of four seasons with less than 70 wins, the only outlier being the 80-82 season put together by Manny Acta in 2011. That team was in the race until Labor Day, providing some excitement, but that was followed up by a 68-94 campaign that cost Acta his job.
The Indians didn’t start strong, but have followed up a playoff season in 2013 by being in the mix so far in 2014, currently sitting at 31-31 on the season, just four games behind Detroit, and very much in the wild card mix.
Now we hesitate to say this because it is Cleveland and it is the Indians, but the Tribe looks well set up for the future, at least the next three to four seasons.
They have a pretty good young veteran core that has been signed to long-term deals to keep them here over the next few seasons.
They have 2B Jason Kipnis, who just turned 27 in April, and is signed here through the 2019 season. Kipnis made the all-star team last season, and although he is off to a bit of a slow start this season, looks to be in the top-tier at his position in the American League.
They have Michael Brantley, who just turned 27 in May and is also locked up through 2017, and seems to have become a star player this season. He added the power missing from his game this season, and is hitting .305 with 9 HR and 42 RBI (857 OPS) at this point in the season. He is poised for his first all-star appearance this summer.
One of the gambles the front office took over the winter was a belief that Yan Gomes could be an everyday catcher, and he has fulfilled that belief. Gomes, who will turn 27 in July, has picked up right where he left off at the end of 2013, batting .271 with 7 HR and 22 RBI (756 OPS) thus far.
After a shaky beginning of the campaign defensively, he has settled down to the level he was at last season.
One player has to be added to the young core this season, and that is 25-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall, who has blossomed this year, hitting .362 to this point with 4 HR and 23 RBI, a mark which is third on the team. His OPS is 950.
That gives GM Chris Antonetti a half of a lineup, more than half if you count uber-prospect Francisco Lindor, that he can count on build the team around every year for the next few seasons.
That’s a good luxury to have and if you put those guys with a solid pitching staff, and that varies year to year, you have a pretty good chance you will be in the playoff hunt every year.
Now, it would be nice to start drafting well on a consistent basis, so that when Kipnis, Brantley, Gomes, and Chisenhall start to show signs of age, there will be people to replace them.
On the pitching side, the Tribe has Trevor Bauer (23) and Danny Salazar (24) on the rise to go with Corey Kluber, who is having a breakout season at 28 years old.
It helps building a roster every year if you have a core in place. Right now, the Indians appear to have that group. Let’s hope that leads to a stretch of good baseball over the next five years.