One thing all baseball fans can agree on is that the Cleveland Indians are not a free spending organization.
For whatever the reason, the Tribe’s payroll is usually in the lower third of the American League, and much of that is due to the size of the television market.
The Indians can’t charge the same rights’ fees for local broadcasts, both TV and radio as teams located in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.
So, the Tribe needs to spend their limited funds wisely.
The big problem is they simply haven’t.
The Indians’ highest paid player right now is Nick Swisher, who is suffering through a terrible season, and even last season, didn’t produce at a high level.
Before Swisher, Cleveland highest paid baseball player was Travis Hafner, who had a series of injuries after his last 100 RBI season in 2007, making the reported $10-13 million he was being paid an albatross across the organization’s back.
If you aren’t or are unable to spend with the upper echelon of payrolls in the sport, it is a killer when the players you make a major commitment to don’t live up to expectations.
You can’t lay all of the blame on Swisher either. The Tribe’s second highest paid player is Michael Bourn, who has battled hamstring issues all season long, and to be truthful, hasn’t performed like an all-star either.
We have always said that it isn’t about spending money for the Dolan ownership; it is all about spending wisely. Going out and overspending isn’t good for any franchise; look at the Braves with B.J. Upton.
If they don’t work out, these signings cause a lot of questions for the management. If Swisher were making half of what he is currently earning, or if he were on the last year of his contract, do you really think Terry Francona would continuously write his name in the lineup day in and day out?
Upton is currently hitting .212 for Atlanta (608 OPS), yet he has appeared in 106 of the 114 games the Braves have played.
Swisher’s 615 OPS figure is the lowest of any everyday player on the Indians. Not exactly a big bang for the buck.
As for Bourn, we didn’t like the signing at the time, and to this point we are proven correct. He has never been an elite offensive player, posting an OPS of 704 before signing with the Tribe.
His best asset on offense was stealing bases, having led the NL in that category three times in his career, including 2011, just two years before he arrived in Cleveland.
Since putting on Chief Wahoo, Bourn has stolen just 30 bases, and has been caught 15 times in almost two full seasons.
If you want to blame ownership for not spending money, then you also have to put heat on GM Chris Antonetti and president Mark Shapiro for blowing it when the Dolan family hands them a bag of cash.
When you have limited opportunities, you have to take advantage of them. The Indians’ organization has dropped the ball in that respect.
What can they do going forward? They may have to deal one of the two and pay some salary to improve at their respective positions.
Whether or not the ownership would sign off on that is debatable.
Unfortunately, these mistakes probably mean there will be less big spending in the future. Instead of getting it right, they will just avoid making the commitment.
Just another reason that it’s great to be an Indians’ fan.