The hot stove season in baseball will start in about a week, as soon as the World Series between the Giants and Royals concludes.
As we have mentioned previously, the Indians’ front office should be inspired by Kansas City’s success because in reality the difference between the Tribe and the new American League champions isn’t that great, although the Royals’ payroll is higher than Cleveland’s.
Right now, the Indians are stuck in the middle in both offense and defense, ranking 7th in the league in runs scored and 6th in the AL in ERA. If you parley that with a defense that ranks among the worst in baseball, and it is clear that standing pat in not an option for GM Chris Antonetti.
The good thing is outside of catching the baseball, the Tribe doesn’t need a massive improvement in any one area, but it is clear they have to do something.
The defense was better toward the end of the year when Jose Ramirez came up to play shortstop, but the field is littered with subpar defenders. In the infield, both Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis are below average defenders and the Tribe could use an upgrade in rightfield too.
Keep in mind, the team’s best prospect, Francisco Lindor is considered an excellent defender and at third base, another prospect who likely will move into the organization’s top ten, 3B Giovanny Urshela, is considered a good glove too.
Due to the Indians’ normal way of thinking, neither is expected to open the season in Cleveland, so help will have to come from other areas.
There have been some interesting ideas of what the Tribe could do this off-season, but our favorite was mentioned last Sunday in the The Plain Dealer by Paul Hoynes, who said it would not be impossible for Antonetti to deal CF Michael Bourn, if the Indians were willing to pay some of his large contract for 2015, something we have advocated for awhile.
That would open up CF for Ramirez and that move would allow Lindor to take over at SS. Ramirez is still very young (22), and has played a little outfield in the minor leagues, and putting him in the middle of the diamond, where he is used to being, should help any transition go rather smoothly. And because of his age, he should be getting better offensively as opposed to Bourn, who seems to be in a decline phase at the plate, and on the base paths.
It would also be helpful to add a productive right-handed hitter to go with Yan Gomes. The current roster is very susceptible to left-handed pitching and they can’t count on Ryan Raburn hitting like he did in 2013. Looking at his numbers from the last three years, that season looks out-of-place.
On the mound, Antonetti can’t count on the same starting pitching he received in August and September to occur the entire season, because there aren’t a lot of extended track records among Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House. They simply have to go out and get another arm for the rotation.
How do they accomplish this? They either have to be willing to deal some minor league prospects (not Lindor) and also spend a little money, or at least re-allocate the funds they are currently spending. However, they can’t just add a David Murphy type over the winter and call it a day.
Hopefully, it should be a fun winter for Tribe fans, but based on the history of this front office, they will stick to their usual plan of wishing and hoping.