During this past baseball season, we speculated that we wouldn’t be surprised if Tribe skipper Terry Francona decided to resign this off-season because of the inactivity of the front office at the trading deadline.
Yes, we knew that Tito took the gig because of his relationship with team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, but we felt experiencing what we perceived as a lack of interest in going for it would show Francona that this wasn’t the job for him.
How wrong were we?
This morning, it was revealed that Francona signed a two-year contract extension to remain the manager of the Indians, meaning he is signed through the 2018 season.
Perhaps the only bad thing this means is the ownership will not be making any changes to the front office group through that same time period.
Antonetti’s comments today trumpeted the “stability” mantra, claiming it is a positive thing. And it would be if this was one of the most successful organizations in the sport over the last 15 years. However, it isn’t.
If keeping Francona means more of the last two seasons, both of which finished with an above .500 record and in 2013 ended with a spot hosting the wild card game, then we are all for that. There is no question that although people have had questions with the manager’s in-game strategy (including us), he gets the most out of the talent on the roster.
And maybe Shapiro and Antonetti understand their best chance at remaining the contender the Indians have been the last two seasons is to have Francona at the helm. Because before Tito arrived, this was a franchise that couldn’t put two consecutive good seasons together.
After two World Series titles with Boston, it is doubtful that Francona wants to wallow in mediocrity here over the next four to six seasons. So, does this contract extension mean the front office is going to make another push to bring in more talent this off-season?
Remember that before his first season as manager, the Indians brought in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn as free agents and also traded for Trevor Bauer. Now, the club has a solid, younger nucleus in Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Yan Gomes among the position players, and a young starting rotation led by Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber that will be in place for the next few seasons.
So, it is incumbent on the general manager to add some pieces, some productive veteran pieces, to this young core to push them over the top. Did Francona get assurances that this would happen going forward?
Probably not, but his friends have to know how he feels.
We have maintained that this roster doesn’t need an overhaul, it just has to add one or two pieces, and those will likely come via the trade route. Both MLB Trade Rumors and Baseball Prospectus listed the top 50 free agents this winter and neither site had the Tribe signing anyone on the list.
The good news is the best manager the Indians have had in a long time is going to be here for at least the next four years. The bad news is the tie in with Shapiro and Antonetti, and Tito’s link to them probably insures they will be here for that period as well, which is fine if the Indians are regular participants in the playoffs.
If they aren’t, it will be almost 20 years since Shapiro took control of the organization without the success of his predecessor, John Hart. How long will fans accept it if Francona can’t continue to work the magic of the last two seasons.