Roughly two years ago, around this time, the Cleveland Indians announced the signing of free agent Nick Swisher to a four-year contract.
We bring this up, because it’s the last time the Tribe front office did anything off the field to excite its fan base.
There is no question the Indians are in a tough situation. They have assembled a solid young core of talent that is under control for the next three to four seasons.
They have the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the American League in Corey Kluber and another player in Michael Brantley that finished in the top three in the AL MVP voting.
They have one of the top catchers in the game in Yan Gomes, and a host of good, young arms, albeit without extensive track records in the starting rotation.
However, the face of the franchise is probably their manager, Terry Francona.
GM Chris Antonetti has made one move this off-season, getting left-handed slugger Brandon Moss from Oakland for a minor league second baseman, but that move gives Francona a glut at 1B, RF, and DH with Moss, David Murphy, Carlos Santana, and Swisher, not to mention Ryan Raburn.
The Indians made the wild card game in ’13, and went to the final weekend of the 2014 season with a chance to repeat a post-season appearance. So, they most definitely have to be considered a contender.
That’s why this would be as good a chance as any to take a shot and “go for it”, like many teams have this winter.
The franchise has needed another solid bat, particularly one from the right side for several years, and they could use another reliable veteran starter to go with the kids they’ve assembled. However, the ownership’s glass ceiling of an $85 million payroll ties the hands of the front office.
Instead, the management talks about how the Tigers likely won’t be as good as they were this season, and the Royals look like they will lose James Shields, so the Tribe is in the mix.
It seems their primary plan to win is other teams not being as good.
Within their own division, the Tigers have a better hitting lineup on paper with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of the batting order, and Chicago has two top starters in Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija. Not to mention the Royals are the defending American League champions.
The Indians are hoping Jason Kipnis has a rebound season, Lonnie Chisenhall hits in the second half like he did in the first half, and Michael Bourn and Swisher can stay healthy.
They also need seasons similar to last season from Brantley, Gomes, and Kluber.
That’s a lot of wishin’ and hopin’.
While defenders of the ownership will claim attendance has to improve for the team to spend, we are here to tell you there is a large core of baseball fans in the area who want the front office to show they are all in, much like the White Sox have shown their ticket buyers.
Imagine if the Indians traded for Samardzija or signed Melky Cabrera as a free agent. The former would have formed a great one-two punch with Kluber at the top of the rotation, while the latter would have been a great fit in RF, a switch-hitter with a high average and some pop.
Yes, we know the White Sox play in one of the top media markets in the country, but Seattle isn’t and they signed a player who hit 40 homers a year ago.
We are excited about the Indians because they are a solid team, but they need a boost to make them a favorite for a division title, and to interest the fans in the area.
They still have two months until spring training starts, so there is still time for trades, but right now the Indians seem content to do what they normally do.
Fair or not, they need to do something to compete with the Browns and Cavaliers for the ticket money and headlines in the media.