The Cleveland Indians finally entered the real hot stove league yesterday with the signings of free agents Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis to one year contracts.
First, there is no such thing as a bad one year deal, because even if the player is outright terrible, the Tribe will be out of it after the 2016 season.
We like the Napoli signing better, because he’s been more productive throughout his major league career (lifetime 837), and although he had a bad first half in 2015, he rebounded to post a 908 OPS after being dealt to Texas.
And he’s a solid defensive first baseman, much better than Carlos Santana.
Yes, he does strike out a lot, but he also has a career on base percentage of .355, meaning he also can take a walk.
We have problems with high strikeout, low walk players, such as Zack Walters.
Jim Thome and Travis Hafner fanned a lot, but they also draw tons of walks.
Davis is a good depth player, and can hit lefties, but he’s an aging speed guy whose increase in OPS over the past couple years seems to have come from playing half the time in spacious Comerica Park.
His road OPS in each of the last two seasons is below 700, meaning he wasn’t a good offensive player on the road.
And he is not a good on base percentage player either.
The Tribe will probably use him in a platoon role, and maybe he can help there, but our guess he will have to be used sparingly to be effective.
While both signings are fine on their own, the Indians still need a middle of the lineup presence to be a good offensive team.
Right now, the Tribe has a lot of guys who should be hitting in the #2 and #6-#9 spots in the order, but someone will have to hit leadoff and someone has to bat fourth.
Mike Hargrove said it well when he was the manager here. If you have a leadoff man and a cleanup hitter, the rest of the batting order takes care of itself.
Right now, the Indians have neither, meaning Terry Francona will have to put someone ill fit for those spots in there.
Really, Jason Kipnis should be hitting either #2, #3, or #5 or #6, but he is forced to be used at the top of the order.
Only Michael Brantley hits where he is best suited among the top five batters. He is the best hitter and bats third.
Guys like Carlos Santana and Napoli should hit sixth or seventh in a good batting order.
And putting them in a spot for which they aren’t suited makes them a failure in fans eyes.
That’s why you probably have to move a starting pitcher to get that kind of middle of the order bat.
Although we would prefer to not move Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier in one of these deals, we wouldn’t hesitate to use any other prospect for the right player.
For example, we like Mike Clevenger’s potential. However, the reality is he has not thrown one pitch in a major league game. He might be a very good starter someday, but then again, he might not be.
One thing we do know is the Indians have a very good starting rotation and some depth in that area. So, you have to take advantage of that and sooner than later.
And just because other teams went for it last year and failed (San Diego, the White Sox), doesn’t mean the Tribe shouldn’t either.
The Royals won the World Series and signed Kendrys Morales in the winter and traded for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the deadline.
It is doubtful they’d have won without those players.
Yesterday’s signings help the 2016 Indians, but the front office shouldn’t think this team is ready for Opening Day.
There is plenty of work to do.