Tribe Can’t Mortgage Future Either

It is funny to listen to fans of the Cleveland Indians these days.

Granted, 68 years of waiting for another World Series title will make you irrational and downright crazy, especially when the franchise is poised to make such a run this season.

This is particularly true in terms of the July 31st trading deadline.  There are many people willing to give up prospects, and a lot of them, to get a piece guaranteeing a spot in the Fall Classic.

But baseball doesn’t work that way.  In fact, there is no move out there that will cement the American League pennant this season.  That’s the nature of the game.

The farm system is deep enough to move one or two prospects for players who can help this season, without a doubt.

Remember, though, there were people who wanted the Indians to trade Francisco Lindor in 2013 to make a run at the post-season.  The front office (and us, patting ourselves on the back) saw his special talent and realized he shouldn’t be moved.

We see the same short-sighted thinking in terms of the major league roster, particularly when it comes to Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.

Since both players have contributed greatly to the success of this year’s edition of the Tribe, we are already hearing media and fans alike talking about extensions for both players.  Usually around a three year deal.

This would be a horrific mistake.

Napoli has made himself a big part of the Tribe clubhouse, and is having his best season since 2013.  And that’s terrific, but he’s also 34 years old and will turn 35 on Halloween.

A three year deal, which would probably cost the Indians over $10 million per season, would have the first baseman/DH in Cleveland through his age 37 season.

If he has his 2014 season (.248, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 789 OPS), do you want to pay $10-12 million for that?  Neither does the Cleveland front office.

The same applies to Davis, who will turn 36 years old sometime during the post-season (October 19th).  Davis has probably played more than the brass thought when they signed him last winter, but he has also helped in a big way.

He has already achieved a career high in home runs (9) and should also reach a career high in walks (he has 23 now, his high is 29).

If either player were willing to sign another one year deal, with a club option for a second season, we would do that, but after the solid 2016 seasons they’ve had, our guess is someone will give them a better contract than that.

Remember, the Tribe’s core is Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Lindor, with players like Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, Yandy Diaz, etc. on the way.

The Indians could be set for another long run at the top of the AL Central Division, just like the one in the 1990’s.  It doesn’t make sense to be hampered by some bad contracts.

The smart move for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff is to find a couple of other players in similar situations to Napoli and Davis this off-season, and give them one year deals.  It’s simply a less risky proposition for the front office.

If the powers that be on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario play their cards right, they will be a contender perhaps through the end of the decade.

Fans can’t think about that, but the management has to.

MW

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