The Cleveland Indians are sitting pretty on top of the American League Central Division with a record of 66-48, five games ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
Two big reasons for their success offensively have been the players they signed to one year contracts over the off-season, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.
Napoli has provided the right-handed hitting slugger the franchise has needed for years, and to date has belted 29 homers and knocked in 83 runs with an OPS of 875. The home runs and RBIs rank in the top ten in the AL.
Davis, at 35 years of age, currently leads the junior circuit in stolen bases with 31, and has led the Tribe’s aggressive base running style which started on Opening Day. Davis has also contributed a career high in HRs with 10 this season.
The Indians’ success has fans excited and rightfully so, but talk of extensions for both players should be responded too by hitting the brakes just a bit.
First of all, remember how the Tribe acquired both players. They took one year contracts for a reason, because they were both coming off down years.
Napoli hit just .224 a year ago, with 18 HR and 50 RBI and a 734 OPS splitting time between the Red Sox and Rangers. His last season, prior to 2016, where he has an OPS of over 800 was 2013, when he hit 23 dingers and knocked in 92 runs for the World Series Champions.
Players who have career bests in home runs and runs batted in at age 34, don’t usually repeat those numbers going forward.
We understand that Napoli has been a great guy in the clubhouse and has become a fan favorite with his “Party At Napoli’s” t-shirts. But the front office’s job is too make an honest evaluation of what the slugger can do in the future, and how long he can do it.
Davis is a different case in that he did have a career renaissance in Detroit in 2014 and 2015. He had an OPS under 700 from 2010 to 2013 in Oakland and Toronto before signing with the Tigers, where his numbers picked up mostly as a result of Comerica Park, where he flourished.
We were skeptical as to how he would perform at Progressive Field, but he is putting some similar numbers with Cleveland, and leads the league in steals at age 35.
Look, it is great that fans feel connected to this current Tribe roster, and that Napoli and Davis have contributed greatly to this team’s success.
And it’s not as though we don’t want them back. However, remember the problems this organization had giving Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn multi-year deals?
If either player or both would sign one year contracts over the winter, it would be easy for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to say yes.
Our guess is that some team will offer Napoli a three year contract at over $10 million per year, and that’s something the Indians need to stay away from.
It’s more likely Davis could be back on a one year deal because he’s more of a platoon player.
Fans shouldn’t forget that the Tribe’s three best position players are Francisco Lindor (22), Jason Kipnis (29), and Jose Ramirez (23). And those guys will be here for awhile.
Our opinion is it is more likely the front office will be looking at guys similar to Napoli and Davis who will take a one year deal for 2017.
There’s no such thing as a bad one year contract.
We love Napoli and Davis and how they have impacted this roster. But the front office has to remember the sins of the past. And those sins are named Swisher and Bourn.