Tribe Can’t Platoon In Too Many Spots

Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona is one of the best in the league at using the platoon advantage.

It helps that his team has a number of switch-hitters who are regulars:  SS Francisco Lindor, 2B Jose Ramirez, and 1B Carlos Santana were everyday players in 2017.

It enables Francona to platoon in right field where he used Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer until both were injured and the front office acquired Jay Bruce.

He also did the same in center, using rookie Bradley Zimmer and veteran Austin Jackson out there.

In 2016, he did the same, using Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis in center for the American League champs.

The players have to have decided platoon advantages for the strategy to work.  Guyer is lethal vs. southpaws, and Jackson hit .352 against lefties last season.

We mention this because with Santana and Bruce now free agents, many people look at available free agents and wonder about fits for the Tribe.

One name that came up was 1B Matt Adams, recently non-tendered by Atlanta.

Adams, who swings from the left side, has an 828 career OPS vs. right handed pitching with a .286 batting average.  We like Adams, who has been production even though he’s been an everyday player just one season.

However, there is one problem with the platooning.  Francona also likes to carry 13 pitchers, including eight relievers.  That means there are only 12 position players, which limits how many spots the manager can use a platoon system.

Plus, two of those dozen position players are catchers, so if you aren’t platooning with that position, it means there are only two spots that the manager can use different players against left-handers and right-handers.

And don’t forget the need for a utility infielder, preferably someone who can play shortstop defensively so you aren’t playing a statue when Lindor gets his infrequent days off.

So, if the Indians don’t re-sign Santana, they will either need a full time option there or decide that Zimmer has to play everyday in centerfield.  Either that or have one less pitcher in the bullpen for Francona.

As things are right now, you have to think the current platoons will be Chisenhall and Guyer in right (again) and Zimmer and a right-handed bat to be named later in centerfield.

That’s why we still believe if Santana goes elsewhere, Michael Brantley will move to first base with Jason Kipnis playing left field.  If Santana returns, we could see a deal involving Kipnis.

If you want to look at a player from another team that was non-tendered, how about reliever Hector Rondon.

The right-hander was in the Tribe organization until 2012, and had seasons of 29 and 30 saves for the Cubs in 2014 and 2015.

Last season, he was 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA for Chicago, with 69 strikeouts in 57-1/3 innings, so he still has swing and miss stuff.

We know the Indians like to reunite with former players, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the reliever came back to Cleveland, especially since the front office has to be looking for arms to replace Bryan Shaw, who is a free agent.

With the Winter Meetings starting on Sunday, the Indians’ roster changes should start to take place.  Just remember the number of platoon options are limited unless full time players are acquired as well.

MW

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s Browns’ Loss? All The Elements Which Caused 0-12.

Another Sunday, another day of insanity from the Cleveland Browns.

First, we had the national media (another leak from the coaching staff) saying coach Hue Jackson devised all kinds of plays to get the ball to recently reinstated WR Josh Gordon today.

Too bad, Jackson couldn’t do the same thing all season for guys like Duke Johnson, David Njoku and Seth DeValve.

Second, you had the local media reporting that Jackson wanted Carson Wentz all along in last year’s draft.  This despite several reports saying the Browns’ head coach didn’t think Wentz was worthy of the second overall pick.

And then we got to the game, which the Browns dropped 19-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers to drop to 0-12 this season.  With the 49ers win today, the Browns are the last team in the NFL without a win.

Cleveland’s first offensive play was a 9 yard completion to Gordon, and seemingly DeShone Kizer spent the rest of the day trying to force the ball to the wide out.

The Chargers were last in the NFL in rushing defense, so of course, Jackson had his offense throwing the ball all over place, with 35 passing plays (including three sacks) compared to just 22 runs.

Jackson continuously says he wants to run the ball, but we now have virtually two years of evidence that does not support it.  The man simply would rather to throw the football.

Unfortunately, he has a 21-year-old second round rookie QB, who is not terribly accurate and has little pocket awareness.  So, why wouldn’t you want to put the onus on him?

Kizer was below 50% today (15 of 32) and is has completed just 53% of his throws on the season, woefully low in today’s NFL.

This was on total display today, as Kizer missed Gordon twice on deep throws which should have resulted in touchdowns, and threw several other passes low and therefore uncatchable for his receivers.

He did make some great throws, two to Njoku come to mind, including one resulting in the Browns’ only touchdown.

However, the good quarterbacks make these kind of throws way more often.  And that’s why the Browns need to address the position in the off-season.

As for Kizer’s pocket presence, let’s just say it’s not showing signs of improvement.

He was sacked and fumbled with a chance to make the score 19-17 in the fourth quarter, because he held the ball after escaping the pocket.

Then, on the next possession, he took a sack in the field of play with no timeouts left and Gordon all the way downfield running a route.

What exactly is Jackson whispering to Kizer?

To us, it seems the Browns don’t seem to know what each part of the team is doing.

Jackson’s reliance on the pass leads to the defense being on the field way too much.  The Chargers had the ball for 35 minutes, and although we don’t agree with everything Gregg Williams does, his unit did allow just one touchdown despite allowing 429 yards, including 335 yards in the air to Philip Rivers.

Gordon did wind up with four catches for 85 yards during the game, but he could have had more with a more accurate passer.

Njoku continues to be underused, scoring his 4th touchdown of the year among his four receptions for 74 yards, but he doesn’t seem on the field as much as he should be.

Throw in two penalties for illegal formation (coaching) and a long kickoff return after the field goal which made the score 19-10, and you have a complete list of what seems to go on each and every week.

To complete things, we are sure Jackson once again said after the game that he doesn’t have the talent to win, and it would be “Groundhog Day” once again.

The only thing more disturbing would be the owner allowing this excuse maker around the Browns again next season.

JD

 

 

Sign Lindor This Winter? Don’t Hold Your Breath

We said this many times throughout this past baseball season, perhaps the best thing about the Cleveland Indians is that their two best players are 25 and under in Jose Ramirez (25) and Francisco Lindor, who just turned 24 a couple of weeks ago.

Lindor, who has two straight top ten finishes in the American League MVP voting at his young age, is under the Tribe’s control through the 2021 season, giving him four more full seasons with the Indians.

The Cleveland front office would undoubtedly like to sign their shortstop to a long term deal to keep him with his home ballpark being Progressive Field for the foreseeable future, but Lindor seems to understand his value gets higher every season, particularly if he keeps performing like he has.

At his age, he is getting nothing but better, and even with a slump last year in May and June, the switch-hitting Lindor still had a career high 842 OPS, mostly due to a career high .505 slugging percentage.

He had 81 extra base hits, made his second All Star team, and won his first Silver Slugger Award, in addition to being a finalist for the Gold Glove at short.

We are sure Lindor won’t sign this off-season either as he will likely wait until Bryce Harper’s free agency is resolved next off-season.

It has been said Harper could become the sports’ first $400 million player.  If he gets that amount, you’d have to think Lindor will get close to that amount, if not exceed it.

Granted when Harper finished his third big league season, he was just 21 years old, two years younger than Lindor was when last season ended.

In those first three seasons, the highest finish in the MVP voting for Harper was 30th in his rookie season.  He won the award the following season, his fourth year, but hasn’t been in the top ten since.

Harper and Mike Trout might be the faces of baseball, but Lindor’s definitely on a level right below those two.  His personality and the obvious joy he plays with are things MLB should market, and will as he continues to get better as a player.

We made the point last off-season that if Lindor plays 10 years in an Indians’ uniform, he will be the greatest position player in franchise history.  So, the stakes to keep him with the Tribe long term are very high.

In our lifetime, we haven’t had that player like George Brett, Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn for this franchise.  A truly great player who plays their entire career in Cleveland.

Remember that when Jim Thome goes into the Hall of Fame, perhaps next summer, he will be the first player to spend the majority of his career with the Indians to go into the Hall since Lou Boudreau.  He was inducted in 1971!

Despite all the great players who were here in the 90’s:  Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Thome, none of them can claim to have never worn another uniform.

We understand that’s not the way the sport is now, but wouldn’t it be nice if Frankie Lindor was that guy for our team.

We are sure the Dolan family, Chris Antonetti, and GM Mike Chernoff would like it to happen too.  Lindor is that kind of player.

MW

 

 

Wily Vets Off Bench Contributing Big Time For Cavs

Remember when you were just out of high school and you and your friends went up to the local YMCA or playground to play some basketball?

And your team could run, jump, and make behind the back passes beating other teams in your age group, right?

Then you met up with some guys in their 30’s, and they did all the right things, like making the extra pass, getting the ball to the hot hand, being in the right spot defensively, and getting position under the boards.  They kicked your butt.

That team has morphed into the Cleveland Cavaliers, who quietly have won eight straight games, their record now 13-7, one of the league’s best.

They are 7-3 on the road, a win total away from home that is only behind Houston and Boston in the NBA.

It has been the bench that has keyed this stretch of good basketball.  We understand that +/- isn’t the be all statistic in professional basketball, but on a nightly basis, the wine and gold’s leader in this category are frequently Kyle Korver (36 years old), Dwyane Wade (who will turn 36 in January), or Channing Frye (34).

The other key member of the bench is a young pup by these standards, but Jeff Green (31) was perhaps the most overlooked player Cleveland had coming into training camp, but he has been a major contributor.

The most interesting player is Wade, a superstar in the league for most of his career, a three time champion with Miami.

A lot of players in his place among NBA history have a hard time taking a lesser role as they get older, but perhaps because of his friendship with LeBron James, he has been a tremendous force since the Cavs turned their season around.

He has been malleable, contributing something different each night, depending on who is matched with.  If a smaller guard is defending him, he posts him up.  If it’s a bigger player, he takes him to the hoop.

All the while he is getting the rest of the players involved.  He’s averaging 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game in 23 minutes per night.

Korver has shot the Cavaliers to two wins this season with epic fourth quarter performances, scoring 19 points in the last stanza.  He’s shooting 43.6% from three point range, and he always gives an effort on the defensive end.

Frye wasn’t supposed to get a lot of playing time, but when Tristan Thompson went down, he got an opportunity, and made the most of it, scoring a little over seven points per contest in the last seven games, and has had a positive +/- in six of those contests.

Green was coming off a season with a bad Orlando team, in which he scored 9.2 points per game and shot 39.4% from the floor.

This season, he is scoring 10.0 points a night, shooting 49%.

He’s also been effective guarding smaller players on the perimeter, most notably doing a good job against Houston’s James Harden and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker.

When Isaiah Thomas returns, this veteran group could include Jose Calderon (36) to the mix.

Wade plays the most minutes out of the quartet at 23, with Korver and Green getting around 20, which should keep them fresh throughout the long season.

These four are a big reason the Cavs can play even with opponents while James is on the bench.  And because they can do that, it should lead to James getting more rest during games as the season goes on.

The “old guys” are getting the job done.

JK

 

 

Browns Don’t Need Help Losing, But Officials Lent A Hand Anyway.

With their record dropping to 0-11 after a 30-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals today, it is pretty clear the Cleveland Browns do not need any help losing football games.

But they received it today from a group of people we have been saying for years does their jobs horribly:  The NFL officials.

Whether the Browns would have tied the game at 23 had they got the ball back after Jabrill Peppers was called for a personal foul in the fourth quarter, we will never know, but we do know they were deprived of the chance.

Cleveland had just crept to within a touchdown at 23-16 when Peppers hit Bengals’ WR Josh Malone as he attempted to catch a pass.  It was certainly a vicious hit, but it appeared Peppers led with his shoulder and the hit lowered the receiver’s facemask into the safety’s helmet.

Cincinnati went on to put the game away with a touchdown that provided the final margin of victory.

Couple that with a very questionable pass interference penalty against Jason McCourty earlier in the game, and the zebras handed Cincy 11 points.

And to be fair, the same crew called Bengals’ LB Vontez Burfict for an unnecessary roughness penalty in the first quarter, which we rolled our eyes at.

Let the players play.

It is interesting that the box score on the NFL’s website, doesn’t mention the officiating crew.  The referee today was John Hussey, which we found on a site, http://www.footballzebras.com.

Our opinion, as it always has been, is that these are the type of plays that should be reviewable, and not by the crew at the game.  It should be a system similar to the NBA set up, where someone in the league headquarters reviews it.

The Browns outgained the Bengals, 405 yards to 361, the time of possession was pretty much even, neither team turned the ball over, but still Hue Jackson’s crew came up short.

They ran the ball well, with Isaiah Crowell getting 95 yards in 16 carries, but they seemed tentative in the red zone, understandably so, since DeShone Kizer has had turnover issues there all season long.

Jackson says his team has to play perfect to win, and although we disagree with him, you can’t have a wide receiver drop a pass in the end zone (Corey Coleman), a kicker miss a field goal (Zane Gonzalez’ fifth miss of the year), and you can’t take a sack on 3rd down and 1 in a game decided in the fourth quarter.

Add to that a 16 yard punt by Gonzalez when Britton Colquitt was being checked for a concussion.

Kizer’s pocket awareness continues to be an issue (sacked four times today), but he did make two wonderful touch throws, a 44 yarder to Coleman off his back foot, and a 24 yard toss to TE Seth DeValve late in the first half.

However, there were still issues that linger.  Kizer connected on less than 60% of his throws (58%), Duke Johnson had just 10 touches (for 67 yards), and the defense couldn’t force a turnover, with Briean Boddy-Calhoun dropping two possible picks, and Joe Schobert not coming up with a throw that hit him in the stomach in the end zone.

That made the turnover battle even again, with the Browns being 0-8-3 in terms of that this season.

Perhaps winning that category would help the team come up with that elusive first win.

So, it’s on to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers and Kizer will add another weapon with the return of Josh Gordon.

As for the officiating, it’s becoming another reason why the league is losing popularity.  Too many needless flags interrupting the flow of play.

JD

 

 

 

 

Front Office Or Coach, Who’s More To Blame For Browns.

The football fans of Northeast Ohio are at odds with each other.

Should the Browns keep the front office intact two years after Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Andrew Berry were put in charge of procuring players, and keep coach Hue Jackson, or should they keep Jackson and find a new director of football operations.

A third option would be to keep everyone in place for a third season.

Our opinion is that the front office stripped the team down to the bare bones following the 2015 season, and has started to put together a talented group of young players to grow and develop.

They haven’t addressed the quarterback position, but they will probably take care of that in this upcoming draft where they could have two top ten picks.

However, the offensive and defensive lines are strong, the linebackers are solid, and they seem to have a good group of tight ends.

This put them light years away from a couple of years ago when they simply weren’t good enough up front.

We have confidence that Brown and his cohorts in the front office will address the positions of weakness prior to next regular season.

Six players picked last season (2016) are currently starting:   WR Corey Coleman, WR Ricardo Louis, T Shon Coleman, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Joe Schobert, and S Derrick Kindred.

Only Louis can be considered questionable of that group.

Four rookies are starting:  QB DeShone Kizer, DT Trevon Coley,  DE Myles Garrett, and S Jabrill Peppers.

Garrett looks like he is as advertised, a very good pass rusher and a guy who can make All Pro teams.

And don’t forget CB/S Briean Boddy-Calhoun, TE Randall Telfair, TE Seth DeValve, and DE Carl Nassib who have shown flashes.

Have all the front office’s personnel moves worked?  No, but name a team that is right 100% of the time in this area.

Our belief is that coach Hue Jackson is the bigger issue.

He started Kizer, a rookie and a second round pick from the opening game, but didn’t put in an offense that would’ve taken pressure off the kid, having him throwing downfield instead of running the ball and using a short passing game to help him out.

He also doesn’t seem to run the ball, Cleveland ranks 23rd in the NFL in rushing attempts, but is 12th in the league in yards per attempt.  Something just doesn’t add up.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s squad is next to last in yards per pass attempt but they throw the ball the 4th most times in the league.

These statistics seem to indicate a coach who is either trying to lose football games or simply doesn’t have a clue as to how to use his personnel correctly.

Football people say tight ends are a quarterback’s best friends, but Kizer doesn’t seem to have been taught to use them.  Rookie TE David Njoku has scored three touchdowns this year, but has caught just 20 passes, and plays less than 50% of the snaps.

Duke Johnson, another threat on offense, has caught 46 passes, the same number of rushing attempts he has on the season.  This means he doesn’t even get 10 touches from scrimmage per game.

Add that to clock management mistakes, accepting penalties when he shouldn’t, and a general lack of discipline, and the fingers should point to Jackson, first and foremost.

Can Jackson change?  He could, but we are skeptical because of the past.

The question we like to ask is this:  Would another coach have one, two, or even three wins at this point in the schedule.

If you answer truthfully, then you know where the issue is.

JD

 

Tribe Readies Roster For Winter

The Cleveland Indians put the final touches on their 40 man roster today by making a series of roster moves, mostly made to protect prospects for the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings.

In order to make room for four minor leaguers, the Tribe designated righthanded pitcher Dylan Baker and southpaw Kyle Crockett for assignment.

Crockett will catch on someplace else we believe, because he will be useful as a situational lefty out of the bullpen.  He was called up less than a year after he was drafted and had a 1.80 ERA in 43 games as a rookie.

But he never really had Terry Francona’s confidence going forward and this past season, made just four appearances with the big club.

We understand many people think the Tribe made a mistake here, but if the pitcher doesn’t have the confidence of the manager and pitching coach, it’s best that he moves on.

Baker has battled arm problems for years and has pitched just 74 innings since the end of the 2013 season.  Our guess is the Indians will sign him to a minor league contract this winter.

The Indians added right handed starter Julian Merryweather (7-9, 5.32 ERA at Akron and Columbus in ’17) and a trio of shortstop prospects:  Eric Stamets, Yu-Cheng Chang, and Willi Castro.

Stamets came over from the Angels in 2015 for David Murphy as a good glove, no hit middle infielder, but he has developed power in recent years, hitting 16 homers in the minors last season, after not hitting over seven in any season prior to 2017.

Chang, just 22, hit 24 home runs last season with a .220 batting average (774 OPS).  He struck out 134 times a year ago, so he needs to make more contact and get on base more going forward.

Castro will turn 21 next season and played at Class A Lynchburg in ’17, hitting .290 with a 761 OPS and a career high 11 dingers.  He has been one of the younger players in the league in which he has played throughout his career.

Cleveland also claimed infielder Rob Refsnyder on waivers from Toronto.  Refsnyder was highly regarded by the Yankees as he advanced through the system, and actually started the Wild Card game for the Yanks in 2015.

However, he has never gotten more than 152 at bats in a season at the big league level, hitting .250 with a 637 OPS.

His AAA numbers are pretty good though, with a .294 batting average and a 799 OPS.  He’s a patient hitter, a second baseman by trade with experience in LF and RF.  We all know how Francona values versatility and he now has another player he can use in a variety of ways.

He also attended the University of Arizona like Tito.

It’s an under the radar move that could pay big dividends in the 2018 season.

Now, with three weeks until the Winter Meetings, the focus for the organization will shift to signing one of their key free agents, either Carlos Santana or Jay Bruce, and making some trades to get the roster ready for ’18.

With a core of the talented Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez and one of the best pitching staffs in the game, the Tribe is certainly the favorite to win the AL Central next season.

But keep an eye on guys like Merryweather, Castro, and Refsnyder.

MW

Game Plan, Horrible QB Play Are Today’s Culprits For Browns.

Sometimes what the Cleveland Browns do can’t be described in words.

The Jacksonville Jaguars pretty much did nothing on offense the entire day, yet somehow managed to put 19 points on the board in a 19-7 win over the Browns at First Energy Stadium.

The Browns are now 0-10 on the season.

Let’s start with a crazy game plan by the “quarterback whisperer”, Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson.

The Jaguars rank #1 in the NFL in pass defense by yardage, and are 25th in rush defense.  So, in a game that was pretty much a three point spread the entire game, the Browns ran the ball 18 times and threw it 32 times.

Of those 18 rushing attempts, five were by DeShone Kizer, and we remember only two were designed runs, and throw in five sacks by Jacksonville, and really, Cleveland called 37 passes and just 16 runs.

Does that make any sense at all?

If you are going to throw against the Jags, the time to do it is on first down, when they are playing a base defense.

On the Browns’ lone TD drive, they threw on first down three times, moving the ball 66 yards in five plays.  The touchdown itself was on a first down throw, a 27 yard strike to Duke Johnson.

The next time the Browns got the football, they ran on first down.  The following possession?  Again, a run on first down.  When they got the ball again, once again, they ran the football on first down.

When they threw the ball on first down again, the result was a 14 yard gain on a pass to Corey Coleman, who did catch 6 passes for 80 yards.

We aren’t advocating passing every time on first down, but if you don’t gain yardage doing it, you are playing right into the Jaguars’ plans by throwing in obvious passing situations.  If you don’t gain yardage on first down, run it again on second down and see what you get.

Then you have Kizer’s performance which can basically be described as horrific.

He threw two bad interceptions, the second on a throw we aren’t sure who it was intended for, and fumbled twice as well, including the play which ended the Browns’ hopes for a win.

And that play was set up on a terrible decision after Cleveland got a first down on the Jags’ 40.

Kizer was rushed, stepped up in the pocket, and looked like he could have run for at least ten yards, keeping momentum on the drive.

Instead, he made an ill-advised heave down the field into coverage, and was lucky the ball wasn’t picked off.

You would think he would have more awareness by this point in the year.

Also, think about the countless throws behind receivers or too low for them, particularly when they could have gained yardage if the ball was thrown properly.

We aren’t saying every throw should be perfect, but the rap on Kizer coming out of Notre Dame was inaccuracy, and that hasn’t been fixed.

Other things to note.  David Njoku and Seth DeValve, two players we believe can make plays, caught a total of two passes.  Johnson, another playmaker, touched the ball six times.

Jabrill Peppers fumbled two punts.  His confidence appears to be very shaky.

The defense performed admirably despite being on the field for 36 minutes due to the abominable offensive showing.

Despite claims by the media that they really aren’t good players, Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton look pretty good to us.

Cincinnati is the next opponent for the Browns, this one in the Queen City, and it is a winnable game.

However, the turnovers have to cease.  Jackson’s team hasn’t won the turnover battle once this year and has been even just twice.  You simply can’t keep shooting yourself in the foot.

JD

 

 

Cavs Starting To Turn A Corner?

There is no question the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled starting this season.  They’ve lost games to several of the NBA’s supposed also ran, losing at home to Atlanta, New York, and Indiana.

But just maybe, things are starting to turnaround just a bit as the wine and gold took three out of four on the road, losing only to Houston in the opening game.  That game was close at the end too, as the Cavs had a chance to win.

Yes, the defense could be better, but Tyronn Lue’s team does seem to be able to play at that end of the floor in spurts, such as the fourth quarter in New York on Monday, and in the second half last night in Charlotte.

With three of the next four and four of the next six at Quicken Loans Arena, it would be a good time to start playing better at home and in turn start climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.

Want another sign the Cavs aren’t as bad off as many in the national media think?  Cleveland has won 5 road games this season, and only Boston and Houston (both 7-1) have won more.

You don’t find many bad teams having success on the road.

On the other hand, good teams win games in blowout fashion, and right now the Cavaliers are just 1-4 in games decided by 10 points or more, their win in Milwaukee in the second game of the season being the lone triumph.

They have also been outscored on the season, another sign of a mediocre team.  However, remember Cleveland has played the entire season without Isaiah Thomas, a legitimate 20 points per game scorer, and their best interior defender in Tristan Thompson for most of the schedule.

There will be a period of adjustment when those players return, obviously, but it’s tough to get a good read on this team until they do.

And we say this every year, but we wish the media and fans alike would stop comparing the Cavs to the Golden State Warriors.

First, the Warriors top four players are the same as last year.  Second, most of the games they play their opponents are mesmerized by their style of play and that creates an advantage right from the opening tip.

Also, why should anybody care?  The wine and gold play just two games in the regular season against Golden State, and after that, they won’t see them in the playoffs until the NBA Finals if both teams get to that point.

To compare the Cavs start to the Warriors’ start is an exercise in frustration.  Really, the only thing to be watching right now is how this pretty much new group of players is gelling, and what team in the East may pose a threat to Lue’s squad.

And don’t forget the Cavaliers have made deals during the season in each of the last three seasons to shore up a weakness.  Why wouldn’t you think the same thing will happen this season.

Hopefully, losing to the dregs of the NBA on a regular basis is done, and the momentum gained on this trip will continue.  At the very least, people can breathe a little easier about the Cavs.

JK

Could Be A Busy Winter For Tribe

The hot stove league has officially started in Major League Baseball with the GM Meetings this week, and the Winter Meetings taking place in a few weeks.

After the past few years when the 25 man roster was pretty much set in stone, the next few weeks could be filled with several moves for the Cleveland Indians.

It was not surprise that the Tribe offered free agent Carlos Santana the qualifying offer, nor was it a shock when he turned it down.

Many experts expect Santana to return to the Indians after seeing what offers are out there, but president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have plenty of questions to answer before the team reconvenes in Goodyear in February.

Santana is the key to Cleveland’s off-season in our opinion.

The team would probably be interested in a reunion with Jay Bruce if the market comes back down much like it did with Edwin Encarnacion a year ago.  But they probably won’t go more than two or three years for the veteran outfielder.

And what to do with Jason Kipnis?  If Santana returns, there doesn’t seem to be a fit for him, as Michael Brantley would play LF in that scenario.  However, if Santana departs, Brantley would likely go to 1B, with Kipnis playing left field.

The Indians do have some trade assets, although we believe they aren’t interested in trading their top prospect C/3B Francisco Mejia, one of the top 10 prospects in all of the minor leagues, nor would they be anxious to move Triston McKenzie, one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball.

We would think the organization would want to keep Mejia and OF Greg Allen in AAA to start the season and get them more experience.

However, we could see players such as Erik Gonzalez, Yu-Cheng Chang, and Willi Castro, all shortstops by trade who would seem to be blocked here by the presence of Francisco Lindor.

We also don’t know how the organization feels about the future of 1B Bobby Bradley, whose power is unquestioned, but he has a lot of swing and miss in his style.  Does the front office think he can be a viable big league hitter?

With reliever Bryan Shaw also likely to be elsewhere in ’18, who fills his role in the bullpen.  It has been rumored that perhaps Danny Salazar moves to the bullpen with his electric stuff as a bridge between the starter and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

If not, no doubt the brass will be looking for another bullpen arm.

The rotation shouldn’t see changes, but if Salazar does go to the ‘pen, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Tribe look for a starter on the free agent market, probably toward spring training when the prices come down.

The Indians have a strong core with Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Miller, and Allen.  Unless he fails with the bat, Bradley Zimmer probably has a lock on centerfield.

The rest of the spots are fluid and the front office has some choices that are currently on the roster, young players on the uptick, and perhaps adding more pieces in deals.

There could be plenty of new faces in spring training for the Indians, and many of those spots hinge on Santana’s decision.

MW