Our “Concerns” About The Tribe

Friday night, the Cleveland Indians will play their 40th game of the 2017 season, meaning the season is 25% completed.

Coming off an American League pennant, we are sure many fans were hoping for a start similar to the 1984 Detroit Tigers (35-5), so they could start looking for the inevitable repeat berth in the Fall Classic.

Baseball doesn’t work that way.

The old axiom in the sport is you can’t win a post-season spot in April, but you can certainly lose one.  The Tribe is just a game out of the AL Central Division lead as of today, and they are just a game out of the second wild card spot too.

They are still in a good position to get back to the playoffs, because they are right around the .500 mark, and really haven’t played good baseball to date.

There are some things that concern us about the Tribe, though.  And in no particular order, here they are:

The Starting Pitching.  Injuries aside, and losing one of the best pitchers in the game in Corey Kluber, even for a short time, doesn’t help, the rotation has been shaky outside of Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Look at these numbers:

Danny Salazar–5.2 innings per start, 5.66 ERA
Josh Tomlin–5.1 innings per start, 6.86 ERA
Trevor Bauer–5.6 innings per start, 6.92 ERA

Just as bad as the high ERAs is, the lack of length from this trio is putting a big toll on the bullpen.  If the starters can’t start giving Terry Francona some length, the relief corps will be fried by August.

Salazar and Bauer’s struggles extend into the second half of last season.

The bigger issue might be that the Tribe doesn’t have a lot of options currently in the organization.

Inconsistent Offense.  The 2016 Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored.  Right now, the team ranks 10th, despite the addition of Michael Brantley to his pre-injury form.

Most people will put the blame on free agent signee Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting just .203 with 6 HR and 14 RBI (691 OPS).  However, Jason Kipnis has struggled since coming back from a shoulder issue, and the outfield platoons haven’t provided much hitting either, outside of Lonnie Chisenhall.

We feel Encarnacion is pressing, trying to live up to his contract, and Kipnis will come around as he gets more at bats.

One other thing.  We are a little concerned that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have become a little too home run happy.  That’s something to keep an eye on.

Loss Of Aggressiveness On Bases.  This has started to return, starting with last Sunday’s game vs. the Twins.

Lindor and Ramirez have just two stolen bases each.  For as many times as each have been on base, that’s incredibly low.  We understand that Rajai Davis led the league in steals a year ago, but he didn’t take the instructions on how to steal with him.

The Indians strikeout fewer than all but two AL teams (Boston and Minnesota), and they are fifth in drawing walks.  Francona needs to put runners in motion more often.

Cleveland is 11th in the American League in homers, so they shouldn’t be playing Earl Weaver baseball, looking for the three run bomb.

It’s time to use the speed to the team’s advantage.

We don’t think this is a horrible baseball team.  We don’t think the sky is falling.  It is silly to ignore some trouble spots for the Indians.

They still have another gear as the season goes on.

MW

Reviewing The Tribe So Far

It’s hard to believe, but the Indians 3-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday means the ballclub has completed 1/6th of the season.

Their record is 15-12 which doesn’t sound very impressive, but over a complete 162 game season, winning at that pace computes to a 90 win season.

Terry Francona’s club has been a little inconsistent, but it does say a lot about this baseball team that they have a winning record despite only one phase of the team, the bullpen, performing up to expectations.

The offense ranks just 7th in the American League in runs scored (they were 2nd last year), and they have scored three runs or less in 14 games to date, more than half of the schedule.  They are 4-10 in those games.

This means when they get to four runs, they are virtually unbeatable at 11-2.

Why has the offense struggled?

Edwin Encarnacion is off to a slow start at .198 with 4 HR and 10 RBI (667 OPS).  This is his history, so we aren’t concerned about that.  His lowest numbers in his career by month are in April.

What is concerning is his strikeouts.  Encarnacion has struck out 39 times in 118 plate appearances, well above the normal rate for his career.

We believe he is just trying to justify his new, hefty contract, and once the weather gets warmer and he relaxes, he will be fine.

Carlos Santana is also off to a slow start, with a 663 OPS and only 2 home runs.  He does continue to take his walks with 17 compared to 13 strikeouts.  The walks rank second to Encarnacion.

Jason Kipnis didn’t get many at bats in spring training, and it has shown, as he is hitting just .132.  Perhaps he would have benefited from an extra week in the minors for rehab.

On the other hand, the two youngsters in the batting order, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are raking.

Lindor is taking his place as one of the game’s new stars, adding power with 7 homers, 17 RBIs and a 976 OPS.

Ramirez is showing his 2016 season was not a fluke (we didn’t think it was), batting .323 with a 986 OPS and a team leading 23 RBIs, tied for 4th in the American League.

The starting pitching has also been up and down.  Corey Kluber is now on the disabled list with lower back tightness, and has an ERA of 5.06.  He’s pitched some very good games, but has also had clinkers.

Carlos Carrasco has been the best starter, with a 2.18 ERA and allowing only 26 hits in 41 innings.  If Danny Salazar can get past the first inning he has been solid as well.

However, Josh Tomlin hasn’t pitched like he did in the post-season last year (currently an 8.87 ERA) and Trevor Bauer has had only one start where he allowed less than four runs.

Still, if you remove his two starts vs. Detroit, his ERA is 5.00.

The bullpen has been the strength of the team to this point.

The combination of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller has been spectacular.  In 24-2/3 combined innings, they have struck out 42 batters, and allowing just one run.

Bryan Shaw continues to be a workhorse and has been effective, but newcomer Nick Goody has impressed as well.

Acquired from the Yankees over the winter, he has thrown nine scoreless frames, allowing just two hits.  He seems to have moved ahead of Zack McAllister in the bullpen pecking order.

The offense will get more consistent and so will the starting pitching, so you have to be very satisfied with the Tribe’s start to the 2017 season.

There is nothing to change our mind that this edition of the Indians will win the American League Central Division.

MW

 

Opening Day Means Welcoming Old And New Friends.

Today is the day baseball fans in northeast Ohio have been looking forward to since the World Series ended in early November.

The Cleveland Indians are back home at Progressive Field today to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of 81 dates at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

It is also the beginning of six division games as the Tigers come in for three games over the Easter weekend, and it is important for the Tribe to again play well within the AL Central as almost half the schedule is divisional contests.

And that schedule is top heavy in terms of road games early for the Indians, as 23 of the first 35 games are away from downtown Cleveland.  While that’s a difficult early slate, it does mean a decided advantage after that stretch is done.

No doubt it will be a party atmosphere at the ballpark tomorrow, it always is for the home opener in this area, but the encouraging thing is it doesn’t appear the park will be a ghost town after tomorrow’s game.

Last year’s post-season run to the World Series sold a lot of tickets, and a good start will get even more people to visit Progressive Field.  The Tribe could have its highest attendance figures in many, many years.

It will be the fans first look at Edwin Encarnacion, their high profile free agent 1B/DH, and one of the game’s premier sluggers.

On the other side, age wise, it will also be the first time they get to see Yandy Diaz, who although he is just 5 for 23 to start the year, has shown an ability to hit the ball extremely hard.

Diaz isn’t likely to be here for long, he will probably go back to Columbus once Jason Kipnis returns from his sore shoulder, but he is a guy who is very much part of the Indians’ not to distant future.

It is time to resume our love for the mainstays of last year’s American League Champions, to celebrate how lucky we are to get to watch Francisco Lindor, now firmly established as one of baseball’s best young players, on an everyday basis.

It’s also a great feeling to have a lead late in the game knowing the Indians have likely the best one-two bullpen combination in the sport in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  That duo can be interchangeable if Terry Francona so desires.

We will say hello to last year’s breakout star in Jose Ramirez, who filled in at several spots in 2016, and is doing the same now at second base, until Kipnis returns, and he moves back to the hot corner.

And we say welcome back to Michael Brantley, remembering it was just three short years ago that he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. It’s easy to forget Brantley has been here since 2009, and he and Kipnis were the first building blocks for a World Series squad.

It’s a day of celebration, remembering what the 2016 edition of the Indians did, and looking forward to what could be another great season at Progressive Field.

The boys of summer have returned to Cleveland.

MW

 

Tribe Wins Opener, And More Thoughts On AL Champs

For some reason, many people, including baseball fans put a lot of importance on the results of the Opening Day of baseball.

In reality, it is just one game of 162, but because the non-baseball sports media actually watch the season lidlifter, there is more analysis on game one, compared to a contest in May between the Tribe and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Indians did get off to a winning start, overcoming a 5-1 deficit after three innings to outlast the Texas Rangers 8-5 to go to 1-0 on the season.

Corey Kluber gutted out six innings on a day where he didn’t have his best stuff, Edwin Encarnacion debuted with a home run, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen struck out five of the last seven Texas hitters to wrap this one up.

Remember though that baseball is a series sport, you want to win series, and the Indians have a leg up on that by winning last night.

So, while we celebrate a win in the first game, there are still some issues for this baseball team, although none of them are based on a lack of talent, which is very refreshing.

Over the weekend, the front office signed another player to a multi-year contract, Roberto Perez.  Perez inked a four year deal with two club options that could take him through 2022.

Perez was a star in last year’s post-season, and it says here that he will be the regular catcher by the All-Star break.  It is a well kept secret that Perez is better defensively than Yan Gomes (who is very good behind the plate), and better with a bat in his hand too.

Gomes doesn’t control the strike zone which in our opinion is why he has struggled at the plate since 2014.  Pitchers know they don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.

Perez is also one of the best pitch framers in the business, and draws a ton of walks too.

By the way, we know Terry Francona is protecting rookie Yandy Diaz, but hitting Gomes sixth seems like it will come back to bite the Tribe.

The other situation worth looking at is in the outfield, particularly when Lonnie Chisenhall is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Austin Jackson was told a week before spring training ended, leading to speculation that Abraham Almonte would be sent to the minors.  But Chisenhall’s shoulder issue allowed the switch-hitter to make the team.

We still feel that Almonte is a better choice than Jackson for the roster because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and because Jackson has had issues making contact at times.

We know it is one game, but Almonte had a day, didn’t he?  Two walks and the go ahead single in the ninth.  You have to wonder what happens when Chisenhall is back.

Does Almonte still go to Columbus, or does Jackson agree to go down.  Or will the team send out Tyler Naquin.  Just another problem teams have when they are good.

As for people disappointed that the Indians didn’t open at home?  Relax, worry about something else.  Hopefully, the Tribe wins both series on the road and they come home to a party after a successful trip.

MW

 

Spring Training Is Here!

People who aren’t baseball fans just don’t get it.  We heard a few times on talk radio this week that hosts didn’t understand why baseball people get so excited over camps opening, when the regular season is still six weeks away.

It’s pretty simple.  First of all, baseball is the one sport that occurs pretty much every day.  To be a hard core supporter of the grand ol’ game is to make a daily commitment, 162 games played over 180 days.

Since it is played each day for the most part, it is missed when it isn’t here.  So Tribe fans, still dealing with a heart breaking loss in game 7 of the World Series, haven’t been able to lick their wounds with action on the field since November 2nd.

Second, it’s an early sign of spring, the promise of warmer weather to come, looking forward to warm, summer nights at Progressive Field.

We don’t believe any other sport can offer the regeneration of warm weather to follow.

And Tribe fans are even looking forward more to the beginning of spring training this year because of last year’s success, but also because of the tremendous off-season Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff had, signing perhaps the most prominent free agent this winter in 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion.

They also added to an already strong bullpen by inking lefty Boone Logan as a free agent.  They did have to say goodbye to two large contributors to last year’s success in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis, but overall it appears the Indians are stronger than they were when they ended the season.

Baseball fans will be awaiting the first pictures from Goodyear, Arizona, particularly pics of the newest Indians, seeing Encarnacion in Tribe togs for the first time.

We also want to see how our old favorites look in camp, even through many of them were just in town for Tribe Fest at the end of January.

And we are all very anxious to see reports on those players recovering from injuries, mostly Michael Brantley, who missed virtually the entire regular season with shoulder issues.

Brantley’s recovery would be huge, adding another solid bat to an everyday lineup that finished 2nd in the American League in runs scored in 2016.

We will also be interested in the progress of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, two stalwarts of the starting rotation, who missed most of  the post-season fun with injuries.  Neither should be a problem long term, but until they are on the mound in exhibition games getting hitters out, you can’t be sure.

It is also fun to follow the progress of the top prospects in the organization, to get your first look at catcher Francisco Mejia and outfielder Greg Allen, both of whom should get some “A” game at-bats.

And we will get a newer look at OF Bradley Zimmer, who will likely start the season in Columbus, and should be on track to make his big league debut this summer.

Those are just some of the reasons why baseball fans look forward to hearing “Pitchers and catchers report”.  It’s the beginning of eight months of a commitment to the sport.

It’s a sign that winter will soon be over…baseball is back!

MW

 

Tribe Thinking Like A Contender, As They Should

Today, the Cleveland Indians will announce the signing of free agent 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion to the largest contract in club history.

We have all been waiting for the official signing because the news has been out there since the weekend before Christmas, and the Tribe fans have been excited about the move for two weeks.

And the contract has paid immediate dividends as even more season ticket packages were sold after the announcement that Encarnacion, arguably the most consistent slugger in the game over the last five years, was joining the team.

Thus, a new era for the Indians is here.  They are legitimate contenders to win a World Series.  That’s what happens when you get to the seventh game of the Fall Classic the prior year.

Unlike the last times the Indians made the post-season, in 2007 and 2013, they haven’t stood pat.  They improved the ballclub.  Make no mistake, no matter how important Mike Napoli was to the 2016 Tribe, Edwin Encarnacion is a better hitter.  No question about it.

With the departure of Rajai Davis as a free agent, the current outfield set up looks to be a platoon of Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte in centerfield, another platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer in rightfield, and hopefully Michael Brantley in left.

However, until we see Brantley swing the bat effectively in spring training, there is a lingering doubt that he can return to the form he exhibited in 2014 and 2015.

If he can, the Tribe offense should be even better than it was last year, and remember, they ranked second in the AL in runs scored last season.

What if Brantley isn’t ready or he is not as effective as in the past, what can the Indians do?

When you are a contender, you can’t rely totally on rookies.  They may be able to do the job ultimately, but you need to have a backup plan.

Preferably, they would sign another veteran bat who could play in left if Brantley isn’t healthy and may be able to slide over to centerfield if Naquin’s end of the year struggles continue into 2017.

We like several young players currently in the Cleveland farm system, particularly Yandy Diaz, who can play the outfield and 3B, and Bradley Zimmer or Greg Allen, both of whom could be candidates to play CF before the end of 2017.

However, it is tough to depend on rookies when you are chasing a ring.  You have to have a backup plan if they don’t hit or need more experience.

Which is why it seems at times that Terry Francona would rather go with a veteran.  When your expectation is winning the division there is no time to go through the growing pains of a rookie.

In our opinion, that’s why we would rather start the year with a rookie and if the player isn’t working out, you have the veteran in reserve.  However, neither Diaz, Zimmer, or Allen have any major league experience and none of the three have spent an entire year in AAA, although Diaz spent most of ’16 there.

Another alternative would be moving Jose Ramirez to LF and look at using Giovanny Urshela at third.

We have confidence the Tribe front office will bring in a low risk, high reward veteran outfielder as insurance for Brantley.

It’s part of the new philosophy at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.  The philosophy of a team trying to bring a title to Cleveland.

KM

 

Tribe Says Merry Christmas To Its Fans and Players

When the rumors first surfaced at the winter meetings that the Cleveland Indians were interested in slugger Edwin Encarnacion, we, like most, were skeptical.

Agents float these rumors to drive up the price of a player, and when Encarnacion turned down a four year, $80 million deal from the Blue Jays, believing he could get more, it seemed like that was what was happening.

However, you don’t know the impact of getting to the seventh game of the World Series does for ownership and the front office.  It’s a great feeling to play into the end of October (or November in 2016), and have the national media focused on your team.

Obviously, the Dolan family and Chris Antonetti enjoyed that experience and want to do it again.

The money made during the post-season obviously made this possible, and for the few fans questioning the move, remember, the Tribe didn’t have to cut into its farm system to add the big bat.  It’s just money, and as long as Encarnacion maintains the production he has shown the last five years, it’s cash well spent.

This isn’t a Nick Swisher/Michael Bourn signing.  Here are Encarnacion’s numbers over the last five seasons:

2012:  42 HR, 110 RBI, 941 OPS
2013:  36 HR, 104 RBI, 904 OPS
2014:  34 HR,  98 RBI, 901 OPS
2015:  39 HR, 111 RBI, 929 OPS
2016:  42 HR, 127 RBI, 886 OPS

He hit 22 dingers away from Rogers Centre in ’16 and had an OPS of 834.  His OPS on the road was over 900 in 2015.

The only stat that is concerning is his strikeouts were over 100 for only the second time in his career, fanning 138 times.  On the other hand, he walked a career high 87 times.

The strikeouts are still almost 60 less than Mike Napoli, and as for his road numbers, remember that Progressive Field was one of the best hitter’s parks in the AL last season.

As a comparison, here were Swisher’s numbers for the five years before the Indians signed him after the 2012 season:

2008:  24 HR, 69 RBI, 743 OPS
2009:  29 HR, 82 RBI, 869 OPS
2010:  23 HR, 89 RBI, 870 OPS
2011:  23 HR, 85 RBI, 822 OPS
2012:  24 HR, 93 RBI, 837 OPS

As you can see, Encarnacion’s worst year in that span is better than Swisher’s best season.  Plus, we always thought Swisher was miscast as a clean up hitter, whereas Encarnacion is the prototype #4 hitter.

He appreciated what Mike Napoli did for the 2016 Tribe, but let’s face it, it was very unlikely he would match the numbers he put up.  Players just don’t have career years at age 34 and then continue at that pace for a few more years.

Besides, Napoli’s OPS was 800 last year.  Encarnacion is simply a much better hitter than him.

The Indians are officially going for it in 2017, and yesterday’s signing has fans in northeast Ohio are excited.  The team’s six pack ticket plan was sold out today.  Season ticket sales have increased.

Spring training can’t come soon enough.  The Indians gave their players and fans an early Christmas present.

KM

Tribe Should Live A Little With Extra Cash

This past week, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote that even though the Cleveland Indians received a windfall from their post-season appearance that culminated in a World Series berth that went the distance, the Tribe front office was not going to change the way they do business.

We agree that the Indians should not go hog wild spending huge dollars on players on the decline.  They learned a valuable lesson when they inked Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn after the 2012 season.

However, that cash should be looked at as found money.  So, why don’t the Indians live a little?

Think about if you won the lottery, or won some money at the casino, would you use all that windfall on bills or put in all in the bank?  Probably not all of it.

You would spend some on yourself, buy yourself something you normally wouldn’t get because it is better to spend it on necessities.

Live a little.  Splurge on something fun and cool.

Or in baseball terms, sign a free agent or make a deal where you can take on some salary, taking advantage of a less successful small market team.

Obviously, the name that stands out is Edwin Encarnacion, who has been one of the game’s premier sluggers for five years running, and would be an upgrade over Mike Napoli, whether you want to admit it or not.

Besides adding production to the lineup, the added benefit would be with the ticket buying public.  A big signing would continue the momentum the Indians received with their playoff run.

Right now, the inactivity is causing them to be an afterthought in the media right now.

There is no question that the front office has the faith of baseball fans throughout the area, based on last season’s success.  But there is nothing wrong with getting more talent to improve your margin for error.

This isn’t to say the Indians can’t win the division again next season if they re-sign Napoli and Rajai Davis.  However, the odds that they will have similar seasons to 2016 at their respective ages is slim.  So, the team has to make up for that.

And as much as we want to talk about Michael Brantley’s return, the truth is he’s had just 39 at bats since the end of the 2015 season, and we don’t know if he will be productive, and if he’s productive, how many games will he be healthy enough to play in in 2017.

You also have to wonder if Carlos Santana can hit as many home runs as he did in 2016, when he set a career best.

Our point is the Indians probably need to upgrade the offense, because even though they were second in the AL in runs scored, a lot of things went their way to allow them to achieve that spot.

You can’t bank on those things again.

Our message to Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff is to have some fun with your windfall.  Don’t go crazy.  Don’t act like the Red Sox or Dodgers, but go out and buy yourself something nice.  You deserve it after getting the Tribe to the seventh game of the World Series.

MW

 

 

 

No Deals Yet, But Tribe Can’t Stand Pat

The Cleveland Indians were one of the teams who were inactive in terms of moves at this past week’s winter meetings in Washington.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t busy, it just means they didn’t get anything done before the annual get together ended yesterday.

Yet.

The rumors about Edwin Encarnacion are still out there, and at least a few national pundits have the Tribe being the favorite to sign the right-handed hitting slugger.

At the very least, the Indians know they have openings in the 1B/DH role served by Mike Napoli and an outfield slot manned by Rajai Davis in 2016.

Both of those players were huge contributors for the American League champions.  Napoli hit a career high 34 home runs and his best offensive season since 2013, and was a tremendous clubhouse presence.

Davis hit the game tying home run in game seven of the Fall Classic, but had his worst season since 2013.

Both players are beyond their prime years though.  Napoli will play the 2017 season at age 35, while Davis is now 36 years old.

In reality, if the front office brought both back in the same roles as last season, what would be the odds both will be as productive as they were in 2016?

Spoiler alert!  The answer would be slim or none.

Both players were probably overexposed due to the injury of Michael Brantley, but we can definitely see a scenario where both players return and disappoint, more due to the expectations of the fans and management.

That’s why Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff are pursuing Encarnacion, who is a year younger than Napoli and whose production is much more consistent.

Over the last five seasons, last season might be the slugger’s worst, and even then, he belted 42 home runs and knocked in 127, to lead the AL.

If he declines slightly in 2017, what are you looking at?  Probably 30-35 dingers and around 100 RBI, which is what Napoli provided last season.

Yes, Encarnacion wants a three or four year deal, but his production over the last five years merits that.  It is a huge gamble to give a two or three year deal with Napoli based on his recent past.

We understand the emotional part of this would say to bring back these two heroes from a World Series season, but Antonetti and Chernoff can’t think with their hearts, they have to use cold, hard logic.

While we are still skeptical of the Tribe signing a player like Encarnacion, who is probably the best hitter on the market, the fact remains they have to resign Napoli, or replace him with someone else.

The same is true with Davis.

The front office realizes that, and we are sure they are working diligently to get something done.

So, we would anticipate a couple of moves to address those areas in the next couple of weeks.  And we expect a free agent signing or trade because we doubt the Indians will trust either opening to a rookie like Yandy Diaz or Bradley Zimmer, nor should they.

They aren’t in a player development mode right now.  Of course, this doesn’t mean those two players won’t be contributors in 2017, it just means the Tribe can’t count on them to start a season where they are the defending AL Champions.

Antonetti and Chernoff are waiting for the market to settle before striking.  Although it’s frustrating for fans, it’s also smart.

MW

 

 

A New Era For The Tribe?

Are we looking at a new era on the corner of Ontario and Carnegie?

Rumors out of baseball’s annual winter meetings have the Cleveland Indians talking to the agents of free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion about coming to the Tribe on a multi-year contract.

Encarnacion is one of the game’s premier sluggers.  He led the American League in runs batted in last season, and his OPS hasn’t been below 886 since 2011.  His lowest home run total over the last five years was 34.

In short, he is an upgrade, at least on the field, from the player who filled his position in 2016.

According to reports, the Indians are one of three teams considered favorites to sign him, along with Boston and Texas, so it should still be considered a long shot for him to join the American League champions.

It has been reported that the Tribe paid a very handsome profit from last season’s playoff run, and remember that John Sherman was brought in as vice chairman and minority owner last summer, so it is very possible that Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have some extra cash to spend this winter.

And obviously, if you lose the World Series in game seven, and in extra innings, you are in win now mode.

If ever there was a time to throw a little caution to the wind and “go for it”, it is the 2017 season.

Especially when it appears that your competition in the AL Central are in flux.  The White Sox look to be in sell mode.  The Tigers are aging and have been said to be interested in lowering payroll.  The Royals have several key players eligible for free agency after the ’17 season.  The Twins lost 100 games a year ago, and shouldn’t be a factor next season.

That doesn’t mean the Indians’ front office will go crazy, handing out huge amounts of cash on long term deals to players decidedly on the downside of their careers.

If the team is able to strike a deal with Encarnacion, we would image a two or three year deal, as he will turn 34 years old in January.  Mike Napoli is a year older, and hasn’t shown the consistency in his career as Encarnacion.

Also, the reason Cleveland can even think about this is the low amount of money committed to their starting pitching staff, which is a sink hole for most other major league teams.

Heck, the Dodgers yesterday gave Rich Hill, who was pitching in an independent league in 2015, $48 million over three years.  The Tribe doesn’t have to commit that kind of cash to their rotation.

Even if the Indians don’t reach an agreement with Encarnacion, this sends a signal that the front office is ready to spend money on the right player and in the right situation.  That’s all fans want, and it should keep the momentum from last October going for the local baseball team.

So, the Indians may make a big splash this off-season, something not thought possible a week ago.  Getting this close to a World Series title for fueled this.

It could also mean that the Antonetti led front office is more aggressive than the Mark Shapiro led one.  There could have been many reasons for Shapiro’s conservativism, but we doubt he makes the Andrew Miller trade, and it doesn’t seem signing a big time free agent is something he would have done either.

Right now, circumstances have the Cleveland Indians in a win now situation.  It’s been 20 years since we could say that.

MW