Spring training opens in about six weeks for the Cleveland Indians, and there are still questions surrounding the roster of the defending American League Central Division champs.
Off-season transactions throughout the sport are moving at a snail’s pace, except for relief pitchers, and the Tribe has lost two of them, Bryan Shaw to Colorado and Joe Smith to Houston.
A third, southpaw Boone Logan is rumored to be heading to Milwaukee, although the Indians probably believe they have filled that spot late last season with Tyler Olson.
So, the front office needs to find some bullpen help for a manager who loves plenty of arms in the ‘pen in Terry Francona.
There are still some options on the free agent market, but none are as accomplished as Shaw and Smith. So, creativity may be needed by GM Mike Chernoff and president Chris Antonetti.
The bigger hit to date may be offensively with the loss of Carlos Santana to the Phillies, and an impending departure of late season hero, Jay Bruce.
Will the slow market allow the Indians to retain Bruce? The longer he stays unsigned, you have to believe his demands will come down. Will they come down to an area where the Tribe is comfortable?
When you are a contending team, you can’t have a lot of unproven players in your everyday lineup.
Right now, third base is a question mark and so is centerfield, despite Bradley Zimmer’s debut a year ago. Zimmer has no track record, and had some swing and miss issues in 2017, so to say the team doesn’t need a back up plan is a big mistake.
We would like to think Yandy Diaz is the frontrunner at the hot corner, but the skipper frequently makes comments about his glove (despite good defensive metrics in the minor leagues), and he loves the defense of Giovanny Urshela, whose bat is suspect.
Right now, the lineup just isn’t long enough, but there is still a long way to go before the players start arriving in Goodyear.
We understand fans don’t like the inactivity, but really, outside of the bullpen movement and the Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton, what teams in the AL have done anything?
That’s right. Nobody else has made a significant move, at least among the upper echelon of the Junior Circuit, and that’s where the Indians live right now.
Even though the Tribe has Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion, besides the questions we already listed, they still have Jason Kipnis coming off an injury plagued, off year for him.
Michael Brantley didn’t play for much of the second half, and is coming off surgery on his ankle.
Lonnie Chisenhall missed a good portion of the season after the All Star Game, and Brandon Guyer was pretty much a non-factor either.
And don’t forget last year’s big surprise, Austin Jackson, is a free agent, and may not be back with the team.
Remember, this winter, player movement is moving at a glacial pace. At some point between now and the middle of February, that will pick up.
With the slow movement could come bargains, which is to the advantage of the Cleveland Indians. Something to keep an eye on in the next six weeks.