Perhaps the executive branches of professional sports teams have hot streaks and cold spells just like players. If you agree with that premise, then the front office and management of the Cleveland Indians is in a bit of a slump.
It started in the off season, when the team predictably lost two relievers, Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith in free agency. However, president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff didn’t really address the losses in the winter.
Sure, they brought in a collection of guys on minor league contracts, but no one with a proven track record. Because of Andrew Miller’s injury, this has resulted in having the statistically worst bullpen in baseball.
Miller being out has caused Terry Francona to have no bridge to Cody Allen for much of the season. Only in the last month have Neil Ramirez and Oliver Perez, released by the Yankee organization, stepped up to give the Tribe some relief in the 7th and 8th innings.
Worse, the bullpen situation, or lack of it, have caused Francona to extend his starters, and Corey Kluber is already having some knee issues. Hopefully, that’s the extent of the effect as the season continues.
Austin Jackson was also a free agent not pursued by the Indians after a season where he hit .318 overall, and torched left-handers to the tune of a .352 batting average and 1.013 OPS.
Look, we agree that Jackson was unlikely to produce the same way in 2018, but the issue was the front office wound up picking up Rajai Davis to take his spot with the team. Unfortunately, Davis has never been outstanding vs. lefties, a career 759 OPS against southpaws, and this year that figure has dropped to 523.
Spring training also caused some curious decisions, most notably not making Yandy Diaz more versatile. Diaz played 21 games in LF and nine games in RF last season in Columbus, but in the spring, they focused him at third base, a position he was never going to play in Cleveland with Jose Ramirez there.
Diaz has little to prove at the AAA level after hitting .350 there last season, and this season has a .415 on base percentage in Columbus. The Tribe could use some outfield help, and they could also use someone at the bottom of the order who doesn’t make outs.
It doesn’t seem like the organization has any plans for Diaz, despite hitting .263 last year and getting a lot of time down the stretch last season.
These aren’t second guesses, either. Most fans of the team wondering aloud during the winter and throughout spring training just what was the front office doing. Most felt because of the weak AL Central, the brass had until the end of July to fix things.
Well, that date is drawing near, and the fear is there are too many holes on this roster to fix them all within two weeks.
But the front office has a chance to redeem itself after the slump that has continued since the end of last season. The time to strike is now.
The bullpen is the glaring need and we do not believe it will be fixed simply with Andrew Miller’s return. Hopefully, Ramirez and Perez keep pitching well, but holdovers Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, and Tyler Olson aren’t inspiring any confidence.
The offense could be solved by simply bringing up Francisco Mejia (who was recalled yesterday) and perhaps Diaz as well and putting them into the lineup. On the other hand, neither are proven at the big league level, and the Indians need to correct the current top heaviness in the batting order.
If the front office pulls off a couple of solid moves that work within the next two weeks, no one will remember the past eight months. However, they can’t just ignore the issues this team has despite a big division lead.