30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

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No team in the Central went through a more sweeping change than the Indians this offseason. Cleveland, losers of 90+ games three of the past four years, has a clubhouse presence in two-time World Series champion Terry Francona. After a year in the broadcast booth with ESPN, Tito is back in the dugout and has brought a few familiar faces with him. He replaces Manny Acta, who once again showed he does not have what it takes to be a winning manager in the league. The Indians have not made the postseason since 2007, when they were defeated in seven games by Francona’s Red Sox after leading 3-1 in the series.

The 2012 Indians did not have much go for them. Grady Sizemore once again got hurt early on and misses another season. The team has finally divorced themselves from he and DH Travis Hafner, who signed a monster contract in the mid-2000s but dealt with various injuries that limited his playing-time and production. The lineup was brutal, devoid of anyone with power (team leading 18 HRs from Carlos Santana) or even hitting ability (team leading .288 average from Michael Brantley). The pitching staff, meanwhile, was let down by disasterous seasons by Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, who appears to be just a shell of his 2010 self.

Cleveland followed up a promising 2011 campaign with a dud last year. So, they made some sweeping changes on the field. The lineup looks rejuvenated, with CF Michael Bourn, 1B Nick Swisher, DH Mark Reynolds, and RF Drew Stubbs joining the team in the offseason. Jimenez, Masterson, and Zach McAllister are joined by free agent signings RHPs Brett Myers and Daisuke Matsuzaka. If Francona can get everything out of Dice-K, the pitching staff could be a relative strength. Watch out for RHP Trevor Bauer, a top prospect acquired from Arizona during the offseason who made his MLB debut last June and should find himself in the rotation by the summer.

Five Year Review:
2012: 68-94
2011: 80-82
2010: 69-93
2009: 65-97
2008: 81-81

2012 Team MVP: C Carlos Santana – With a team so devoid of success in 2012, finding an MVP was not easy. It came down to their young catcher, CF Michael Brantley, or RF Shin Soo-Choo (since traded to Cincinnati). Santana, however, got the nod. The 26-year old backstop led the Indians in HR, RBI (tied with 2B Jason Kipnis), BB, and sacrifice flies. With a .990 fielding percentage, Santana can also play the field as well as anyone. Just like the musician of the same name, Santana sure is “smooth.”

2012 Team LVP: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez – This right-hander was supposed to be the franchise’s saving-grace when they acquired him from Colorado in July, 2011. Jimenez is on a team friendly contract ($5.75 mm in ’13, $8 mm team-option for ’14). But, he is hardly a team-friendly pitcher right now. Unless, of course, you are talking about the opposing team. After winning 19 games with a 2.88 ERA in 2010 with the Rockies, Jimenez has struggled to keep the ball in the yard with Cleveland. His 25 HR allowed was in the top-25 in the league and his 16 wild pitches led the league (the second time he has led in said category during his career). Jimenez is no longer a youngster, as the 29-year old could find himself approaching a less than friendly free agency next winter if he does not improve on his brutal 9-17, 5.40 mark from last year. 2012 marked the fifth consecutive year that Jimenez walked at least 78 batters. By comparison, Cliff Lee has walked just 88 batters in the past three years combined. Last year, Jimenez allowed 95 free bases. That is never going to lead to success.

 

Key Acquisitions:

1B Nick Swisher (New York Yankees)
SS Mike Aviles (Boston Red Sox)
CF Michael Bourn (Atlanta Braves)
RF Drew Stubbs (Cincinnati Reds)
2B/OF Ryan Raburn (Detroit Tigers)
RHP Brett Myers (Chicago White Sox)
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)
RHP Trevor Bauer (Arizona Diamondbacks)
RHP Matt Capps (Minnesota Twins)

Key Departures:

DH Travis Hafner (New York Yankees)
1B Casey Kotchman (Miami Marlins)
3B Jack Hannahan (Cincinnati Reds)
OF Grady Sizemore (unsigned)
RF Shin-Soo Choo
RHP Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona (Tampa Bay Rays)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. CF Michael Bourn (.267-6-50)
2. 2B Jason Kipnis (.262-15-68)
3. SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.272-16-75)
4. 1B Nick Swisher (.256-20-74)
5. C Carlos Santana (.253-21-77)
6. DH Mark Reynolds (.219-25-70)
7. RF Michael Brantley (.273-6-52)
8. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (.256-13-57)
9. LF Drew Stubbs (.230-9-36)

1. RHP Justin Masterson (11-11, 4.25)
2. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (10-11, 4.33)
3. RHP Brett Myers (8-10, 4.27)
4. RHP Zach McAllister (7-9, 4.63)
5. RHP Trevor Bauer (7-8, 4.26)

2013 Outlook:

2013 should be a renaissance year of sorts for the Indians. They have been consistently poor since 2007 with the brief exception of the first half of the 2011 season. Now, Terry Francona has a chance to prove that the financial flexibility and performance enhancing drugs of Boston were not the true reason for their success. Cleveland’s offense was among the worst in baseball last season. They have certainly made inroads to fix that. Their pitching staff has some potential. But, if Ubaldo Jimenez continues his spiral to MLB mediocrity, then it likely will not matter what happens with the #5 spot (a competition between Dice-K, Bauer, and former Phillies’ prospect Carlos Carrasco).

The division is certainly winnable if everything breaks their way. If Jimenez rekindles his 2010 success and Masterson stays healthy again, they could certainly compete with Detroit. But, I have little faith that the lack-of-control that has plagued Jimenez his entire career will fix itself over one winter. Their offense intrigues me. But, Cleveland’s pitching staff is at least an ace away from advancing to the postseason. Expect between 78-84 wins from the Indians, an improvement of about 10 victories from 2012.

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