Because of the struggles of this past season, the Cleveland Indians have a lot of work to do heading into this next year, with many changes already happening (the new coaching staff) I have started to think about what we should do this offseason. I know because the Dolan’s financial situation there will not be any spending, and I for one am actually excited by that thought, because it gives us the opportunity to bring up young guys and see what they can do. While watching the youngsters, as weird as it is to say that because they are older then I am, might be a struggle at times, it will be great to see what will hopefully be the next great generation of Tribe players. While thinking about what will happen, what won’t happen and what might happen, I surprised myself with what I was able to consider to be real options.
Well… This hurts me to type, because I have always been a huge Travis Hafner fan, but it might be in the best interest for the club to seek out any possible takers for the big designated hitter. His contract is big, for what little he is able to do after being struck with this shoulder injury, and it is just big regardless of his production especially on a team with such a small payroll. It might be in the Tribe’s best interest to pursue a trade for a young prospect or two if they can get one, or even consider seeking a buyout with the big man, to possibly free up a little spending money for this offseason, or money to put toward signing Asdrubal Cabrera and others long term. This idea can only really be considered if the Tribe brass is willing to put all of their faith in young, relatively unproven guys, and see about putting Matt LaPorta or Andy Marte in a DH role at least part time to spread around some at bats for others. If we were able to move Hafner and his contract, it might open up the door for AAA stud Jordan Brown who has done nothing but crush the ball in the minors, putting up a line of .281/.337/.417 with 7 hrs and 51 rbis in 109 games. The power for Brown has been there in the past with some good minor league rbi totals, it would be interesting to see how he could produce full time on the big league level.
The Andy Marte Conundrum –
I have never been so baffled by one player in my life. The once CAN’T MISS 3B prospect has finally been looking like what we had all hoped he would look like, albeit it has been in spurts here and there. His AAA numbers his year were really amazing, and he continued to hit fairly well in the brief time he was playing every day for the Tribe. It is about time however, that the team figure out what they are going to do with him. I think that for the time being they should just have him in there as the every day 1B spot and see if he finds his stride at this level finally. This is his last shot, and he bought this opportunity with pretty good, almost solid, play down the stretch. But if he struggles out of the gate, I think it is time to cut him loose, put LaPorta in at 1B full time and go from there.
The Outfield –
This is probably, other then the SS/2B combo we have found, the most solid area of the team. Sizemore, when healthy, is quite obviously still one of the best in the game. Shin Soo Choo continues to get better, he was great last year, and should be again this year. That leaves us with Left Field. LaPorta should start the year there since we will still have Hafner at the DH spot and Marte hopefully will continue to hit and play good defense but that will complicate things for the LF spot. Michael Brantley is obviously ready. There’s no doubt about it, he was really surprisingly good when we called him up at the end of last year, and I think he deserves to be in the outfield mix from day 1. If Marte doesn’t pan out early on, that makes the situation much easier because LaPorta can slide down to First and Brantley can have LF. The other scenario I thought of is the more intriguing of the two. Say that the Tribe does move Hafner this off-season, that frees up the DH spot for LaPorta and Marte to share as well as 1B. From there I think it would be wise to contemplate moving Grady to LF. Now I know this is way out there, but hear me out. Sizemore is no doubt an amazingly gifted Center Fielder defensively, but we all know he has one major flaw, his throwing arm. Moving to LF would maximize our defensive capacity in the outfield because his arm will be less of a liability and he can continue to go get it out there, with the solid Choo in Right with his cannon arm, and the younger and slightly speedier Brantley to cover the space in Center with a bit stronger of an arm then Grady. Hopefully with Acta at the helm the whole experience with Eric Wedge playing 1B and Catchers in the outfield is over and we can let Trevor Crowe settle into the 4th outfielder role.
Oh Jhonny –
Jhonny, Jhonny, Jhonny… While he was no where near happy last year with his sudden move to 3B, he handled it pretty well. He looks to be a pretty solid defender over at the hot corner, and those balls he couldn’t get to while playing SS have been gobbled up by the plus defender Cabrera. While Peralta was a stand out offensively as a SS, the move over to third seemed to mess with his hitting a bit, and putting up those same numbers he did as a SS would certainly be in the middle of the pack offensively around the league. But we have to consider the fact that last year as a whole was a bad year for Jhonny, but in a down year he still put up 83 rbis. If he and the Indians have a good offensive year, I think he could put up over 100 rbi. That being said, Peralta’s one major problem, other then slow starts, seems to be motivation. He never really saw eye to eye with Wedge, and it showed in his drive to play day in and day out. Hopefully the new hispanic presence in the club house of Acta and Alomar Jr. will be able to get Peralta going and provide him with the leadership he needs. And finally…
WE WANT CARLOS!!!!
In numerous conversations I’ve had in the past 6 months about the Tribe, I always come back to one thing. Bring up Carlos Santana. This kid is amazing. I really wanted to see him up at the end of last season, after we traded Victor Martinez, but I knew it was a little pre-mature then. But now, with the recent hire of Sandy Alomar, I think it is a good time for Santana to make the jump. He would have one of the best possible teachers you could find built in as a coach, with another, Acta, to help him come along, even though he is only 23, and has a lot to learn about being a big league catcher, he should have no problem handling that on the run. He can hit the cover off the ball and is solid defensively. He would be an instant upgrade to who we have in the bigs right now, assuming we don’t welcome Kelly Shoppach back we are left with Chris Gimenez and Lou Marson… Neither one is an exciting consistent option and as we saw with Gimenez last year with the large amount of at bats he got there really is not much to see with him as far as a big league hitter goes. Besides, what would help heal the wound that was gashed open with the loss of Vic the Stick then bringing up the stud prospect, I think that would be a move we could all get behind.
I am pretty certain, as is everyone else, that we will not be making any significant free agent signings this off season, so I am going to go ahead and say who I think the starting 9 should be on opening day.
1. Michael Brantley – CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera – SS
3. Grady Sizemore – LF
4. Jhonny Peralta – SS
5. Shin Soo Choo – RF
6. Matt LaPorta – DH
7. Andy Marte -1B
8. Carlos Santana – C
9. Luis Valbuena – 2B
Even if we don’t trade Pronk, I think he might be best served being rotated in and out of the lineup and let Laporta and Marte get the majority of the at bats early on.
I am working on and will have in a few days a look at the Indians pitching situation, so look forward to that.