I was sitting on the couch Sunday night when my older Brother, a die-hard Orioles fan, sent me a text saying that Mark Reynolds was going to sign with the Indians. I paused for a second, and then I started to think. Good…. maybe…. yea, its a good thing. He didn’t understand why I was happy to have the Human Windmill inserted into the Indians lineup. I pointed to the stretch at the end of last season when Reynolds was hitting everything that came near him, helping to push the Orioles in to the post-season for the first time since… well… a long time. I bet my Brother that Reynolds would hit more than 35 homers in Cleveland this year. Let’s hope I’m right.
Reynolds, as well documented everywhere, has a slight tendency to strike out on occasion, but so does everyone on the Indians team as it is currently constructed. What he does, that very few others on the team do, is bat right handed and hit the ball a long way. Even if the Indians do not make any other major moves and sit with the lineup as it was last year adding Reynolds is a solid move. I like it better than the potential signing of Kevin Youkilis, since he is a little fragile and over the hill. Reynolds, who will be 30 in August, is coming off of his worst full season as a pro. While, you could interpret that as him being on the down slope of his career, I see it another way. He is 35 homeruns and 80 RBI waiting to happen on a lineup that will have him protected on either side by Carlos Santana, also coming off of a down year, and maybe Shin-Soo Choo or Jason Kipnis, who can drive in runs and get on base if they are ahead of him. It will should be a low pressure situation which should allow him to thrive. Assuming the Indians do not trade Asdrubal Cabrera or Choo, this is how I see the lineup as of opening day.
1. Michael Brantley (CF)
2. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
3. Shin-Soo Choo (RF)
4. Mark Reynolds (1B)
5. Carlos Santana (C)
6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
7. Lonnie Chisenhall (3B)
8. Russ Canzler (DH)
9. Thomas Neal / Ezekiel Carrera (LF)
Clearly, though, you have to assume that the Indians are looking to keep the moves coming in the following weeks. The ESPN Rumor Mill, and the MLBTV rumor junkies have the Indians as one of the teams in on Nick Swisher who is waiting to see who misses out on Josh Hamilton in hopes that it will land him more money and a bigger city to play in. I have, for years, hoped we could get Nick Swisher. Something about him just appeals to me as a baseball fan, the fun loving nature and way he plays the game. I think he could be a big fit in Cleveland but he might be ruined by the bright lights of New York and the appeal of large market stardom. So time will tell how that shakes out. We also have the Cabrera situation to monitor. The excellent team over at Waiting For Next Year posted a report today that the Indians had been close to dealing him to the Phillies with starter Vance Worley being the big piece in that deal. I am glad we didn’t make that happen.
I am really intrigued by the possibility of the trade to bring in Trevor Bauer and maybe more from Arizona. There was a moment when they were talking about somehow making Justin Upton a part of that deal, but that was and still is most definitely a pipe dream. If the Indians can make the move work with the Diamondbacks than Mike Aviles will serve as the stop gap at Short Stop while we await it the development and arrival of Francisco Lindor.
If, as I think is more and more of a possibility, the Tribe misses out on Swisher, there are plenty of internal options I would love to see get a chance. I know they aren’t busting the door down, threatening to be this year’s Mike Trout, but I would like to see them get at bats. That being Thomas Neal, who I watched quite a bit last year when Akron visited the east coast. I like the way he plays, he has a good swing and plays solid defense in Left Field. Ezekiel Carrera could potentially be a solid slap hitter in the league, provides some speed and plus defense. Russ Canzler intrigues me at DH against lefties. He has been a good hitter down in AAA for the past few years, and had some good moments late in the season. He hit .269 with 3 homeruns and 11 RBI in 93 at bats. He struck out 22 times and walked just 4, so there is that. But again, like Reynolds, he adds pop from the right side and fits in nicely between all the lefties. The last option I have been really wanted to see in the Tribe lineup the last few years is Jared Goedert. He has been solid and flexible down at Columbus the past few seasons and I would like to see if he has anything given some pro at bats. I feel like the recent acquisitions of Yan Gomes, Mike McDade, Chris McGuiness make the chances for Goedert slimmer. Those 3 names also intrigue me quite a bit. Gomes had 4 home runs in just 98 at bats for Toronto last year. McGuiness and McDade have shown good power in the minors and are 24 and 23 respectively. So there is upside there, McGuiness though is another lefty and McDade bats from both sides.
There are a lot of different possibilities for how things play out. The Asdrubal Cabrera trade talks aren’t going away. As much as I am a fan of Cabrera, if the Indians can get 2 top young arms for him than I am all for the trade. I think his bat is easier to replace than it would be to find young pitchers who can be cogs for the next few years. I would like to see Chris Perez traded, but it looks more and more like that will not happen until mid-season if the Indians are out of contention. Shin-Soo Choo’s trade value is less than what the Indians thought it was. I think they keep him, like Perez. If we are contending we will hang on to him and ride out his contract and collect a draft pick for him after the season, if the ship is sinking, there will be contenders looking for a bat later in the season.