This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
What happened to the Cleveland Indians? I mean, just in 2005 they were this close to winning the AL Central before they – as I’ve said with drecreasing glee for the past two years – choked on the hot air deflating from their season. But honestly, they had a young team, they had a hot streak, they have Pronk, what the hell happened?
They had decent pitching in 2006, 6th in the AL in ERA; they scored runs, 870 of them, second only the Yankees; shoot, they were third in the league in RBI.
Yet they finished 4th in their division, 18 games out and six games under .500.
I watched many an Indian game last year, they played hard, and did I tell you they have Pronk – DH Travis Hafner ? They also have Grady Sizemore, the have C.C. Sabathia, they had Aaron “Bleeping” Boone… ok that’s probably what happened.
The Indian’s offseason has been focused on adding key elements to their team. Last season, after all hope had been lost, they dealt closer Bob Wickman to the Braves. This off-season, they solidified their bullpen by signing Roberto Hernandez, Joe Borowski and bringing in veteran Keith Foulke to fill in the closer role. They have a surplus of OF after signing Trot Nixon and David Dellucci. And they upgraded their infield by trading for 2B Josh Barfield.
Five years after the Bartolo Colón deal, two of the six players that came this way are contributing significantly. Sizemore has become “the most complete player in the AL Central,” and SP Cliff Lee should be around the corner for a break-out season.
Though it would seem as if the Indians were threatening to contend as they did in the ’90s and early ‘00s, they didn’t upgrade their rotation, which, frankly, was their Achilles heel in 2006. Sabathia, along with Jake Westbrook, are the two horses on the Indian’s rotation; Paul Byrd is an aging veteran, and Cliff Lee has just not met expectations. Oh, and nevermind there’s no set 5th starter.
The Indians, though, do have a solid team, and with most of their young hitters looking to improve on a sophmore slump, it should be an interesting year in the AL Central.
Update: Well, since I’ve been …uhm, “urged” to reconsider my grade scheme in other posts, I’ll take the liberty to adjust my unquestioned grades as I see fit.
In this case, it’s actually highly justified. ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that Keith Foulke will retire from baseball before throwing a single pitch for the Indians. Though not intended to be their savior, Foulke was a key addition to the Indians’ bullpen. But by virtue of the fact that they simply wasted their time negotiating with him and his agent, the B+ becomes a C+.
Offseason grade: B+ C+
Acquisitions: Keith Foulke, Josh Barfield, David Dellucci, Trot Nixon, Roberto Hernandez, Joe Borowski.
Losses: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Andrew Brown, Aaron Boone.
Projected Line-up, Rotation and Closer
CF Grady Sizemore .290 / .375 / .533, 76 RBI
1B Casey Blake .282 /.356/ .479, 68 RBI
SS Jhonny Peralta .257 / .323 / .385, 68 RBI
DH Travis Hafner .308 / .439/.659, 42 HR, 117 RBI
C Victor Martínez .316 / .391 / .465, 93 RBI
RF Trot Nixon .268 / .373 / .394, 52 RBI
LF David Dellucci .292 / .369 / .530, 39 RBI
2B Josh Barfield .280 / .318 /.423, 58 RBI
3B Andy Marte .226 / .287 / .421, 23 RBI
LHP C.C. Sabathia 12-11, 3.22
RHP Jake Westbrook 15-10, 4.17
LHP Cliff Lee 14-11, 4.40
RHP Paul Byrd 10-9, 4.88
LHP Jeremy Sowers 7-4, 3.57
CL Keith Foulke, 4.35 ERA (No saves in 2006.) Joe Borowski