Why 2016 May Remain Status Quo For The Cleveland Indians

by Gordon Watkin | Posted on Friday, July 17th, 2015
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Jason Kipnis

The Cleveland Indians have been involved in a self-induced, systemic form of mediocrity for nearly ten years, not making any run of significance (Other than blowing a 3-1 series lead in the 2007 American League Championship series against Boston) since the mid 90s. In fact, Cleveland has continually tormented its fan base by playing into the small-market baseball stereotype, unloading elite players in the prime of their careers like C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel and the list goes on, and on. Throughout such moves, a myriad of players have been acquired and since moved again, and some still remain with the team today. Some of the remaining players have been groomed and developed into fine Major League talent, and have also been subsequently re-signed to team friendly long-term contracts. Players fitting this criteria are Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, all of which are extended into the 2020 season with all salaries below an AAV of $12 Million.

The title of this article comes of remote peculiarity, as it attests to both the past of the franchise and a continuity of mediocrity that may extend into the short-term future. In order to achieve mediocrity, usually the positives of an organization and its circumstances must be offset by something unideal or bad. In the case of the Indians this mediocrity surely has been induced by the lack of turnover at the top of the organization, which two years ago saw Mark Shapiro promoted to President with his protege, Chris Antonetti, taking over the reigns of the organization. Shapiro was responsible for countless deals that saw stars of the organization traded for “blue chip prospects” that eventually amounted to being busts. Matt LaPorta, Nick Hagadone, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson highlight highly regarded prospects received in trades that saw Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee and C.C Sabathia all shipped out of Ohio. While some players have worked out; Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson (Well, kind of) and of course Michael Brantley, the lack of return on such cornerstone players is simply put, inadequate. Now the same man that made such suspect moves, has been promoted, yes promoted, to a presidential position and appointed a man who shares an identical baseball philosophy as his successor. The Indians are in need of change at the top of the organization, and a new fresh perspective needs to survey this roster. Enough of the depressing, hopeless talk and time to touch on a few of the positives.

The Indians have a talented, cheap core unlike many other organizations across MLB today. Brantley, Kipnis, Kluber, Carrasco and Gomes combined earn $25, 324, 000 USD, $2.5 Million less than Justin Verlander is set to earn in 2016 for the Detroit Tigers. Be aware that $20+ Million contracts are becoming far more normal than in recent memory, these shroud business moves should have been able to aid the Indians in building upon their core with their found savings. However, with these savings, Cleveland managed to invest $29 Million USD next season in Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Both highly ineffective players on albatross contracts who annually continue to decline. This example truly signifies that organizations across baseball may only be as good as their worst contracts.

Another reason for optimism is Terry Francona, who in my opinion is still amongst the games elite managers. Outside of the aforementioned core, and over-priced, annually declining veterans, Francona has been able to rally around his elite rotation to remain in Wild-Card conversation what seems to be every season since his hiring. Should Cleveland either be able to move Swisher and Bourn’s awful deals, or barring something remarkable that both those players become effective again, Francona could potentially lead the Tribe to an A.L Central championship.

Speaking of the American League Central, no division in baseball it seems can be as unpredictable at times. The Royals surprised everyone last season, and have built off of that cinderella-esque run to become a contender this season. The Tigers have a huge payroll and are deep and talented but remain flawed, and like the division highly unpredictable. The Chicago White Sox going into the season had reason for optimism given the off-season acquisitions they made, leaving the Tribe and the Minnesota Twins. The Twins should have been a laughing stock, but have performed admirable under Paul Molitor, and have budding superstars Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton now with the big club. Given the infusion of talent experienced by the A.L Central, the division remains unpredictable and certainly winnable should the Tribe find some production from second-tier players and bullpen. Until that production is found however, 2016 appears to be much more of the same on this Indians fan’s radar.

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Gordon Watkin
About the Author

Gordon is a Sport Management graduate from Brock University. He has a background playing professional soccer, but is an avid sports fan particularly of the Cleveland Indians. Follow Gordon on Twitter @GordonWatkin.

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