Cleveland Indians: 5 Offseason Needs
5 Biggest Needs for the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians surprised everyone with their dramatic and exciting playoff run in 2013. Manager Terry Francona walked away with the American League Manager of Year and showed exactly why he is considered one of the best skippers in all of MLB.
The Indians had their fair share of highlight moments with the apparently ageless Jason Giambi's late-game heroics, the revitalization of Ubaldo Jimenez and the season-long storyline in the bullpen with the erratic Chris Perez losing his closer role. On paper, the Indians still have several needs and must make a series of moves during this offseason in an effort to contend with the still potent Detroit Tigers and emerging Kansas City Royals.
Cleveland had a payroll of $73.7 million last season with outfielder Nick Swisher costing the most at $11 million. Swisher will make $15 million next season. Michael Bourn is in the second year of his four-year deal, and he will make $13.5 million in 2014. The Indians released Perez and his $7 million salary.
Aside from the the salaries of Bourn and Swisher, the Indians have a lot of room to play with now. Cleveland should look to sign No. 1 starter Justin Masterson (3.45 ERA in 2013) long-term because he becomes a free agent after next season. Zach McAllister is coming off a fantastic season (3.75 ERA) and cannot become a free agent until 2019. The Indians have a solid but not great farm system. There could be an option here-and-there from the minors, but a free agent signing this winter will still be a key for Cleveland.
5. Lefty Pitching
The Indians' projected starting rotation does not feature a lefty, and finding one in free agency could be tough. The Indians' rotation is full even without a lefty, but finding one for spot starts could be a necessary in-season move. The team traded for Marc Rzepczynski last season with hopes to solidify the bullpen.
Asdrubal Cabrera slipped last season with a .242 BA and should be traded. After he is gone the answer at shortstop is actually right in the Indians' system. Francisco Lindor is the top-ranked prospect in their system and has all the signs to be a star in the majors. He a slick fielder and a nice hitter. He just moved to AA last season, however, and may have to spend some more time in the minors before he gets the official call-up.
The Indians released Chris Perez and could go searching for a closer on the free agent market or stick in-house with Cody Allen (2.43 ERA, 77 appearances) or Bryan Shaw (3.24 ERA, 70 appearances). If the Indians go outside of the club, a signing of Fernando Rodney or Brian Wilson may happen.
2. Fifth Starter
Ubaldo Jimenez declined his option for 2014 and will likely sign elsewhere. Scott Kazmir will also likely depart. Youngster Danny Salazar impressed many when he was called up and blew up the radar guns. He showed he could handle pressure situations and will only get better with more MLB time. The Indians thought Trevor Bauer could be an answer after acquiring him via a trade with Arizona, but he has shown little sign of being a front-of-the-line starter. The Indians could go after A.J. Burnett or Josh Johnson moving other starters into more comfortable roles.
Manager Terry Francona worked wonders last season and may have to do that again next season because of the strength of the American League Central. The Indians will need to carry over the belief they had from last season into 2014 to clear any mental hurdles along the way. No one expected the Indians to make the playoffs, and they will be underdogs again in 2014.