Assuming there’s no miraculous comeback (the Immaculate (playoff spot) Conception), the Indians are heading into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouths. They were snake-bitten by injury from head to toe, and even at full strength, the offense was below average at best. So when September rolled around, it was clear that Jhonny Peralta (much to the chagrin of all Cleveland fans) and Detroit was simply the better team. After being swept by the Motor City Kitties, all hope was lost in Cleveland.
So I’m here to say: keep that hope alive, because next year, the Indians will be legitimate contenders without adding too many new faces.
Of the everyday players, the Indians will probably only be relinquishing Kosuke Fukudome to free agency (and if you want to call him an everyday player, Jim Thome to retirement). Asdrubal Cabrera will be in his second year of superstardom, and may very well pick up where he left off this year. Meanwhile, Carlos Santana will rise up, and the player he is expected to be. The first seasons of both Prince Fielder of the Brewers and Ryan Howard of the Phillies were very comparable to that of Santana’s. The next year, they hit 50 and 58 home runs, respectively. While I’m not suggesting that Santana will put up fifty long balls, I think he will easily be the best hitting catcher next year, and probably one of the best hitters in the AL. Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall will all be a year older and wiser, and should all improve in the batter’s box. All three have potential to be great, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they all met that potential.
On the other hand, the Indians strong-suit this past year has been pitching, and it will likely be just as dominant, if not more, next year. Both Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson have top of the rotation “stuff,” so if they improve their control, the Indians will have as good of a one-two punch as anybody in baseball. Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona, and David Huff will round out the top five, all of whom need to work on avoiding the home run, but together they make a very talented back end of the rotation. Indians’ opponents will never get a break from good starting pitching. Additionally, their dominant bullpen, “the Mafia,” will undergo absolute no change, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t pick up where they left off.
All in all, becoming a year older will help the Indians while hurting the Tigers and White Sox. On average, the Indians are the youngest of the three teams by far, and their stars will be going into their primes, while rival Tigers’ and White Sox’s stars will be coming out of their primes. Financially though, the Indians’ budget is much tighter than their rivals’, and according to Mark Shapiro, they are spending about 18 million dollars just to keep the current team together for next year. Shapiro says, “don’t expect [the Indians] to make a big splash in free agency” this off-season. However, I think this is a non-issue as the Indians will rise to the task and will win the division next year, barring injury.
Until then, we still have the Browns.
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