The Cleveland Indians were two games over .500 and only 1.5 games out of first place in the American League Central as of July 1. However, a 24-53 record in the second half was not enough to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive, nor was it enough to keep Many Acta as the team’s manager heading into the 2013 season.
Who takes over for the Tribe next season?
One candidate appears to be Sandy Alomar, Jr. who, according to an article on ESPN.com, recently interviewed for the job.
As the article mentions, Alomar, a six-time All-Star with the Indians as a player, served as the team’s bench coach this season. He has no previous head coaching experience. However, his recent interview was not his first with a major league team.
But it’s the candidate after Alomar who might be the most intriguing for the Indians as they look to bounce back in an AL Central that has seen three different division winners in the past five seasons.
As another article on ESPN.com reported yesterday, the Indians have interviewed former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona for their vacant manager’s position. The article points out that Francona has previously worked for the Indians and his father played six seasons for the team.
Both candidates seemingly have great chances of being named the team’s next manager, but it is Francona who would bring with him two World Series titles from his days with the Red Sox.
But is that all that Francona could bring with him to the Indians?
After unraveling in the second half, the Indians finished the season ranked near the bottom of the AL in multiple offensive categories.
The team’s 136 total home runs was just five away from being tied for the lowest total in the league, while their .251 team batting average and 635 RBI total also ranked in the bottom half of the league.
Unfortunately, the player who has played in 1,078 career games with the team and hit 200 career home runs during that period did little to help improve these offensive rankings.
35-year-old designated hitter Travis Hafner has left his mark on the team, but has only appeared in at least 100 games once since 2008, and just hit the second-fewest home runs of any season in his major league career.
Furthermore, Hafner’s contract requires the team to either pick up his $13 million option for next season, or pay a $2.75 million buyout.
As this tweet by Jordan Bastian shows, chances appear slim that the Indians will pick up Hafner’s team option, especially after the veteran batted .228 and had near-career lows in home runs, RBI, runs and hits last season.
The Indians, as of now, appear to be in need of a new manager and option at designated hitter for next season.
Could these needs be addressed as part of a packaged deal?
A look at the free agent market for designated hitters shows that one player will be available who has spent much of his career playing for a current managerial candidate of the Indians.
David Ortiz is set to hit the free agent market following the World Series, and played eight seasons for Francona while he was manager of the Red Sox.
Upon Francona’s firing at the end of last season, Ortiz had this to say in an article by Ian Browne on the Red Sox website:
“We’re going to miss him,” Ortiz said. “Tito is a good dude. Tito was a guy I played eight years for. We’re going to miss him. In my situation, I never got in Tito’s way and he never got in mine. He pretty much would remind me about some things sometimes when I really needed it. But that’s life. Life continues. I know he’ll be somewhere else at some point.”
Well, it appears as if that “somewhere else” might just be in Cleveland next season.
Ortiz will be 37 years old at the start of next season, and played in just 90 games this year. However, he still managed to bat .318 with 23 home runs and a .415 OBP. During the past two seasons combined, Ortiz has batted .314 with 52 home runs and 156 RBI in 236 games. He has also been named to the past three AL All-Star squads.
Would Francona’s hiring entice Ortiz to sign with the Indians this offseason? Would Francona’s hiring even result in the Indians being interested in Ortiz this offseason?
If the Indians have to replace a long-time member of their lineup, signing an All-Star DH with over 400 career home runs and multiple World Series rings isn’t a bad option to have.
This scenario likely is dependent on the Indians hiring Francona in the first place, but a possible reunion could improve the team’s lineup for next season while addressing a need this offseason.
The two sides could also have little interest in a reunion. But if Francona was hired and convinced Ortiz that the team’s play during the first half of this season is how they will play all of next season, the Indians could become Ortiz’s final landing spot in an impressive career.
Hiring Francona could benefit the Indians in ways that are able to be seen well before next season even starts.