Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Cleveland Indians started their offseason by naming two-time World Series champion manager Terry Francona as their new dugout czar on October 6.
Francona brings a nice resume along with him, highlighted by those titles and eight winning seasons in his eight years in Boston.
However, Francona was the beneficiary of a fantastic team in 2004, his first season with the Red Sox.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were, possibly, the two best hitters in all of baseball, combining for 84 homeruns, 269 RBI and a .996 OPS. Add in fine seasons from Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek and even Kevin Millar, and the Red Sox were...
Not the Cleveland Indians.
When the team dealt Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati, the "win now" model was potentially eliminated.
The offseason is still ongoing and the Indians are rumored to be all over former Yankee outfield Nick Swisher, so there is still plenty of time to build a useful roster.
The acquisition of Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer from Arizona was a steal for a club that seemed unable to deal with Choo's agent, Scott Boras, getting some controllable years out of a player that they were about to lose.
While no one knows if the Tribe and GM Chris Antonetti are done making deals, you do have to wonder at this point if All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is heading out the door next.
With two years and $16.5 million left on his contract and an extremely weak shortstop market in free agency, the Indians could cash in by acquiring a fantastic assortment of above-average pitching prospects.
Some possible suitors would be the St. Louis Cardinals (Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, or Trevor Rosenthal), the Boston Red Sox (Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Henry Owens) or the Pittsburgh Pirates (Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia).
As the roster stands currently, there is a lot to like about the makeup of the club.
The signing of first baseman/DH Mark Reynolds provides a lot of right-handed power to the middle of the order, something the team has not had since Manny Ramirez left via free agency.
The team has solid infield depth with the acquisition of Mike Aviles, who can handle second, short or third, while Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall fill the diamond with Reynolds as infield starters.
Carlos Santana has star potential, as evidenced by his .887 OPS, 13 home runs and 46 RBI in the second half. He simply needs to be more consistent all year, which is the same thing you can say about Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cabrera was an All-Star in both 2011 and 2012 and he had pretty dramatic splits the last two seasons:
First Half: .290/.353/.479, 42 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs and 93 RBI in 662 at-bats
Second Half: .247/.307/.394, 25 doubles, zero triples, 16 home runs and 67 RBI in 497 at-bats
Michael Brantley was solid against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers and he will slide to left field with Stubbs in center. Stubbs is fantastic defensively and his power and speed are a nice asset, if he isn't hitting leadoff due to his inability to make contact.
The starting rotation is a question mark due to the inconsistencies of both Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.
The youth of Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer is going to bring a little more inconsistency, as well, as does Carlos Carrasco's return from Tommy John surgery.
The Indians will be asking a lot out of a group that may not be capable of being asked for much, and while the addition of a top prospect, like Bauer, is fantastic for the future of the organization, it certainly is no Schilling-Pedro type of rotation in Francona's first year.
The bullpen is solid with Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano still around. Joe Smith, Cody Allen and Matt Albers provide more right-handed depth, but with Tony Sipp gone, either Nick Hagadone or Scott Barnes need to step up as the top left-hander.
The Indians sign Nick Swisher?
The Indians trade Cabrera for a couple of young starting pitchers?
The Indians trade Masterson for a couple of prospects?
The Indians aren't all that bad in a division won by a team that won 88 games, good enough for a fourth place finish in the AL East and AL West in 2012.
There are a lot of what if's in the upcoming season and it all comes down to what Terry Francona is able to do with who he has, which is still not set in stone.
Francona could prove to be a fantastic motivator, teacher and leader for a team that is getting much younger with each deal they make.
Is Francona a good manager due to the talent that he had around him in Boston, or is he the player-friendly, beer-and-chicken guy who doesn't provide leadership or make an impact?
To me, Francona and the respect that he deserves due to his previous success are worth about four wins.
The players are responsible for the stability of their own production and their willingness to do what it takes to become better players. I find little value in a manager's luck in putting the right player in the lineup at the right time, as they are just as likely to sit a hot player or allow a pitcher to face the wrong batter one more time.
The Indians will get better because they can't get much worse than 68-94.
Terry Francona may be able to recruit talent, like Swisher, to Cleveland. That recruiting could be worth a middle of the order bat that helps the team get to 75 or 80 wins.
I doubt the club is going to win the AL Central but they will be more competitive because Francona will demand that.
How many wins is a manager worth, though? Four? Twelve?
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