Nick Swisher gives the Indians a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup.
Cleveland's signings of Swisher and Mark Reynolds give the Indians a powerful punch in the middle of their lineup.
While some will point to the Detroit Tigers having Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander, the Indians are showing signs of improvement.
So, why are the Indians now the favorite?
The Indians are showing they want not only to compete this year, but also to build towards the future.
Cleveland traded Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald and some minor leaguers in a three-team trade that brought them Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer, among others.
Does Swisher's signing make the Indians the favorite in the AL Central?
The deal gave the team something for Choo, who would have likely walked in free agency next year anyways. Bauer provides a future No. 1 starter who will get a chance to prove himself this year.
Bringing in Swisher and Reynolds via free agency gives the Indians pop in the middle of the lineup. Last year, Carolos Santana had a team-leading 18 home runs.
The number at the top of that stat sheet will surely be higher this year.
If that's not enough, bringing in Terry Francona to be the manager was the biggest move of the offseason. He's been a winner everywhere he goes, and there's no reason to believe he won't do the same in Cleveland.
Middle of the Lineup
Nothing against Choo, but he's not a feared hitter in the middle of the lineup. As for Santana, when there's nobody protecting him, he can't do the damage he's expected to. The same goes for Asdrubal Cabrera.
Now, with Reynolds and Swisher in the lineup, there is protection in the middle of the order. No longer is power a problem in Cleveland, and it's something other teams will be on the lookout for.
Any team that has experienced success over the course of a season has had a good middle of the order. Cleveland has struggled over the last few years because of the lack of power.
If Swisher and Reynolds can put up the same type of numbers they have over the last few years, Cleveland will have a strong year.
It goes without saying, but a leader on and off the field is imperative to the success of any team.
Swisher brings that veteran leadership to a team that is full of players under the age of 30.
He plays the game the right way and knows how to be a leader.
His playoff experience will also be valuable to the team, as not many have played in the playoffs before. He knows how to prepare to win, and that will pass along to his teammates.
There are many things that could happen over the course of a season that could throw this prediction out of whack. But, when looking at the Indians on paper, Swisher makes them a better team and puts them next to the Tigers at the top of the division.
While Fielder, Cabrera and Verlander are sexier names than Reynolds, Swisher and Bauer, there's no doubt this will be a tight race.
And, just look at the Oakland Athletics. It doesn't take the biggest group of highly paid stars to have success.