Optimism in Cleveland? Indians Building to Win Now and in the Future
As a life long Cleveland fan, I will say the one thing I dislike the most is the constant negativity stemming from the fans.
For years, Indians' fans have complained constantly about being sellers at the deadline and trading away Cy Young caliber players for high-quality prospects when the team knew they had no chance of keeping or resigning these players.
This year, not only were we buyers, we were potentially one of the biggest buyers in all of baseball by obtaining an ace pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. But yet, fans still found ways to complain about how we gave up to much, it was a stupid move by a stupid front office and so on.
Well Cleveland fans, it's time to drop the attitude and realize what an amazing team is being assembled in C-Town. Here are four reasons to be excited about what the Tribe is currently doing to win now and in the future.
The Young Position Players
The Indians may not go out and ink big-name free agents, but they sure know how to see promising young talent. Through the draft they have found two every day starters in Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis.
As of late, Kipnis has emerged as a potent bat in the lineup ( .295 6 HR 11 RBI and 13 runs scored in 16 games) and Chisenhall will continue to improve and be just as valuable in the lineup by the end of the season. These two guys are young, talented and could be the cornerstone of our offense for years to come.
However, the Indians haven't just built through the draft. They have been able to obtain an immense amount of young talent through trades.
As an Indians' fan, it was extremely hard to see them trade away two Cy Young award winners in CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, along with other gritty players like Casey Blake, Victor Martinez and Mark DeRosa.
Now looking at it a few years after, we netted some amazing young talent from those trades. As a matter of fact, our starting lineup would be nothing like it is today without those trades. The Tribe was able to land Carlos Santana for Casey Blake, while getting Michael Brantley and Matt Laporta in the CC deal.
The other trades landed us pitchers that I will cover in the next slide. But just think about that. Instead of keeping these guys through their contracts, the Tribe flipped them into three starting fielders who have been able to contribute at the big-league level.
This young core of players has a lot of promise.
Brantley has shown he can be a solid bat at the top of the order (when healthy). Laporta is slowly progressing as a suitable first baseman, who I believe will only keep getting better. And Carlos Santana, who of late has shown that with time, (after that ugly injury last year) will once again in the future put up some incredible numbers behind the plate.
The Starting Rotation
The Indians' starting pitching is on its way to becoming one of the best in the majors from 1-5. This can also be attributed to the team's strong ability to swing solid trades for great young talent.
I have to admit, I was devastated when we traded Cliff Lee. He was my favorite player on the team and I absolutely loved his approach to the game.
When I first heard who we had received for him, I was a little upset. I was thinking Carrasco, Marson, Donald and Knapp may be good pieces, but nothing like Lee.
Now I was right, none of these guys are anything like Lee.
However, three of them are on the major league roster and Knapp still has a lot of potential, but has been slowed by injury.
Another one of my favorite Indians who was traded, Victor Martinez, netted us Bryan Price, Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson. I have to admit that I was not near as upset about this trade off the bat because Masterson grew up and pitched at a high school that was only about 30 minutes away from my hometown.
Since these trades, Masterson has become the ace of our staff and if Carrasco can get his head on straight, he has the potential to be a very solid four or five starter. Also, the emergence of Josh Tomlin has been huge for this team. The young Texan has been a dominant force in the rotation and has potential to be an amazing No. 3 starter.
Another huge move for this rotation was the recent addition of ace Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies.
Many people questioned the move for giving up two top pitching prospects, but in my opinion, anytime you can get a guy who is proven over a few "hyped prospects" who have not really proven anything yet, I say go for it.
His club-friendly contract makes him an even better fit. And after last night's amazing performance against the Tigers in which he only gave up three runs through eight innings, (the three runs should have been none has Santana whiffed on a throw from Asdrubal Cabrera allowing the Tigers inning to continue leading to three runs.) Jimenez and Masterson will anchor the front end of the stuff for multiple years.
Fausto Carmona has been up and down with injuries and questionable mental toughness. However, as of late, he has shown glimpses of returning to his form from 2008. Even if that doesn't happen, he makes a suitable No. 5 starter.
However, in my opinion, if he can't regain consistency, I feel this team would benefit far more from having Huff in the rotation to provide a left-handed presence than Carmona's inconsistent arm. I hope Carmona proves me wrong, but only time will tell.
A rotation of Masterson, Jimenez, Tomlin, Carrasco, Huff/Carmona could be very potent for now and in the future.
The Bullpen Mafia
The Indians' bullpen has been one of the best in the MLB this year.
After struggling on the recent road trip, they bounced back recently and pitched 12 scoreless innings against Detroit Tuesday night. This bullpen will be a huge help in carrying us to the playoffs this year and in years to come.
Once again, trades were huge in developing this pen. Chris Perez was acquired from the Cardinals for Mark DeRosa, while Joe Smith was acquired in a three-team deal that not only landed us Smith, but also Luis Valbuena while trading away Franklin Gutierrez. I would say both of those trades worked out very well.
The combination of Perez, Smith, Pestano, Sipp, R. Perez, Durbin and Frank Hermman is a shut-down force, with any of them capable of coming in and completely shutting things down for an inning or more.
It will be interesting to see if Chris Perez can become the dominant shut-down closer of earlier in the season or if someone else will step into the role.
Anyway it falls, Perez will be great in the pen in any role and if they do switch it up, we have multiple arms capable of closing games. Not good for fantasy baseball players, but very good news for W's going up on the board for the Tribe.
Here's to the Mafia carrying us deep in this pennant race and into the playoffs!
The Front Office
Mark Shapiro took a lot of slack as GM of the Indians. However, his successes are beginning to show now, as the players he traded for are developing into every day starters.
New GM Chris Antonetti has shown that if the team is winning, he will not be afraid to go out and land a player to help put us over the edge. This is exactly the kind of action we need to bring a championship to this city in the near future.
I am not saying this same core of guys will be together for years to come and win us a ton of championships, because that is far from the truth.
Now I do believe that Antonetti will provide the same type of trading that stockpiled the talent that we currently have. Realistically, in about 3-4 years, we will have a few guys with big names who will want big money. So Tribe fans, in three years at the trade deadline be ready to see Jimenez traded if he won't take a discount on his extension and possibly the same with Asdrubal Cabrera.
However, we have to look at this and realize that with being a small market team, this is how we continue to add depth. If the trades of those two players net anywhere near what trades in the past have, then this team will compete for years and years to come.
Also, this team still has a plethora of young arms in the farm system along with many good young bats. These players could be great pieces on the Tribe's roster or valuable trade pieces in the future.
Cleveland has many weapons in many different departments heading into the next few seasons.
I am going to make a bold prediction. I think Dan Gilbert was a little nuts saying the Cavs would win a title before the Heat, but I do think the Indians will win a World Series before the Heat win the NBA Championship.
If that happens, it is just one more victory for the city of Cleveland to show LeBron is a thing of the past.