Maybe it’s only because I cover a team that’s tied to massive contracts and temporarily hesitant to make massive changes, but for some reason I feel like the Indians are quietly becoming a team worth watching.
Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees are still better than the Indians, Detroit is still the cream of the crop in the AL Central, and the Royals are the team really going for it in that division. … but the Indians have made some interesting moves. They lost 94 games last season, so they clearly have a lot of ground to make up, but there’s something to like about what’s going on out there.
Nick Swisher has been Cleveland’s biggest offseason signing, and now that the Yankees have lost him, there seems to be a new appreciation for his blend of power, patience and durability. He’s going to replace Shin-Soo Choo, who was shipped out of Cleveland in a creative, three-team deal that landed the Indians a potential top-of-the-rotation starter in Trevor Bauer, a speed-and-defense outfielder in Drew Stubbs, and a couple of relievers.
If Bauer is ready — which, he might be — he’ll join a rotation that already has some hit-or-miss 20-somethings in Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and former Yankees prospect Zach McAllister. Those three are a long way from reliable, and they bring a considerable risk-reward feel to a rotation that has now added veteran Brett Myers (more risk-reward) and has had conversations about adding Shaun Marcum (more risk-reward). Behind that rotation is a young bullpen with hard-throwing closer Chris Perez, terrific setup man Vinnie Pestano, and side-arming middle reliever Joe Smith.
To add punch to a lineup that hit just 136 home runs last season, the Indians have signed all-or-nothing first baseman Mark Reynolds. He and Swisher and Carlos Santana have some pop, while middle infielders Asbrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis — and Stubbs against lefties — can hit near the top of the order.
It’s certainly not a finished product — I’m not sure the Indians can finish any better than third in the division, and counting on their rotation requires a lot of hoping and dreaming — but the Indians are quietly doing those things that the Yankees have been unable or unwilling to do. It might not work, but it’s interesting to watch them try.
Associated Press photo