#12. The Cleveland Indians
Team Ace: Ubaldo Jimenez
Most Valuable Position Player: Jason Kipnis
Breakout Candidate: Trevor Bauer
Notable Offseason Additions: Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Trevor Bauer, Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs, Brett Myers, Jason Giambi, Terry Francona (Manager)
Notable Offseason Losses: Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore
Biggest Team Weakness: Starting Pitching
Thanks to Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore becoming free agents in the offseason, the Indians had an extra $18 million to spend in the offseason, which they used to add some veteran pieces to complement their young talent. With their elite speed and modest power, their batting order one of the most complete in the American League. And now that they have Terry Francona at the helm, they’ll be able to play at their maximum potential.
Jason Kipnis stole 31 bags during his breakout season, and the addition of Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn will give the Indians three runners who could each get over 40 this season. Francona’s all defense no power strategy in the outfield, using Broun, Stubbs and Michael Brantley’s speed to run down fly balls, and help out the pitching staff. Nick Swisher will play first base instead of his regular position at right field, but he gives the team some flexibility when it comes to resting players. Mike Aviles could also get significant playing time at short, third, or second when there are injuries and players are fatigued. There are only two holes: 24-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall hasn’t shown that he can contribute at all on offense and catcher Carlos Santana’s defense still needs improvement.
Moving Asdrubal Cabrera sometime midseason is definitely a possibility. The shortstop market is extremely weak right now and Cleveland’s top two prospects play the position. If either one of them can stand out through spring training or can get called up early on, that means they could sacrifice Cabrera for a usable starting pitcher. Another option for the team is signing free-agent Kyle Lohse to a 2 or 3 year deal. Because of the teams other offseason signings, they would only have to give up a third round pick to acquire him, where most team will be giving up a first or second rounder. Lohse would instantly be their top option.
Starting pitching on this team is really bad. Dreadful actually. There is that 4% chance that Ubaldo puts together a stretch like he did to start the 2010 season, but it’s highly unlikely since he sported a 5.40 ERA as the Cleveland’s go to guy last year. They need to hope that Trevor Bauer, who they acquired from Arizona, is mature enough to come up early in the season and can do more than just eat up some innings as a starter.