Lining things up
It seems like a good time to end my blog-cation. I took a week off to spend time with family after the Winter Meetings, and had happy holidays as I hope you all did as well, but none of that stopped the Indians from making moves in my absence.
Since my last post, Cleveland…
- Acquired outfielder Drew Stubbs (from Cincinnati), along with starter Trevor Bauer and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw (from Arizona) in a nine-player swap with the Reds and D-backs. As part of the deal, the Tribe sent Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald to the Reds and Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson to the D-backs.
- Signed right-handed-hitting first baseman Mark Reynolds to a one-year contract worth $6 million, with another $1.5 million in incentives. The Tribe designated 1B/OF Russ Canzler for assignment to open a roster spot and subsequently lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays.
- But, wait! Cleveland claimed Canzler back on waivers a few days later… only to lose him on waivers again (on Friday) to the Yankees. In between, the Indians DFA’d pitcher Jeanmar Gomez in order to re-acquire Canzler. Gomez’s status remains in limbo.
- Cleveland parted with Canzler again to pave way for the signing of right-handed starter Brett Myers (one-year, $7 million, with an $8 million club option for 2014).
- The Indians also signed outfielder Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract that includes a $14 million vesting option for 2017. The Tribe designated outfielder Thomas Neal for assignment in order to add Swisher to the roster.
It has been a busy few weeks that have drastically altered the look of the Indians active roster. Cleveland has also flexed its creative muscles by dishing out some serious dough, but still keeping the payroll in the same range as a year ago. When it is all said and done, the payroll will likely be in the neighborhood of $75 million, which is slight increase from a year ago.
GM Chris Antonetti has said that the club is likely done making any significant money moves, meaning the Tribe is virtually done on the free-agent market (at least with substantial big league contracts). The main area of need left unsettled is the DH role. Might Travis Hafner be coming back on a reduced deal? Antonetti has not ruled it out.
For now, it appears that the Indians’ plan is to use a rotation of players through the DH slot. There is utility man Mike Aviles, an everyday player a year ago with the Red Sox. Swisher, Reynolds, Carlos Santana and others could rotate through that spot for some occasional rest, too. Rule 5 pick Chris McGuiness and Yan Gomes could get a look as well.
In order to glance at the possible Opening Day lineup, I’m going to just slide Aviles into the DH spot for now. In that scenario, here is one version of how the Opening Day lineup might look:
1. Michael Brantley, LF (left)
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B (left)
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (switch)
4. Nick Swisher, RF (switch)
5. Carlos Santana, C (switch)
6. Mark Reynolds, 1B (right)
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (left)
8. Drew Stubbs, CF (right)
9. Mike Aviles, DH (right)
If you take the three-year slash lines for that group, or the career big league slash lines for the players (Kipnis and Chisenhall) without three years in the Majors, the combined slash line of that potential starting nine is .256/.329/.419/.747.
Last season, the Indians’ starting nine posted a combined slash line of .250/.332/.396/.728. The group I used for that consisted of the nine players who appeared at each position most often (Santana, C; Casey Kotchman, 1B; Kipnis, 2B; Cabrera, SS; Jack Hannahan, 3B; Shelley Duncan, LF; Brantley, CF; Choo, RF; Hafner, DH).
With the additions of Reynolds and Stubbs, the Indians were surely see an increase in strikeouts, but there is no denying that the current projected lineup should offer a higher average and a solid spike in power. On top of that, there could now be as many as six right-handed hitters in the lineup against left-handed starters. The failed all-lefty experiment against right-handed pitching is also, thankfully, a thing of the past.
I like the retooled look of the Tribe’s lineup. There is more pop, especially from the right side, more consistency against lefty pitching, more balance and plenty of potential for stolen bases and taking extra bags. The only question is whether the rotation can perform well enough for it all to hold up through six months of a season.
I’ll take a look at the potential rotation in a future post.