We wrap up our tour of the AL Central with everyone's favorite Racists, the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland has not made a major free agent signing or trade this offseason, unlike every other team in the division. The club returns a talented roster, but may end up regretting their decision to essentially stand pat during the winter.
This is meant to be a quick glance at the Indians roster; a more in-depth breakdown will come closer to the start of the season and after more projection systems have been released.
Potential moves still left: Sign another pitcher, find a right-handed hitter with some pop who can play corner infield, change their logo.
Analysis: The Tribe have had a fairly quiet offseason; the biggest changes to their roster have involved pitchers leaving the team, and Cleveland hopes to replace the pair of starters internally.
Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir combined to produce 5.9 fWAR for Cleveland in 2013, and both declared for free agency during the offseason. Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Oakland Athletics, while Jimenez still remains a free agent.
Jimenez could potentially return, but ownership does not seem motivated to expand payroll, likely keeping the Indians from signing any of the impact starters still left on the market. If the Racists do sign someone, it will probably be another Shaun Marcum type lottery ticket, more about depth than production.
Cleveland still has a solid rotation despite the losses. Justin Masterson looked like a top-of-the-rotation starter last season, but has battled consistency issues in the past. Corey Kluber turned in a 3.85 ERA over 24 starts with even shinier peripherals. Zach McAllister can eat innings in a respectable manner.
The Tribe, however, will try to rely on Danny Salazar and (possibly) Trevor Bauer to replace Kazmir and Jimenez's production. Salazar looked electric in ten starts last season, striking out 65 batters over 52 innings, but will need to prove that over a full season. Bauer lost much of his luster last season, but just turned 23 years old and presumably still has the talent that made him such a lauded prospect.
The Indians will need some strong starting pitching, as their bullpen is solid but unspectacular. Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw both turned in strong campaigns, along with solid efforts from Joe Smith and Matt Albers. Cleveland, however, does not have the same level of depth to their bullpen that the Royals do (to be fair, most teams don't.)
The team's offense returns every major contributor from a lineup that scored the fifth-most runs in baseball, only trailing the Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals and A's. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana both turned in strong campaigns, but neither were off the charts amazing; Kipnis accumulated the 30th most fWAR among hitters, but led the Tribe with 4.5 wins.
Cleveland does have impressive depth throughout their lineup and on their bench, which Terry Francona utilized well last season. Swisher and Brantley both had above-average offensive seasons, while Bourn and Cabrera under performed expectations, but are solid candidates for bounceback years. Raburn excelled in a platoon role and Gomes emerged as the team's starting catcher, replacing Santana.
Gomes is unlikely to repeat his .342 BABIP that fueled his .294/.345/.481 line, but should hit well enough to justify him starting at catcher over Santana, given the difference in defense between the two. Santana is attempting to make the switch to the hot corner next year, but I'm skeptical of his chances. Lonnie Chisenhall is very replacable, so if Santana does make a successful transition, it only makes the Racistcs' lineup stronger and gives Francona more options on where to position players.
Cleveland's returning roster is strong, but it feels like the club wasted the offseason by not increasing payroll to add another pitcher or a quality third baseman. The Indians only finished one game back of Detroit last season and could feel much better about their chances of taking the AL Central if they made one major move this offseason. They, however, will still challenge the Royals in 2014 with their deep roster.