In trying to repeat the success the ballclub had in 2016, Mike Chernoff and his staff have only made a handful of moves this offseason.
The major one worth talking about is Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin signed with the Tribe for three years and 60 million with a team option for another 20 million in 2020 or a five million dollar buyout, guaranteeing him at least 65 million dollars total.
While the contract is uncharacteristic from the Dolans and the front office, it was a necessary signing in a win now mode.
After the season, the team was faced with Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, and Coco Crisp being the only free agents from their postseason run. Outfield wise, the Indians have some depth with Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Abraham Almonte being the five projected outfielders to start the season.
So while Crisp and Davis have left, the team will gain back Almonte from his postseason suspension and will hopefully get Brantley back from injury.
After the first five, Columbus could maybe use somebody to be invited to training camp as an insurance policy or Yandy Diaz who hit over .300 in Columbus last season or Bradley Zimmer the Indians top prospect could be knocking on the door like Naquin did.
Going back to the Encarnacion signing, it was a home run for the team, fans, and owner. Player wise, there has not been a much more consistent power hitting DH that could also play 1B like Napoli did last season than Encarnacion.
In a career year for Napoli, he still hit .024 less than Encarnacion, hit eight less home runs, and 26 fewer runs batted in. That just shows how good Encarnacion is.
Over his last five seasons in Toronto Edwin has never hit below .263 or had fewer than 34 HRs or 98 RBIs in a season. To say he is one of the most consistent power guys out there is an understatement.
Going into the offseason, he was the one hope I had for this team to put them over the edge to win the World Series but didn’t see the front office spending.
Instead they shocked everyone by pulling it off, exciting fans even more and seeing a spike in season tickets where the Indians have been among the bottom three in attendance in recent years.
With a lot of renovations and a winning team, 2017 could be the year the Indians finally turn everything around and the fans reflect on that. What makes the Encarnacion signing even better is the insurance policy he brings with Santana set to become a free agent after the year.
Without Santana, the Indians are left without a true 1B, somewhere that Edwin can fill in while the farm system grooms their highly touted power hitting 1B Bobby Bradley who probably won’t be up until 2018.
While I thought Encarnacion would sign for less than 20 million per year after he turned down virtually the same thing with Toronto and the market not being as hot with a lot of other free agents signing first, the Indians got him for less than Oakland was offering. To get the number one player at their number one position of need is an A grade signing.
I still can’t think of reasons to not like this signing and while not on the same magnitude, I get giggly like I did when I found out LeBron was coming back to the Cavs and look what happened there.
Outside of Encarnacion, the front office has made a bunch of small moves that likely won’t show much of an impact this year. The first one of note would be claiming Tim Cooney off waivers from St. Louis.
A former third round pick of the Cardinals, he posted a 3.16 ERA in six starts for the Cardinals in 2015 before missing all off last year with a shoulder injury, an obvious concern for a pitcher.
If he checks back as healthy the club could use him as a starter in AAA or have him compete for a spot in the bullpen as a lefty where they only had Andrew Miller last postseason.
The second one was trading cash considerations for Nick Goody, a right handed reliever from the Yankees who has a career 4.67 ERA in 34.2 innings. The last one is the signing of another former Blue Jay, 1B Chris Colabello.
The 33-year-old firstbasemen enjoyed a breakout year in 2015 hitting .321 with 15 HRs in just over 100 games for Toronto. His success was short lived as he was suspended shortly intro a struggling 2016 season for 80 games due to PEDs and never returned to the majors.
It may be unlikely that he makes the major league roster off the bat, but if the team can convince him to accept an assignment to Columbus instead of electing free agency, he could provide depth as that possible 1B to replace Carlos Santana if he does not resign.
Cleveland has done virtually everything correct this offseason from a major viewpoint. They let the correct players walk in free agency and tendered all their guys except for Jeff Manship to keep the roster intact. They then signed the best possible free agent for the team in Edwin Encarnacion.
The fanbase is excited for the 2017 season and the club should hopefully have Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer back and healthy.
The only minor negative glare on the team would be not signing a matchup lefty that Tito can use out the bullpen. In 2016, that spot was a constant rotation of players including TJ House, Kyle Crockett, Ross Detwiler, and Tom Gorzelanny.
I understand free agency is expensive and relievers get good money too, Marc Rzepczynski got two years 11 million, and Mike Dunn three years 19 million for example, but that is the only need to solidify.
If they could find that one guy willing to take a one year deal worth two to four million why not take the shot at going all in at this point?
Boone Logan, Travis Wood, JP Howell, Zac Rosscup, and Chris Capuano are five names still out there that could come in and be a stable left hander for the bullpen. Signing one of them could change the offseason grade form an A to an A+.
That is truly the only thing I can gripe about with the front office and that is getting nitpicky. Looking at 2017 and beyond, you have to be excited about the potential of this team.