How Can the Indians Compete with Another Payroll Slash in 2021?

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Ever since the Cleveland Indians lost their best of three series in the Wild Card round of the American League playoffs, the organization has been sending a depressing message surrounding the financial state of the franchise.

Be it from the year end press conference with team president Chris Antonetti or the weekly messages sent through the media about the off-season, the front office is making it very well known another reduction in the payroll is coming for the Tribe.

We understand that Major League Baseball teams all lost revenue due to the shortened season and without ticket sales. That is indisputable. What we don’t know is how many teams have been pounding this message to their fan base.

Ticket sales were lost as well as concessions and parking dollars, but keep in mind the Indians paid approximately $70 million less in salaries, and with the schedule kept within the Central Divisions of both leagues, travel expenses were also reduced greatly.

We have said this before, but we wonder how much spending will be down around the sport this winter. 

It could be tough for some average players, and there could be more players non-tendered rather than offering them arbitration, but our guess is there will be teams trying to make a splash in the free agent and trade market.

None of those teams, by the way, have a World Series title drought equal to the now 73 years without a title that Cleveland has.

What is particularly distressing about this talk by the organization is the success the franchise has enjoyed since Terry Francona became manager in 2013, and the record the Tribe has put together since 2016.

After making the World Series that season, Cleveland has won at least 91 games in every full season, and has made the post-season in four of the last five campaigns. The year they missed out? They won 93 ballgames.

You might think that since the Indians have been in contention for a long period of time, this is a club starting to show some age. 

However, of the top ten players in WAR on the 2020 Indians, only four are over 30 years old, and three of those players, Cesar Hernandez, Brad Hand, and Carlos Santana, are either free agents and/or have a club option for 2021.

The fourth player is pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who recently has been mentioned in trade rumors.

We should also mention that of this quartet, only Santana will play the 2021 season at over 35 years old. Hernandez and Hand will be just 31.

The other players who are in the top ten in WAR for 2020 (ages in parenthesis)? Shane Bieber (26), Jose Ramirez (28), Zach Plesac (26), Francisco Lindor (27), Tristan McKenzie (23), and James Karinchak (25).

It would seem this group could be the basis of a contending team for quite a few more years. Instead of adding to the group and bolstering the team to get into the playoffs, we hear about payroll reduction and the probable trade of one its best position players (Lindor) and a long time veteran starting pitcher who is still among the game’s best (Carrasco).

With Tampa Bay in the World Series, we have heard fans justifying the cut in spending on players, but who knows when the Rays will get back. Tribe fans thought the Indians would be back soon after 2016, but we are still waiting.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have been in three of the last four Fall Classics. The Red Sox have won four World Series since the turn of the century. 

The tried and true way of winning in baseball is accumulating very good players and hold on to them, which Cleveland organization can do, if they so desire.

It may be a cold, angry, and depressing winter for fans of the Cleveland Indians if the payroll will be slashed again. That’s nothing to look forward to.