Three of the last four seasons have resulted in a wins total below 70 for the Cleveland Indians, after the team finished at 68-94 and in 4th place in the AL Central last season. Terry Francona was brought in to manage after the season as it was apparent that it was a period of transition in Cleveland, but there’s reason to think that things may just be ahead of schedule. Surprising free agent signings, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, will help reshape the lineup but both carry some uncertainties. Shin-Soo Choo is gone, bringing back top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. Mike Aviles, Mark Reynolds, and Brett Myers have also joined the Indians.
With the start of the 2013 Regular Season upon us, it seemed like the ideal time to check in with each of our team sites here at FanSided MLB and check out what our experts have to say on the upcoming season. Let’s check in with Senior Editor Lewie Pollis of Wahoo’s on First, and see what he had to say about the team’s best and worst case scenarios, as well as what’s most likely to happen.
Best Case Scenario
Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn earn their paychecks, depth and improved defense make the rotation look almost league-average, and Terry Francona leads the Indians to upset the Tigers and win the AL Central.
Worst Case Scenario
The pitching falls apart, the injury bug strikes, and a full half the roster struggles through a season-long slump. In other words, it’s just like last year but more expensive.
Most Likely to Happen
Cleveland has one of the best-hitting and -fielding teams in the league and a pitching staff that’s better (and much deeper) than most fans realize. It’s a stretch to call them the best team in the division, but after this winter’s extreme roster overhaul a playoff berth looks much more likely than a losing season.
Making big moves doesn’t always work out positively, but the Indians may have set themselves up for some nice results if things pan out. Swisher appears more likely to adjust quickly, compared to Bourn, as he really can just continue to play his game. If Bourn can consistently get on base, however, it could be the start of a solid year for the Indians with the lineup that would follow. Both new acquisitions should offer up some value but might not live up to the full amounts of their new deals. Pitching is where this team will mostly need things to produce if they’re to compete in the Central this season. Ubaldo Jimenez hasn’t been the same pitcher outside of Coors Field (how often is that said?), Justin Masterson could use a bounce back season, and Scott Kazmir is a great story but how well – and how deep into the season – will he be able to pitch? Bauer will eventually step in to reinforce the rotation, but when and how remains to be seen.
Cleveland should certainly be an improved team over last season but still may not have enough to compete. Keep up with all things Indians throughout the season at Wahoo’s on First.