Earlier on Friday, the Cleveland Indians reached agreements with their three final arbitration-eligible players. Everyone on the roster was now signed for the 2015 season. It seemed the team would be mostly done with any other acquisitions besides the usual spring training invites.
But alas, Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi reported on Friday afternoon that the Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers are all in the market for an upgrade at closer. At first, the rumor is a shocking surprise for Indians fans.
Cody Allen, who turned 26 in November, had a tremendous season in 2014. The club had signed veteran mustache afficionado John Axford, but he lost the closer job quickly and later was designed for assignment in mid-August. Allen claimed the closer’s job quickly and finished with a 2.07 ERA and 24 saves. He struck out 91 batters in 69.2 innings pitched.
The Indians, like any team, could always use some more relievers. They were notorious for over-working their best guys last year as Bryan Shaw (80 relief appearances), Allen (76), Marc Rzepczynski (73) and Scott Atchison (70) were all near the league lead in games played. Kyle Crockett and C.C. Lee had nice finishes to the season. Cleveland picked up Anthony Swarzak, the long-time Twins pitcher, earlier this week. They also added former Angels/White Sox/Royals lefty Scott Downs earlier in the offseason. But more and more depth could never hurt.
It’s just surprising to see the team in the market for another closer. One line of thinking could be the Indians attempting to limit Cody Allen’s arbitration cost next season. Both Allen and Corey Kluber are up for an increase in salary for the first time in 2016. A two-year closer and a Cy Young winner could turn out to be very expensive quickly.
With today’s signings, the Indians are now at an approximate $78.9 million for 17 guaranteed salaries. That would place them at just about $83 million with eight final minimum-salary players. There might be a tiny ounce of wiggle room within the team’s usual spending limits for a final legitimate reliever, but it’s still a surprise to see this rumor.
UPDATE: Just to clarify from Morosi’s initial tweet, it appears he’s now saying the Indians are simply looking for another “late-inning reliever.” Much more logical, but still a bit of a surprise considering the bullpen’s success last season and the budget situation.