While Juan Uribe, Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli are upgrades at positions of need, Fangraphs believes that the Cleveland Indians squandered a massive opportunity to capitalize on their strengths in pitching at defense. In their recent piece which graded the offseasons (thus far) of every MLB team, the Tribe comes in toward the bottom at No. 22 with a grade of C—assuming they sign Austin Jackson.
On the one hand, I think I’m giving mental credit to the organization for something they haven’t done yet, which feels unfair and potentially like a sign of bias. But as we saw last week with the Juan Uribe signing, it seems like the Indians are still bargain shopping, and Austin Jackson is such an obvious fit for them that I’ll be pretty surprised if they don’t end up signing him in the next few weeks. If they don’t sign Jackson, then I’d probably push them down a few spots and say similar things to what I said about the Astros; this is a contender who might not have done enough to take advantage of their opportunity.
The pitching is very good, but Mike Napoli and Juan Uribe aren’t exactly the cavalry, and with Michael Brantley‘s health in question, I think a greater focus on adding to the outfield is in order. But if they land Jackson, they’ll have brought in a couple of solid regulars to help keep the team in contention, and that may be enough to justify the C grade. But they really need to sign Austin Jackson. Like tomorrow.
In a recent piece which outlined the best moves of the offseason, other AL Central foes were praised for retaining stars (Kansas City) and finding an everyday third baseman (Chicago). The White Sox were given the fourth-best offseason of the winter with the Justin Upton-acquiring Tigers (10), Royals (16) and Twins (20) filing behind. The Tribe, based on what was said above, could actually end up sliding back a few pegs in the event they do not sign Jackson, who was linked to the team as recent as this past weekend.
While the Tribe is pegged to be among the AL’s best this season, the gap may not be as close as many would have hoped. Among other projected playoffs teams, the Mets (No. 3) were given Kudos for re-signing right-handed slugger Yoenis Cespedes; the young Cubs (No. 1) were doubly praised for signing Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Regardless of where they finish, being called a “contender who might not have done enough to take advantage of their opportunity” would be the most apt way to describe what the Indians have—or haven’t done—over the last few months of fine-tuning.