Thirty-three days. That’s how long we have until Cleveland Indians pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona for Spring Training on February 11. For those wondering, position players report on February 16 and the first full workout is February 17. Even with baseball “season” set to start in just over one month, things have been mostly quiet on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. There lies the problem.
Indians fans know all about the Francisco Lindor sweepstakes. Whether it’s the “enjoy him” comments made by owner Paul Dolan last season, potential trade partners, or just that he’s going to have a huge payday in two years, it’s been quite the discussion throughout much of the offseason. Luckily for Cleveland, no matter what happens in two years, they still have Frankie under contract until 2022. If they want to keep him that long, they can; if they want to trade him and re-stock their farm system while also receiving MLB-ready talent, they can do that as well. As many reports have stated, the Indians will only trade Frankie this offseason if they are blown away by the offer. That’s the right (and smart) thing to do.
Given that Lindor will likely become one of, if not the highest-paid player in baseball when he becomes a free agent, it’s very likely that the Indians will not re-sign him. It’s truly a baseball problem given that there are only a handful of teams that can really take on a contract like the one the shortstop will sign, but that’s a whole different discussion, one that we can talk about for days, weeks, and even years ahead until something changes. It sucks, it really does, especially as an Indians fan, but it is what it is. What the Indians can focus on is making the most out of the time they have Lindor on their team.
If they decide not to trade him, which seems very likely, maximizing the Lindor window in Cleveland isn’t just an option, it’s a must. Their World Series run in 2016 was fun, but if they don’t try to make another one of those before Lindor bolts for a major-market team, that’s a problem. Indians fans know all about the “Dolanz cheap” shenanigans, but at this point, it’s kind of true. During a time that Cleveland should be making the most of having Lindor, their payroll continues to trend downward. It’s inexcusable, honestly.
The #Indians payroll in 2018: $142,804,703
The Indians payroll in 2020 (projected): $82,808,334
Nothing like a 42% payroll reduction over an 18 month spread.
— Jim Pete (@JimPeteEHC) January 6, 2020
I wish that tweet was fake and/or lying, but Jim is absolutely correct, unfortunately. That $82 million number would rank 25th in the MLB. That’s…not good, folks.
Free agent spending* stragglers this winter:
Red Sox: $9M
* Counts major league contracts, not split deals
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2020
Luckily for the sake of this article, WFNY has already discussed some things involving this topic. Joe Gerberry talked about if the Indians can even sign Lindor long term, Michael Bode said that they should not trade Lindor, and Mitchell Krall discussed how the Indians kept some cash in their pocket by trading Kluber. The Ringer’s Michael Baumann also did a great job discussing the Indians and the AL Central. The fact that Kluber is no longer a member of the Indians is somewhat heartbreaking, but reinvesting the money saved from sending both him and his contract to the Rangers would make it a little easier.
I’m not here to talk about analytics or the amount of money that the Dolans have in their bank account, what I am here for is that I, along with many Indians fans, demand that the team (and ownership) maximize both their spending and the talent on the roster while Lindor is still donning a Tribe uniform. If not, what’s the point of even keeping him here the next two years?
To make matters worse, the Indians AL Central foe Chicago White Sox are continuing to improve their roster. In fact, they have spent the fourth-most money so far this winter. So, not only did the Twins (surprisingly) win the Central in 2019, but it’s obvious that the White Sox are continuing to improve as well. All while the Indians have continued to decrease their payroll.
Free agent spending leaders this winter, in which teams have guaranteed just shy of $2 billion:
White Sox: $195.5M
Blue Jays: $108M
Next highest: Rangers, $49.5M
— Jamie O'Neill (@JamieOneill2799) January 7, 2020
While signing Cesar Hernandez is a good start to be the everyday second baseman, that should only be the start, not just the biggest signing of the offseason. Even after trading Kluber, Cleveland has one of the best (and deepest) rotations in the MLB. Not only that, but they have one of the best catchers, third basemen, and shortstops in baseball as well. Add in a guy like Carlos Santana, home run-crushing slugger like Franmil Reyes, and a solid bullpen, and all of the pieces are there except for those glaring holes. One of those being another outfielder.
Luckily, the Indians are very familiar with the outfielder they should re-sign this offseason. After acquiring Yasiel Puig last season, he is still a free agent, one that they should bring back. While he might want a bit more money than he should actually get given his somewhat inconsistent play, it would be a wise decision for Cleveland to bring Puig back. The fact that he’s a fan favorite is just the start. The 29-year-old is beloved by Indians fans and would be the perfect fit with the Tribe, both because he would fill a glaring hole and be a player that the fans can continue to lean on and root for.
Over the last few years, Cleveland has used the trade deadline to fill the holes in the lineup and on their pitching staff, but this offseason, it’s time to do just that before the season even starts and continue to improve the team with trade(s) during the season. It’s not just something that the Indians fans would like, it’s essentially a demand because the payroll continues to decrease during a World Series window is inexcusable..and laughable, really.
Plenty can change in the next few weeks, but there are clearly some holes on this Indians roster, ones that they must fill if they want to not only compete for an American League Central division crown, but a World Series title. So please, Dolans, spend some money, fill these obvious holes on the roster, and maximize the Lindor window. That is all.