As you probably know by now, the Indians traded former ace Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfield prospect James Ramsey on July 30, 2014. Just a day later, the Tribe sent longtime Indian Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals for shortstop Zach Walters. Now, Masterson and Cabrera were both finishing off their contracts this year and probably weren’t going to stay in Cleveland afterwards—be it because they wanted too much money or that management had enough of their play. Probably a mix of both.
While I think the Indians potentially could have squeezed a little more out of St. Louis and Washington, these are not terrible trades by any means. We managed to get something back from two players who weren’t going to play a huge role the rest of the season. Ramsey could be a starter in our outfield in the near future. Walters will help push his fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor to play to compete for a spot on the roster in September, or he himself will take over for shortstop Jose Ramirez. Regardless, you can never have enough depth at any position in baseball. So I have to give kudos to the Indians management for acquiring some future talent.
As I have mentioned a while back, Terry Francona has the fantastic ability to keep a clubhouse together. On paper, the Indians may not look like a playoff-bound team for the 2014 season. Well, don’t look at that paper! There are plenty of reasons why the Indians could make the playoffs this year. This season is eerily similar to last year, in which the Tribe made a late-inning push into the post-season. Most of the players are around from last season and have the potential to pull off this drive once again. You can thank Tito for how he manages the clubhouse and keeps the guys having fun. Amidst the pressure, he is able to alleviate some of it for the players and has them going forward, be it this season or next. I don’t think it’s so improbable to see the playoffs this year and I am not giving up on the season.
From the mist of obscurity emerged backup catcher Roberto Perez, a 33rd round draft pick in 2008 by Cleveland. He’s on par, if not better, with Yan Gomes for catching duties. While Gomes may have the upper hand on offense, Perez is a great contributor to have when Gomes needs a day off. So while we may not have explosive position players, we’ve got some new guys who are contributing very well in their own way.
The genuine strength of the Cleveland Indians lies in the pitching staff. Corey Kluber continues to slaughter opposing batsmen, showing what a huge mistake it was keeping him out of the All-Star Game. After Kluber, there is Trevor Bauer, a much improved pitcher who is having a breakout season. Young flamethrower Danny Salazar is having an up and down season. Regardless, I think we will see his 2013 form again before the season is over. Rounding out the other rotation spots is T.J. House, an impressive left handed arm who is making a case for himself to stay in the bigs. Zach McAllister is shuffling time between Cleveland and Triple-A Columbus and Josh Tomlin is currently in the bullpen with plenty of starter experience. He may once again be called upon to start. There may be a lack of experience within our starting rotation, but let me assure you that there is no lack of skill. These men are carrying the team on their backs sometimes and single-handedly winning games. Our pitchers are hungry for success and trying to make a name for themselves. That kind of mentality is difficult to play against. I am generally pretty confident with whoever is starting on the mound for us.
I want to assure the fans that this is not the beginning of a rebuilding phase; we did not acquire any big names at the deadline. People hate the word process, but that is exactly what this is. The Indians want to build a winning ball club, but they are going to do it their way. Perhaps not pushing for the playoffs this season and getting a few weapons for the future is the smart way to go for now. Also, there may be some waiver deals before the season is over, if the Indians do indeed string some winning streaks together. This season is far from over and the Indians may even be a playoff team come October. You can’t count out their resilience, that’s for sure. It’s important to keep supporting the Tribe— I know they are working hard to make the city of Cleveland proud of their baseball team.