Believe it or not, real, actual baseball is right around the corner. The spring games have already started, and Opening Day is just over a month away. After a few months of watching a lukewarm stove, its time to catch up with what’s going on around the division. I sent some questions around to folks from our sister sites in the SB Nation network for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Cleveland Indians. They were kind enough to answer the questions, and we’ll run one team each day this week. Assume any editing mistakes are mine. And with no further ado, it’s time to pass the microphone to...
Cleveland: Matt Schlichting, Editor, Let’s Go Tribe
What players and/or storylines should we be watching on your team this spring?
No one really knows who the starting outfielders will be on Opening Day. Leonys Martin feels like a safe bet for CF. Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, and Greg Allen will all compete for the additional spots, while Jake Bauers and Jason Kipnis are also on the outfield depth chart. Oscar Mercado, whom the Indians acquired from the Cardinals late last season, is also a guy to keep an eye on. Still, they’ve fallen so far from Belle-Lofton-Ramirez. Or even Ben Francisco, Shin-Soo Choo, and the Rapidly Deteriorating Body of Grady Sizemore.
Also, Danny Salazar and Cody Anderson are attempting to return from 12+ month injured list stints. Will they be able to contribute?
What is one more player personnel move you would like to see your team make before spring training ends?
Trade Trevor Bauer for an impact bat in the outfield. Anybody, really, but preferably younger, under-control players. There is a massively talented group of players around A-ball in the system but few top prospects that fill obvious roster needs right now. A couple of good outfielders to help keep this core in contention while the next ascends would be ideal.
What’s changed over the offseason for your team? What is new and good, what is new and bad, and what is just plain different?
Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Yan Gomes, and Lonnie Chisenhall are all gone. For the last 3+ seasons each of those guys (Miller to a lesser extent) were mainstays on the Indians’ roster. I’m not too big on hand-wavy clubhouse chemistry ramblings, but also consider that Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, and Yandy Diaz are all gone -- each of whom was presumed to be a 2019 starter around the end of the World Series last year -- and you start to wonder about it some.
One good thing about this exodus without much of a return is that the young outfielders are being given a chance to prove themselves. Terry Francona loves to take guys like Ryan Raburn, Melky Cabrera, and Rajai Davis and plug them into lineups over the promising young prospects. This leads to varying levels of mediocrity in the outfield.
How was last season for you as a fan? What has been the general vibe around your team during the offseason, and how do you feel about the upcoming season?
I don’t think there are too many Indians fans that enjoyed last season. Winning the division for a third straight season? Fun. Watching Bauer build a Cy Young case and Shane Bieber emerge from the minors? Nice subplots. The left side of the infield? Divine.
Other than that the games largely felt meaningless and boring because everyone knew the Indians would win the division. It was difficult to feel like any games mattered until the ALDS, and the result of that made the whole season look like an elaborate scheme to ensure that Francisco Lindor never signs an extension.
Who do you think will win the division, and why?
The Indians will ultimately win based solely on the strength and depth of its starting pitching and the rebuild phase the rest of the division appears to be stuck in.
What other question should we have asked you but didn’t?
What will be the biggest regret of the Indians offseason? The answer, obviously, is trading Yandy Diaz to Tampa. He will probably be hitting .407 with 35 HRs at the All-Star break