When last I briefed you on the Indians, here is where I stood:
“So, it’s December and we are still without a closer, a healthy, power-hitting DH, 3 spots in the rotation are up for grabs and we don’t have a 3rd baseman. Needless to say, I’m a little concerned for next year.” So, have the holes been filled? Let’s take a peek.
Closer – Well, the Tribe did it. They went out in the free-agent market and got the second best closer available in Kerry Wood. (The top closer being Francisco Rodriguez who signed with the Mets for 3 years and $37m.) We got Wood for 2 years and $20m. He’s the first closer that I have felt good about going into a season since Jose Mesa.
Power-hitting DH – Only time will tell this one. Travis Hafner has not been the same hitter since he got hit in the face in 2007. New injuries last year limited him and threw a wrench into the lineup for most of the year. If Pronk is healthy and puts up his average numbers: 30HR, 100R, 100 RBI, things will be good at the corner of Carnegie & Ontario.
3rd Baseman – Once again, I feel good about the Mark DeRosa signing for 3B. He’s a solid guy that appears to be a great “team” guy. That allows Peralta to stay at short and Cabrera at 2B. Splitting time between Garko & Martinez at 1B. That is a solid defensive infield.
Rotation – Well, here, not so much. For all the good the Tribe did in the bullpen in the off season; Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith and Masa Kobayashi, they well asleep on the starting rotation. Carl Pavano, I will say it again slowly in case you thought you heard me wrong, Carl Pavano. This guy turned one good season with the Phillies into a 4-year, $40m deal with the Yankees. He then proceeded to make only 26 starts over the next 4 years(including just 9 in the past 2 years), to end up with a 9-8 record with the Yanks. If, he’s healthy, I see him as a #5 starter, at best. The other 2 spots (well, 3 WHEN Pavano gets hurt) will be fought over by: Reyes/Laffey/Sowers/Lewis/Huff/Jackson. If we can get some useful inning from Laffey/Sowers (they have done it before). Things may just be held together with spit and duct tape.
Bright spots – I see the outfield being this club’s strength for the year. Grady Sizemore is already an all-star, but I see this as the year he breaks outs, cuts down on the strikeouts and takes on MVP consideration. Flanked by Choo and Fransisco (that’s fun to say), the outfield should be solid defensively and consistent at the dish.
Catching will be solid with Kelly Shopach backing up V-Mart. Everyone young (Fransisco, Cabrera, Carmona, Garko) has one more year of experience in the big leagues and I am only worried about Choo’s sophomore slump potential.
Overall, I like this team’s prospects. Barring injuries in spring training, I believe the opening day batting order looks like this:
Only 14 more days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Baseball Fever, Catch it.