We continue looking at the 30 MLB teams as they head into the 2021 season. And on this piece, we examine The State of the Cleveland Indians.
Trading Away Francisco Lindor/Acquiring Amed Rosario
When the Cleveland Indians traded away Francisco Lindor, it was a wake-up call to all Indians fans. This was a clear signal that the team was moving forward towards a rebuild. Francisco Lindor is a worthwhile marketing goldmine of a player and an outstanding baseball player. However, trading him in his walk year wasn’t going to garner any sort of great return. Hence, the reason Cleveland ended up with Amed Rosario.
Now, let’s be clear Amed Rosario is a nice player and could be a complimentary piece at the end of a lineup that has firepower throughout. However, in this Indians’ lineup, there isn’t much firepower to speak of in 2021.
Eddie Rosario Signing
The one bit of firepower acquired by Cleveland this offseason was that of Eddie Rosario. Eddie Rosario is one of the most underrated players in MLB (in my opinion.) When studying Eddie’s play, he’s going to provide solid at-bats with some pop. And while Eddie isn’t likely to win a gold glove, he has made some spectacular plays out in the outfield. (I.e., his throw to nab a runner at home in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.) Plus should the Indians fall out of contention by the deadline, Eddie could become a valuable left-handed bat for a contending team.
Oliver Perez Resigning
Oliver Perez has been a stalwart in Major League Baseball for the last 18 seasons. Olí always finds his way onto a Major League roster. As the old adage goes, if you’re left-handed and have a pulse, you can pitch in the Major Leagues. Perez has a career ERA of 4.35, and while the Indians’ offense isn’t the same force it once was, Olí can still get outs. And at the deadline, a lefty reliever is a valuable commodity.
Cesar Hernandez Resigning
Cesar Hernandez is an intriguing player. The switching-hitting infielder resigned with the Indians, likely because of being the everyday starting second baseman. Hernandez is a solid complementary piece for a potent lineup and would be a versatile player. However, this Indians lineup is not likely to be as powerful as it once was, but Hernandez is still a good signing.
Plethora of Minor League Signings
The Cleveland Indians signed quite a number of players to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training. They will need to fill out a respectable 26-man roster in 2021, and key veterans will likely get a good chunk of that playing time. Cleveland is not expected to factor into the American League postseason picture in 2021. And therefore, it’s unlikely that the Indians’ top prospects will see significant time this season.
State of the Rotation
The Indians’ rotation begins with and is sustained by Shane Bieber. Shane Bieber is the reigning AL Cy Young award winner for the 2020 season and one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Indians rotation also features Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie. However, the fifth spot in the rotation has more questions than answers. As is the case for most teams, the final rotation spot will facilitate competition in Spring Training. Cleveland will need a good pitching staff because that will be its strength in 2021. And most of that strength will rest on the rotation.
State of the Bullpen
The bullpen for the Cleveland Indians isn’t going to be as intimidating as it was previously. And there will be a lot of growth and experimentation from arms in the pen. Younger and more inexperienced arms will have an opportunity to shine in a year of transition from the Cleveland Indians.
State of the Offense
Offensively, the Indians also aren’t the team they used to be in past years. The offensive force that they once were have slowly been phased out. Thus leaving only Jose Ramirez as the primary offensive mainstay from the previous postseason runs. Much like with the bullpen, the Tribe will allow the veterans in camp and some of their young positions players an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster. But Cleveland will likely struggle to receive any semblance of postseason contention.
State of the Franchise
Cleveland finds itself in a division that will see different levels of competition. At the top, the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins will battle for the top spot. Following that will likely be the underrated Kansas City Royals. And then the Indians and Detroit Tigers will compete in the cellar of the American League Central division, thus making this season a long Summer in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.