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Indian’s Off Season Chatter: AL Central Rivals Striding Through Free Agency

Signing big name free agents to improve ball club is not GM Antonetti’s game; at least not right now

This is a continuation of an earlier conversation I had with my conscience just after the Indian's season ended.

A: And it wasn't ex Indian's General Manager Mark Shaprio's game either.

Q: Wow. This interrogation, ahem, I mean interview hasn't even started yet, and here you are blabbing away.

A: What's wrong with that? You are here to get information from me, and I am giving it to you. Less work for you right?

Q: Perhaps. But let's stick with the script. I ask, you answer, ok?

Q: So, it's almost Christmas. And die hard Cleveland baseball fans are wondering if the Indian's are going to get a Christmas gift from Chris Antonetti. What do you think?

A: If you are referring to the big name free agents that are still out there; Adrian Beltre, Rafael Soriano, and others; you'd have a better shot at getting struck by lightning, even in the winter. Those pricy players are not in the Indian's current plans to improve the ball team.

Q: But shouldn't they be? I mean, off season acquisitions can only make the team stronger right?

A: One would tend to think that. Yes, free agents are brought to a team for a reason. But there are alternatives to team enhancement, specifically for the Indians. Right now, the draft, and their minor league farm hands are what is going to get them back to contention. I mentioned some names to you last time; Carlos Santana, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Jordan Brown, Vinny Pestano. And others without big league experience like Jason Knipis, Nick Hagadone, and Jared Goedert. If the Indians develop these guys properly, they will be the pieces to the World Series Puzzle.

Q: Ah, mentioning the World Series already? They have a lot of work to do to get there, needless to say.

A: All teams do. But if they are aiming for anything less with those guys in the next five years or so, then they are wasting their time. The goal of all teams is to get to the World Series, whether it takes one year, or ten.

Q: Getting back to the getting better part; so you don't think that the off season moves made by Indian's American League Central opponents are worthy of such mentioning?

A: They are exceedingly worthy of talking about. In fact, other than Boston (Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez) and Philadelphia (Cliff Lee) I'd say the AL Central has made the most noise in the off season.

Q: How so? What did those teams do?

A: Well, if you hadn't heard that former Indian Victor Martinez is now a member of the Detroit Tigers, I couldn't tell you what is wrong with you. That is a huge pickup for them. He would be one of two switch-hitters (Carlos Guillen being the other) in a lineup that would consist of Austin Jackson, Guillen, Miguel Cabrera, Martinez, and Magglio Ordonez. Maggs briefly showed them that he can still be the .300 hitter he was in Chicago, so keeping him for one more year is an astute choice on their part. And even though Victor really can't catch 130-140 games like he used to be able to, he will still be an asset to that team by aiding their staff behind the plate. He probably won't play first base anymore with Cabrera in his way, but he is a mammoth upgrade for them.

A: But even that lineup does not pack as great a punch as this next one. Think about how good the Chicago White Sox lineup will be with the acquisition of left handed slugger Adum Dunn. He will give them a presence from the left side they haven't had since Jim Thome. I always though the White Sox had the best lineup, but they drastically under-achieved last year. The addition of a left handed bat will add balance and thunder to that batting order. They brought Paul Konerko back, and will have Jake Peavy, who can be a shutdown ace, back and healthy next season. Plus, they let Bobby Jenks go because they felt that their young core bullpen guys are ready to take over the ninth inning role as closer. Both Matt Thorton and Sergio Santos posted below 3.00 ERA's last year, so either of them would be capable.

Q: I seem to remember their being a big difference between the eighth and ninth innings though.

A: This may be true, but I really like those young arms. Give them some innings and they will turn out ok.

Q: Who else made note worthy moves so far?

A: I think the Kansas City Royals made significant strides by attacking their weaknesses. Opposing ball clubs could run for days if they hit the ball to the gaps because the Royals' outfielders had a pistol for an arm. Now, they will have a pair of bazooka's out there with Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francoeur. Then again, every time I think the Royals improved their roster, they never cease to disappoint me. Word on the street has it that they may even trade Zach Greinke. They'd bring in some good talent, but probably little that would be of immediate Major-League impact.

Q: What of the Minnesota Twins?

A: I hear that they agreed to a deal with second basemen and Japanese batting champion Tsuyoshi Nishioka. And-

Q: (Interrupts hastily) How do you pronounce that name?

A: (chuckles...) You're asking the wrong guy. Ask media relations. Other than that I don't know much about him.

A: But what I do know is that former MVP Justin Morneau should be ready by opening day, and that would be detrimental to opposing teams. It's almost as good, if not better, than an off season signing. But they need to keep Carl Pavano to keep some balance of age on their pitching staff and to have a semi-descent number one starter. I'm not sure if Francisco Liriano was all that he was cracked up to be.

A: So with all of these moves, how have the Tribe managed to keep pace?

Q: They weren't expected to do much this winter. Perhaps a third basemen, another starting pitcher, and a right handed outfielder and that was it. So far, they haven't done anything, but there is still another two months before players report to spring training. I've heard former Twin Nick Punto ‘s name mentioned at third. He'd be a good defender, but is bat would put him towards the bottom of manager Manny Acta ‘s lineup. That's about all that I have heard.

A: Should I be worried that nothing is happening for the Indians this off season?

Q: Absolutely not. Or, I don't think so. Well, maybe; a little. I don't know.

Q: So who is the favorite in this division?

A: You do this all the time...ask me in September, or at least when the season starts.

Q: You don't know?

A: No I don't! Your guess is as good as mine. There are way too many variables that can go through a season. Playoff teams need to have depth, balanced, defense, good pitching, and some luck to get to where they go.

Q: How much of what you just mentioned do the Indian's have?

A: Only time will tell. Only on field execution will reveal the secret to your question.

Q: But if you had to pick one team at this point, who would it be?

A: Let me think...(after extended contemplation) I'd probably play it safe and go with the Twins. They won the division last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if they did it again. They've got pop, depth, and some pitching. But I do like the potential of the White Sox.

Q: But I will check in with you about that again in March; mark it down on your calendar.

A: Sure thing, always up for a good baseball conversation; even if it is fifteen degrees outside and the Cavaliers and Browns are playing. Neither of them have been all that entertaining, maybe the Browns have. They both aren't going anywhere, at least not this year. At least the Tribe is on their way up.

Q: Right. The countdown to February continues. See ya then!

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.