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A Short Recap and a Look Forward

I did this sort of thing last year, only to have the Coco Crisp-Andy Marte deal happen, so remember this is assuming what we know now. With only Keith Foulke left on the free agent market, I'm assuming that Joe Borowski will go into next season as the closer.

The Indians started the off-season on a good note, solving their second base conundrum by getting Josh Barfield from the Padres for Kevin Kouzmanoff. Kevin was tradable because his departure didn't create a "hole" elsewhere on the major-league roster, and Barfield's skill set adds a much-needed athletic dimension to the Indians' lineup. There was no need to kick the tires of older free agents like Adam Kennedy or Mark Loretta, and the trade freed up money that was earmarked for the signing of a veteran second baseman.

The Indians were in on both Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez, but were unwilling to give up what was asked of them. Ramirez was probably a lost cause to begin with, but Sheffield was a distinct possibility. In some ways, Travis Hafner's elbow has prevented the Indians from bringing in aging but still good players, because there isn't that reassurance that Jim Thome or Gary Sheffield could always move to DH if a pulled muscle or bad back forced them off the field. This is certainly not taking away from the greatness of Hafner's bat, but his defensive limitations have at times constrained who the Indians could add to the lineup.

David Dellucci created a nice left field platoon just like Eduardo Perez did for first base last season. Dellucci's signing maximizes Jason Michaels' value as well, although it will shorten the bench and most likely reduce Ryan Garko's playing time.

Next came the bullpen phase, in which the Indians signed three vets to one-year deals. The Indians believe in the "portfolio" theory of building a bullpen, with wildly different results over the years, and they continued to follow the method this season. Shapiro got his team options in case of unexpected dominance, and still has a stable of unproven arms left in reserve. Relievers are small sample artists, and must be treated accordingly. If Aaron Fultz pulls a Scott Sauerbeck, go ahead and pitch him overboard. Eric Wedge needs to abandon the Joe Torre method of bullpen management, because there is no Mariano Rivera to count on. In the bullpen, track records are less important than recent results.

That the Indians failed to land a relief ace is a major concern, and although they've greatly reduced their short-term risk, they've likewise suppressed their long-term reward. Fernando Cabrera and Rafael Betancourt are candidates to have bounceback seasons, but you'd rather have the luxury of having someone on Day One and tinker from there. I'm not sold on Borowski.

We can start to construct a picture of the 2007 Indians:

Starting Lineup:

CF Grady Sizemore
LF David Dellucci
DH Travis Hafner
C  Victor Martinez
1B Casey Blake
RF Chin-Soo Choo
SS Jhonny Peralta
3B Andy Marte
2B Josh Barfield

Youth at the top and bottom of the order, and plodding mashers in the middle of it. Victor Martinez isn't really a classic cleanup hitter, but I don't see any other option.

Starting Rotation:

LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Jake Westbrook
LHP Jeremy Sowers
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Paul Byrd

No changes, which is (mostly) a good thing. Fausto Carmona is thankfully projected to be the sixth starter, and Adam Miller could be available later in the season.


RHP Joe Borowski
RHP Rafael Betancourt
RHP Fernando Cabrera
RHP Roberto Hernandez
LHP Aaron Fultz
RHP Matt Miller
RHP Jason Davis

This is my view of the best setup, admitting that things shouldn't be set in stone. I still have faith in Cabrera and Betancourt, but am fed up with Jason Davis.


OF Jason Michaels
IF Joe Inglett
IF Hector Luna
C  Kelly Shoppach

The defensive infielder would replace either Inglett or Luna. Shoppach needs to get more regular playing time, which will happen if Victor plays at first base versus left-handers (moving Blake to right field).

In Reserve:

1B Ryan Garko
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
OF Franklin Gutierrez
OF Ben Francisco

RHP Fausto Carmona
RHP Brian Slocum
RHP Edward Mujica
LHP Tony Sipp

These are the players that I think could make the most impact this season. Cabrera's bat will determine his playing time in the majors, but he could fill in at shortstop for a couple weeks if needed. Garko doesn't deserve to be back in AAA, but I don't see any way to avoid it unless the Indians go with just one utility infielder.