Editor's note: the following post takes place in an alternate universe. Not the same one in which the Indians traded Francisco Lindor for Giancarlo Stanton, but one a different one altogether.
In addition to his other holdings, Larry Dolan also owns a controlling interest in Tiny Caligulas, a low-cost pizza chain that has made him inexplicably wealthy. Years and years of eating cheap pizza has left Dolan in constant limbo, never knowing which
slice square might be his last.
Being almost as old as Otto Graham, Dolan can faintly remember what it was like to see Cleveland celebrate a championship, and would like nothing more than to be the man responsible for bringing just such a celebration back to the city.
His heirs worry that he's blowing their inheritance, but he promises them, "When you're as stinking rich as I am, there's no chance of it running out." After watching his team surprise baseball and reach the playoffs for the first time in six years, Dolan decides to make a push for even greater success in 2014. He announces that the payroll will be increased by $50 million (from ~$80 million in 2013), and tells his people to get to work.
After non-tendering Chris Perez and making a few other bench and bullpen moves, the Indians find themselves at $68M.
Trade Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourn, and Trevor Bauer to Detroit for Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, then sign Scherzer and Jackson to extensions.
The Tigers face many big decisions in the next couple years (Miguel Cabrera being the biggest). In addition to the soon-to-be AL Cy Young winner (entering his final year before free agency), the Indians pick up a better CF, as the cost of providing Detroit with Jason Kipnis, one of the best second basemen in baseball. Detroit also gains a troubled pitching prospect who could still bloom (as Scherzer himself did after being traded away by Arizona). Scherzer and Jackson's extensions include $4 million raises on what they would have made through arbitration, bringing their cost for 2014 to $20M, while the Indians get back the $15M owed to Kipnis, Bourn, and Bauer.
2014 cost: $5 million
Payroll after move: $73M ($57M to go)
Sign Robinson Cano
What better way to recover from losing one of the best 2B than to replace him with the very best? Tribe fans are initially confused by having a player go from the Yankees to the Indians, as it has always seemed to work the other way around, but they get used to it.
2014 cost: $24 million
Payroll after move: $97M ($33M to go)
Sign Shin-Soo Choo
Choo was productive and popular during his time in Cleveland, and would be warmly welcomed back. He slides into the RF spot vacated by Drew Stubbs (non-tendered). With Trevor Bauer having been dealt away, it's almost like the trade that sent Choo to Cincinnati before the 2013 season never happened.
2014 cost: $18 million
Payroll after move: $115 ($15M to go)
Trade Francisco Lindor and Zach McAllister to Tampa Bay for David Price, then sign Price to extension
One year ago the Rays dealt two years of James Shields for uber-prospect Wil Myers. Tampa Bay is widely regarded as having gotten the better of Kansas City, so while Price is better than Shields, they can't do much better than acquiring another uber-prospect, along with a cheap, league-average replacement for Price in the rotation. It stings to lose the Tribe's top prospect when he's on the cusp of reaching the majors, but Price is too good to pass up. Price's extension bumps his 2015 pay to $15M), with the Indians getting back $0.5M on McAllister.
2014 cost: $14.5 million
Payroll after move: $129.5M ($0.5M to go)
Sign Rocky Colavito to minor-league deal
Dolan wants the most-beloved Indian never to win a ring, a man foolishly traded away, and one of the very best power-hitters the team has ever had back in the fold for this run for the team's first World Series victory since 1948 (and he's about reached his $50M-increase limit). He doesn't need to go on the active roster 'til September, then the team gives him one PA (the pitcher walks him for fear of getting too close with a pitch and killing him).
2014 cost: $500,000
Payroll after move: $130M
Indians 2014 Starting Rotation:
1) Max Scherzer (R) - 2.74 FIP (in 2013)
2) David Price (L) - 3.03 FIP
3) Justin Masterson (R) - 3.35 FIP
4) Corey Kluber (R) - 3.30 FIP
5) Danny Salazar (R) - 3.16 FIP
Indians 2014 Starting Lineup:
1) CF - Austin Jackson (R) - 103 OPS+ (in 2013)
2) RF - Shin-Soo Choo (L) - 143 OPS+
3) DH - Carlos Santana (S) - 137 OPS+
4) 2B - Robinson Cano (L) - 145 OPS+
5) 1B - Nick Swisher (S) - 117 OPS+
6) C - Yan Gomes (R) - 133 OPS+
7) LF - Michael Brantley (L) 107 OPS+
8) SS - Asdrubal Cabrera (S) - 98 OPS+
9) 3B - Lonnie Chisenhall (L) - 88 OPS+
Time to plan a parade route.