I want to preface this by saying I believe the Indians are absolutely a contender in the AL Central, and as last year proved, winning the AL Central can lead to winning the World Series, so the Tribe are a contender for that too. Anyone who was reading this site last fall should recall me pointing out repeatedly that after a disastrous first six weeks of the season, the Indians had the fourth-best record in the American League, and the second-best run differential (behind Toronto, but ahead of Kansas City).
Obviously those disastrous six weeks count, and wins and losses are ultimately more important than run differential, but once both teams had made all their major moves for the season, and had basically the roster they would head into the offseason with, the Indians were something close to an even match with the Royals, and with a younger roster.
In short: The Indians can win the whole bleeping thing in 2016.
Now that we've covered that, I have to say I've found the Tribe's offseason very underwhelming.
I wouldn't normally expect a whole lot from the offseason, but by moving what was left of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn's contracts, management had opened up a fair amount of space in the 2016 budget. The team could have spent ~$25 million on 2016 payroll and still been at about the same point as in 2013, 2014, and 2015. That kind of available money would have been enough to add Justin Upton, who's still only 28, and ended up agreeing to a deal that will likely only last two years. I'm not against the Indians signing someone to that sort of contract, the way many Tribe fans are, but I knew they wouldn't do it, so I didn't really hold out any hope for something like that, but I did hope for more than Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, and some tinkering with the bullpen.
Bullpen tinkering is business as usual for pretty much every MLB team. None of the names the Indians added strike me as especially notable, and the highest-profile arm they brought in belongs to Joba Chamberlain, someone I have zero interest in rooting for. (Never forget.)
Davis' arrival means Yan Gomes can ask Rajai what the hell kind of slide that was last April, when Yan had his knee blown out. Aside from that it provides the Indians with another option in their confusing outfield. Is Lonnie Chisenhall actually an elite defensive right fielder? Did Abraham Almonte actually just need a change of scenery? Is Michael Brantley going to be back in April, May, or June? If Davis plays mostly against lefties, he can comport himself at the plate, and he knows his way around the outfield grass. I don't hate his signing or anything, but I don't see how he moves the needle all that much.
Napoli is a 34-year-old coming off his worst season as a professional, which explains why he was available on a one-year deal for just $7 million in guaranteed money. One player he's very similar to is Carlos Santana, so perhaps he was signed so that Tribe fans should spread their hatred around, instead of concentrating so much of it on one player. He seems like a reasonable candidate for a modest bounce back, and he can hit lefties, so I can understand the reasoning behind adding him, but similar to Davis, I just have a hard time picturing him making a major impact on the team.
You might reasonably be wondering, "Jeez, Jason, you don't seem to hate any of the moves, so what gives? What exactly do you think they should have done instead?"
A fair question, and (aside from signing Justin Upton, because: Fun!, and instead the lousy Tigers got him: Not fun.), I don't really have an answer. I guess it's just that the offseason is a slog when you root for a team that's unwilling and/or unable to do much. Between the end of the World Series and the start of Spring Training, Cleveland fans have it rough. They're forced to pretend they didn't spent four years loathing LeBron James, and that the Browns aren't the most inept franchise in American pro sports.
What all my hand wringing comes down to is probably this: We need the baseball back.