From the time the 2016 MLB season starts on April 3 to the day it ends on October 2, a lot is going to happen. We can make predictions and projections all we want, but it is that level of uncertainty over 162 games that makes the game of baseball so exciting. If everything falls just right over the next several months for the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, we could be watching a playoff preview when the two teams kick off their 2016 against each other on April 4.
The Tribe will send out their ace, 2014 Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber while the Red Sox will debut their largest offseason acquisition, David Price. Kluber is in the early years of a very team-friendly five-year, $38.5 million contract in which he will not make more than $10.5 million in any season until at least 2019. Meanwhile, Boston signed Price to a massive seven-year, $217 million deal this offseason following one of his best career years in which he was worth 6.4 fWAR and carried a 2.45 ERA in his time with the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Other than signing Price, the Red Sox were relatively quiet this offseason. They signed Chris Young to a two-year, $13 million deal and that was it for major-league signings. New President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski also made a series of trades, including dealing four prospects for All-Star closer Kraig Kimbrell and sending Wade Miley to the Seattle Mariners for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.
It's time to get excited about this Indians team
They may not be a 100-win team, but this Indians squad is built to compete all season long.
For most of the season, the Red Sox will rely on an offense that should be, at the very least, above average top to bottom. Maybe not so much in this first game featuring David Price (and every fifth day that he pitches), but the Red Sox will not have a great staff to rely on in 2016. In a sense, they are the mirror opposite of the Indians. The entire Cleveland staff should be somewhere from good to great while the offense has one or two stand-outs and a bunch of shaky parts. This is especially true early on in the season when Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall start the season on the disabled list.
Projected standings are far from an end-all when it comes to knowing who will or will not make the playoffs, but currently, the Red Sox and Indians are projected to win their respective divisions by FanGraphs. If it turns out FanGraphs has perfected projecting standings and everything holds true, the Red Sox would be the No. 1 seed in the AL, with the Indians No. 3. So, in order for the teams to face each other they would both have to win their Divisional Round games -- Boston against whoever wins the Wild Card game and the Indians over No. 3 seeded Houston Astros.
Maybe that exact scenario will not happen, but the idea of both teams making the playoffs is not out of the question. The Red Sox have gone from a sub-.500 team for the last couple seasons instantly to an American League favorite thanks to a big offseason. Conversely, the Indians have steadily held as a team right around .500 waiting to explode and take that next step into a legitimate playoff contender. If both teams stay healthy and avoid prolonged slumps (two things the Indians failed to do last season), we could very well see a Kluber/Price matchup in October. And, if all goes according to plan, it will be in Progressive Field with the new, gigantic scoreboard blazing.
When the two clash next Monday, it will not be a playoff matchup. Even if the two teams do meet in the playoffs, there is no guarantee Kluber and Price would even face each other. So don't hold your breath for it. Instead, enjoy it. Take in the fact that baseball has returned and we are watching two of the best pitchers in the game to start the season. In fact, when looking at the full slate of matchups for April 4, it would be difficult to a better matchup than the one we will be witnessing:
|Start Time||Away SP||Home SP|
|1:05 PM ET||D. Keuchel (HOU)||TBD|
|2:10 PM ET||M. Bumgarner (SF)||W. Peralta (MIL)|
|3:05 PM ET||Y. Santana (MIN)||C. Tillman (BAL)|
|4:05 PM ET||F. Hernandez (SEA)||C. Hamels (TEX)|
|4:10 PM ET||D. Price (BOS)||C. Kluber (CLE)|
|4:10 PM ET||J. Hellickson (PHI)||R. Iglesias (CIN)|
|4:10 PM ET||M. Scherzer (WSH)||J. Teheran (ATL)|
|7:05 PM ET||C. Kershaw (LAD)||T. Ross (SD)|
|7:10 PM ET||R. Dickey (TOR)||D. Smyly (TB)|
|9:40 PM ET||J. De La Rosa (COL)||Z. Greinke (ARI)|
|10:05 PM ET||J. Arrieta (CHC)||G. Richards (LAA)|
|10:05 PM ET||C. Sale (CWS)||S. Gray (OAK)|
Unless you are really excited for some R.A Dickey on Drew Smyly action, get ready to love Opening Day as a Tribe fan.