The Sporting News' Jesse Spector recently ran a 1-30 countdown of the top front offices in Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians were ranked dead center at No. 15 overall. Even with a winning record, one of the best rotations in baseball, and a budding farm system, that was not enough for Spector to put them any higher than that.
He does have his reasons, though. Here is what he had to say about the Tribe's front office under first-year general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti:
Under president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff, Cleveland has a solid roster built around young, cost-controlled, strikeout-happy pitchers. There is nothing to complain about there, and the Indians have risen to the top of the American League Central this season — you just have to wonder for how long, because the reluctance to give up any of that pitching supply to help a middling offense is striking. Yes, Cleveland is fifth in the American League in runs scored this season, but the high run total is built on a shoddy foundation of league-average peripherals. It could be enough, but when there are options available to take a good team and make it something really special, they should be taken.
I was on the "trade a pitcher for a position player" train in the offseason, but I have happily jumped off it seeing how the season has played out so far. The Indians have a lot of pitching "depth" but only in the sense that can easily replace a fifth or maybe fourth starter. Nothing nearly enough to replace someone like Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar being dealt away, even if it was for a star center fielder.
Spector's analysis of the offense is right on the nose, however. Yes, the Indians have scored 295 runs this season, good for fifth in the American League, but they are ranked 10th in on-base percentage (.317), eighth in slugging percentage (.413), and their wRC+ is just a shade under average at 98, good for seventh in the American League. You could also make the argument that all of these positive offensive stats have come against struggling-at-the-time or just plain bad teams.
If the Indians are going to win a World Series this year, it will certainly on be a "just good enough" offense, but if they do not, they still have a farm system that could be stacked for years. Some, like Jesse, may see it as a negative that the Indians do not gut that farm system to acquire a bat for half of a season, but if the Indians not, I would be fine with that. And, as I wrote earlier this week, getting an outfielder really does not need to be the team's main priority anymore. If anything, they could deal a lower-end prospect for a bullpen arm and see a rather large improvement.
For some more context about Jesse's general feelings on the state of front officing, he had the Minnesota Twins at No. 28, the Detroit Tigers at No. 24, the Chicago White Sox at No. 19, and the Kansas City Royals at No. 8. His top three teams are the Chicago Cubs (obviously), followed by the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.