In the most recent Let's Go Tribe podcast, I posed a question concerning what some realistic moves for the Tribe would be this offseason, noting that I might write a fanpost to cope with the inevitable lack of activity by the front office. Well, this is that fan post. A fair warning, this is almost certainly an excercise in prediciting the exact opposite of what the team will do in preparation for 2020, but I've always preferred fiction to non-fiction.
Now just imagine: through a series of unlikely events (Whether the Dolans sell the team to a LeBron James-sponsored ownership group, Paul Hoynes discovers he has a secret international benefactor who set up an offshore trust account for him worth billions and he donates it all to his favorite baseball team, or Larry and Paul just decide to stop being cheap assholes, along with every other owner of a MLB franchise; it's your choice!), the front office finds itself rolling in money, and it's burning a hole in their pocket. Obviously, the very first thing they would do is...
1. Sign Francisco Lindor to a ten-year $350 million dollar contract extension
The exact dollar amount could probably go up or down by about $50 million dollars in either direction, but this sounds about right to me. An easy comp is probably Nolan Arenado's recent extension ($260 million for eight years), but I honestly think Frankie is worth more. I'd imagine it would end up being pretty back-loaded, perhaps even having an opt-out towards the end. Regardless, the goal here is to keep Lindor in Cleveland for presumably his entire career, and extend the Indian's window of contention for that same amout of time. As we've seen before, this team tends to go as Frankie goes. Oh, and speaking of Nolan Arenado...
2. Trade Yu Chang, Tristen McKenzie, Nolan Jones, and Tyler Freeman for Nolan Arenado, Rockies maintain 60% of the contract, Indians pay the remaining 40%
Now this next part is relatively absurd. This specific combination of prospects is almost certainly a massive overpay for Arenado at this point in his career, and the Rockies probably don't want to deal their generational superstar so soon after they extended him. However, their is *some* method to my madness: The Rockies are kind of really stupid. Over the past three seasons they've paid an absurd amount of money to very-post-prime Ian Desmond and noted-homophobe-and-also-post-prime Daniel Murphy on purpose. They also do things like play Mark Reynolds over Ryan McMahon. So I wouldn't put dealing Arenado quite past them.
After going to the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, the team utterly collapsed in 2019. It could be argued that it's time to rebuild and re-stock the farm (FanGraphs has them currently ranked at 26th--not great, Bob), and trading for the above described package would give it a much needed shot in the arm. Overpaying for Arenado would also potentially give the Rockies incentive to eat part of his extension. Not necessarily a lot, but the possibility exists.
Finally, the emergence of Aaron Civale (and to a much lesser extent, Zack Plesac, Adam Plutko, and Jefy Rodriguez) makes Tristen McKenzie expendable, and his star seems to have fallen of late after missing all of 2019 due to injury. The same could be said for Jones, Chang, and Freeman with the aquisition of Arenado and extension of Lindor. Besides, do we really need two third baseman named Nolan?
But wait! Wouldn't it almost be easier to sign Rendon, who's arguably better (albiet older) than Arenado? Perhaps, but this will only cost the Indians $104 million dollars over 8 years (40% of Arenado's contract) rather than the almost $300 million Rendon will probably be paid by Philly, LA, or DC. This would allow Cleveland to spend *even more* money, and it would be spent on...
3. Sign NPB slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to a four-year, $30 million dollar free agent contract (approximately $20 million dollar posting fee)
Screw your right-handed power bat, I've always been a sucker for lefty sluggers. Tsutsugo is coming off his age-27 season in the NPB and 10th season played. During that time he's hit .282/.382/.525, buoyed by a monster 2016 season when he hit a ridiculous .322/.430/.680 with 44 home runs. My expectation for him in MLB would probably be something similar to what we saw in Cleveland from Edwin Encarnacion in 2017. Basically a poor man's Jim Thome. This is definitely something I could get behind.
As far as the contract itself is concerned, it's roughly about the same as the contract the A's gave Yoenis Cespedes in 2012, which is a decent but not exact comp. Slugging on-base machines aren't nearly as much of a commodity now as they were in 2012, (although Lord knows what the ball will be like next season) and $35 million dollars is certainly worth less now. I'm also not 100% sure about the posting fee. We'll just say Tsutsugo takes the deal because he's excited to help end the longest title-drought in MLB. Now, about the bullpen...
4. Sign Dellin Betances to a one-year, $5 million dollar free agent contract
Now this is going on the assumption that Betances is not re-signed by the Yankees. This is a very high possibility as he is coming off of a season-ending Achilles-tear (ouch). Were the Indians to do this, it would be a very high-risk/ high-reward kind of signing. If Betances were to come anywhere near to the kind of numbers he produced from 2014-18, it would be a huge boost for an Indians pen that has lacked a true power-righty arm for years. I could actually see this happening IRL (unlike the first three transactions mentioned above). However, there's one more signing in my hypothetical off-season that is even more likely to happen. For you see...
5. Sign Howie Kendrick to a one-year, $3 million dollar free agent contract
As of this writing, Kendrick is currently playing a starring role on the destiny-bound Washington Nationals. Since coming to DC in 2017 he has been an extremely productive bench bat and veteran prensence for the Nats. This screams, "Big Terry Francona Energy." I can see it now: Kendrick signs, his production falls off of a cliff, and Tito still plays him in 130+ games, hitting second and dropping down way too many sac bunts with no outs (hint: more than none). Cynicism aside, I could live with this kind of signing...so much as it's supplemented by my highly unrealistic expectations.
Finally, here's how the full 25-man roster would shake out in my head:
C Roberto Perez, Eric Haase
IF Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, Howie Kendrick
OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Oscar Mercado, Franmil Reyes, Daniel Johnson, Jordan Luplow, Jake Bauers
SP Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale
RP Tyler Clippard, Adam Cimber, Dellin Betances, Nick Wittgren, Oliver Perez, James Karinchak, Brad Hand
The infield has the potential to be the best in the sport with Ramirez shifting to 2B to accommodate Arenado at 3B, with Perez, Santana, and Lindor filling-out the remaining spots. DH would primarily be split by Tsutsugo and Reyes, both would see time in the corner OF spots as well.
DeltaGraphs (Japan's verison of FanGraphs) does not care all that much for Tsutsugo's defense, obviously Reyes also has his issues as well, so I would give more time in the field to whomever is less bad, I guess. Counter-argument though: dingers. I think Daniel Johnson is the real deal and deserves a long look in LF. Mercado would continue to hold down the fort in CF.
Until he shows he can hit right-handed pitching consistently, I would still use Luplow primarily as a platoon parter for Johnson and/ or Tsutsugo. I gave the last spot on the roster to Bauers, but this could really go to any one of Zimmer, Allen, Naquin, etc based on who's healthy and/ or producing.
Assuming everyone can stay healthy, a rotation of Kluber/ Bieber/ Clevinger/ Carrasco/ Civale is ridiculous. The pen would basically be the same as last season but with Karinchak and Betances replacing Nick Goody and Dan Otero. I would also consider putting Betances in the closer role if Hand continues to be a tire fire.
I would assume that the total 2020 payroll would have to be a push for $200 million dollars, if not exceed it completely, by far a high in club history and possibly the most in the sport with everyone trying to get under the luxury tax. So as I said at the beginning of this...it'll never happen. I could see *maybe* one or two of these things happening, possibly even three, but certainly not all of them in this specific combination.
If you're still here after over 1500 words about my theoretical rosterbation, I appreciate it. You're the real MVP. Anyway, here's to reading a report in two weeks that the Indians have signed Sean Rodriguez to a minor-league deal. Go Tribe!