What a stupid season. What a wonderful season.
Even now, I’m not sure how I want to encapsulate my feelings on the year as a whole. Actually, I don’t think it can be neatly packed up; if anything our and other writers’ analyses of the 2019 Cleveland Indians season resemble the chaotic coalescing of a katamari.
I don’t want to belabor it anymore. The postseason churns without the Tribe, and we must look forward to the offseason. Yeah. I’m ... I’m not “looking forward” to it either after last offseason.
The best case scenario? The team that might have dumped Yandy Diaz because they wanted an extra $5,000,000 instead somehow finds nearly ten times that amount to extend Francisco Lindor. I don’t expect that to happen.
The worst case scenario? The team slaps the semi-reset button for some reason and deals Lindor this offseason. I don’t expect that, either, but this one does seem somewhat more possible.
We’re likely to get more of what we’ve seen for the last five-ish years (with the notable exception of the Edwin Encarnacion signing): small, low-risk additions with the hope that one of many turns into a happy surprise.
The area where the Indians have most leaned into that strategy is the bullpen. Nick Wittgren, Oliver Perez, Tyler Clippard, Nick Goody, Neil Ramirez, Dan Otero ... they and others all came to the Indians through minor trades, waiver claims, or small free agent deals. Given the fickle, inconsistent nature of relievers that aren’t super-elite, it’s hard to argue with this approach. I’m biased since I think relievers (especially closers) are overvalued in the game right now, as 2016 Nick Goody or 2019 Blake Treinen happen all across the league, all of the time, except to the super-elite closers. Even among those, they eventually flame out with overuse. We’ve seen that first hand from Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and (gulp) maybe Brad Hand, too.
The good news? The Indians can bolster that strategy with additions from within its own organization for the first time since Cody Allen came up. James Karinchak is ready to contribute in 2020. Cameron Hill, Nick Sandlin, Kyle Nelson, and Sam Hentges might all get a shot in 2020 as well. I expect to see a lot of pitchers get a look this spring as the Indians try to figure out whom they can rely on in the second half of games next year.
Smaller moves involving position players have been a bit worse. For example: Hanley Ramirez, Brad Miller, Carlos Gonzalez, Max Moroff ... and those are all just from this past offseason. Jordan Luplow — the other return from the Moroff deal — worked out as nicely as anyone could have reasonably anticipated. Given the team’s needs in the infield and perpetual question marks in the outfield, I think we’ll see a couple more of those. I mean ... I really hope they don’t sign Martin Prado, but I also think it sounds so on-brand for the Indians recently that its pre-ordained.
Castellanos or Ozuna might be cool, but somehow I don’t see the Indians putting together a deal for either of them.
So, we sit back again and wait for spring, expecting little excitement throughout winter meetings and late free agency.