Trading Triston McKenzie was a tough pill to swallow, but getting Scooter Gennett and Amir Garrett back is an absolute slam dunk. In his contract year, Gennett one-ups his last two years in Cincinnati with 30 home runs and an OPS+ of 131, using Progressive Field’s lefty-friendly confines to his great advantage.
Likewise, Gennett’s assumption of second base moved Jason Kipnis to a part-time role, moving between the outfield and infield. Primarily facing right-handed hitters, Kipnis finds a groove and provides a lot of value to the offense, with a 104 OPS+.
In the bullpen, Garrett struggles at first, giving away a couple leads early in the season, before finding his groove and claiming the eighth. As he settles in, so does the rest of the pen, as Dan Otero and Jon Edwards become exemplary middle-innings men, Adam Cimber and Oliver Perez reign as nearly unhittable specialists, and Brad Hand continues to dominate the ninth.
With the pieces working together smoothly, the Tribe sails to the division title and 95 wins. As the AL East batters each other, the Indians claim the second-best record in the American League and host the first two games against the Red Sox in the ALDS. Corey Kluber proves trading him would have been a mistake with a game one two-hitter, and Trevor Bauer continues his incredible season with seven strong in game two. But the Red Sox take a pair in Boston, bringing the series back to Cleveland for the decider. Once again, it’s Bauer on the hill, and his new changeup baffles the Sox all day, helping Cleveland advance to the ALCS.
The Astros await in the Championship Series, having swept the Yankees. Their 102-win season set records for run differential and their well-rested team wastes no time gaining a two-game advantage on the Indians. Gennett has a huge game three, turning four double plays and driving in four runs to give the Indians a win, but the Tribe falls short as Astros win the next two and head to the World Series.