With 2013 now upon us, it’s refreshing that the Cleveland Indians began the new year the same way the team ended 2012: being active.
As everyone already knows, the Indians signed right-handed pitcher Brett Myers to a one-year, $7 million deal on Tuesday with a club option for a second season. Myers, who most recently pitched out of the bullpen with the Chicago White Sox, projects as a starter in Cleveland, and it seems as if he could be the final pitching piece that the Indians acquire this offseason (though even that’s not for sure).
As with almost any signing, there are sure to be supporters and detractors of the move. The supporters of the move will point to Myers’ previous ability to eat up innings (has pitched at least 190 innings six times in his career), while the detractors will argue that the Indians overpaid, especially for a guy who has not pitched as a starter since 2011.
Personally, I am a fan of the move. While a guy like Kyle Lohse would have been awfully nice, would it have made sense to give the 34-year-old Lohse a three-year deal? At 32-years-old, Myers is two whole years younger, and while I do agree that the Indians overpaid to acquire the Jacksonville, FL native, it is still only one season, so it’s hard to fault them too much there. If Myers fails, then the Indians can just cut their losses and let him go next season.
Beyond that, however, the most positive aspect of the Myers signing is that it provides even more evidence of the new, aggressive approach and identity that the Indians continue to establish. Even though the Indians overpaid, Myers was apparently their guy, and they did what was necessary to get him into the fold for 2013.
Consider this point. The Indians’ needs following the 2012 season essentially mirrored the team’s needs following the 2011 season. We know that the team’s needs have been (in no particular order): right-handed hitting, starting pitching, first base and outfield.
It could be argued that the Indians at least tried to address some of those needs last season, but when compared to this offseason, the team’s 2011 efforts look futile.
So, with that being said, let’s take an in-depth look at the moves the Indians made during last year’s offseason compared to this offseason. For reference, each acquisition that the Indians made in each offseason will be referenced provided it was a move that immediately impacted the Major League team (that is why the trade for Russ Canzler is omitted). Additionally, the Major League statistics for each player’s previous three seasons will be included to reflect the player’s market value when the Indians acquired him.
2011: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. While right-handed hitting was arguably the Indians greatest need, it sadly went ignored following the 2011 season. Of the offensive players that the Indians acquired or resigned (Casey Kotchman, Grady Sizemore), none were right-handed hitters. The team seemed confident that its lefty-heavy lineup would be able to come through. We all know how that turned out…
2012: So far, the Indians have signed first baseman Mark Reynolds, acquired outfielder Drew Stubbs, acquired shortstop Mikes Aviles and signed Nick Swisher. As hard as it may be to believe, the team’s heavy left-handed lineup is a thing of the past.
Verdict: The team certainly upgraded its strikeout totals with its particular right-handed hitting acquisitions, but it’s hard to knock the Indians here. One year removed from doing absolutely nothing, the Indians aggressively addressed the need this offseason. One would suspect that the team will certainly have more success against left-handed hitting this coming season.
2011: The Indians did address this need last offseason after they acquired Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves. Lowe, who was owed $15 million by the Braves, came at a reasonable price as Atlanta picked up $10 million of his salary. Lowe was coming off a horrendous season with the Braves, so the move was somewhat of a head-scratcher. However, Lowe had proven himself to be a durable starter throughout his career, which is what the Indians coveted most.
2012: Even before the signing of Myers, the Indians made noise earlier this offseason when they acquired Trevor Bauer as part of the Shin-Soo Choo trade. The right-handed Bauer gives the Indians a legitimate front-of-the-rotation type prospect that the team has not had since the days of C.C. Sabathia. With both Bauer and Myers in the fold, the Indians have clearly addressed the need for starting pitching.
Verdict: This is a no-brainer. Even though some may argue that Lowe was destined to rebound, most would probably agree that Myers is a better move and impacts the rotation more positively than the Lowe move. While Lowe had a strong month of April, he was basically a disappointment the rest of the season. No one knows for sure how Myers will perform, but you have to believe that he cannot possibly be any worse than Lowe. Of course, when you then factor in the Bauer move, it becomes even more evident that the Indians really did an outstanding job of addressing this need this offseason. No point may illustrate the evidence of the Indians new approach than the team’s persistence when it came to acquiring starting pitching, especially in the case of Bauer.
2011: First base was a massive need for the Indians following the 2011 season as Matt LaPorta had drastically underperformed. To help solve the problem, the Indians signed the slick glove of Casey Kotchman, who was coming off a strong season with the Tampa Bay Rays. The only problem was that Kotchman hit left-handed and his strong 2011 season seemed to be somewhat of an anomaly.
2012: Indications this offseason were that the Indians wanted Kevin Youkilis as their guy, but after talks seemed to stall, the team moved quickly and signed Mark Reynolds to be their new first baseman. Reynolds comes with plenty of strikeouts, but his right-handed power is a skill that plenty of Major League teams covet.
Verdict: This is also a simple one. Even with all his warts, Reynolds is a much superior player than Kotchman. He will, do doubt, be frustrating to watch at times, but can he be anymore frustrating than Kotchman was? At least Reynolds will hit his fair share of home runs to help mitigate the frustration.
2011: To try to remedy the outfield situation, the Indians resigned Grady Sizemore. Sizemore had played in just a total of 210 games over the past three seasons, but the Indians obviously had faith that he might rebound somehow. Fast forward 12 months later, and Sizemore sadly did not play one game in what was likely his last season ever as an Indian.
2012: Two new starting outfielders will be joining the Indians in 2012 as the team acquired centerfielder Drew Stubbs as part of the deal that also netted the club Bauer. The Indians also signed Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal. The Indians also lost Shin-Soo Choo as the longtime outfielder was the centerpiece of the deal that netted Bauer and Stubbs.
Verdict: Even with the loss of Choo, it is arguable that the opening day outfield of Swisher, Stubbs and Michael Brantley is better than last year’s opening day group of Choo, Brantley and Shelley Duncan, who inherited a starting role because of Sizemore’s injuries. Indians fans will certainly miss Choo’s rocket of an arm at times, but I think everyone will be pleased that players like Duncan and Canzler will no longer be starting options for the Indians. Not that those players are bad by any means, but unfortunately their flaws are often exposed in starting roles.
The 2013 Indians are still far from a perfect team as most of us would agree. However, what is evident is that this team is much better equipped for the upcoming season than last year’s squad. They say that unless we learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Thankfully, this phrase seems to hold true for the Tribe as the team’s front office has addressed essentially every need this season.
We likely won’t know how all these new acquisitions have worked out until midway through next season, but all the moves do seem to represent organizational change and a new direction. And so far, this change looks good.