Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
After spending some money last off-season to bring in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the Cleveland Indians were a little quieter this winter. While you shouldn’t take that as sign that the Indians will take a step backwards in the standings, I still don’t think they have enough to surpass the Detroit Tigers.
Prediction: 2nd Place AL Central
Additions & Subtractions:
There really is not much to get excited about here. John Axford was brought in to close games, at least he will be starting the season in that role, and Shaun Marcum was signed on a risk free deal to compete for a spot in the back of the rotation. Former closer Chris Perez looks to re-start his career with the Dodgers but based on how his tenure with the Indians ended, he was no real loss. Perhaps the biggest moves of note, were the departures of set-up men Joe Smith and Matt Albers. Both were very successful for the Indians, and replacing their innings late in games will be important for Cleveland.
Even if Asdrubal Cabrera repeats his performance from last year and comes up short of 20 home runs and 50 RBI’s, he will still hit for a decent average and drive in some runs. Cabrera teams with rising star Jason Kipnis to give the Indians one of the best double play combinations in baseball. Cleveland’s young starting pitching led by Justinn Masterson, Danny Salazar, and Corey Kluber could also prove to be a nice core moving forward. If Trevor Bauer can live up to his lofty expectations, then the Indians’ rotation will be that much better.
While Carlos Santana is a nice hitter and Swisher has proven he can drive in runs, neither is a feared middle of the order threat. Kipnis is a top hitter as well, but Cleveland is missing that one big run producer.
Will Axford make it through the full year as closer? After having success with the Brewers, he seemed to have lost his mojo for most of 2013. In a late season stint with the Cardinals, Axford seemed to right the ship somewhat, and the Indians need that to continue in 2014. If Axford fails as closer, it will have a domino effect on the entire bullpen.