We will look at how a very quiet offseason went for the Cleveland Indians this year and see if it’s enough to surpass their 93 win total. Can they win the AL Central Division in 2020 and surpass what the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have done to improve their rosters.
The 2020 offseason
In comparison to other teams in the AL Central, the Indians were pretty quiet this winter. Just recently, they made a splash by signing OF Domingo Santana. He was a free agent this offseason after being non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners. Santana hit 21 home runs and had 69 RBI. He is still a raw baseball talent at age-27, and the team didn’t have to spend a lot to get him.
The big transaction this offseason was when the Indians sent long-time ace Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers for RP Emmanuel Clase and OF Delino DeShields Jr. DeShields Jr. gives the Tribe more help in an outfield filled with young talent with a lot of speed. The team will depend highly on their pitching staff again, but the outfield will have to perform and stay healthy this year. It will be interesting to see what manager Terry Francona does with outfield rotations this year.
The 2020 Pitching Staff
The Indians’ rotation should once again be a strength in 2020. They are deep at the position, and even someone performed well in 2019 may not make the Opening Day roster. Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, and Aaron Civale are locks for the rotation. The #5 starter will be where the hardest decision will be made. That final rotation slot should go to a player in a pool that includes the likes of Zach Plesac, Adam Plutko, and Jefry Rodriguez. Each of them made starts for the Indians in 2019 and was relatively successful.
The Indians bullpen has been rebuilt but will have some key figures returning in 2020. There may be just one or two spots available by the end of Spring Training. Brad Hand will be your closer barring any injury or drop in production. Hunter Wood, Emmanuel Clase, Adam Cimber, and Oliver Perez also look like the team’s core relievers. That leaves just two or three spots left depending on if the Indians go with 12 or 13 pitchers due to the addition of the 26th roster spot. It will also be interesting to see how Francona builds the bullpen because of the new three batter minimum that will be in effect for pitchers in 2020.
A Predictable Infield
It’s easy to project the starting infielders when four guys could already be set in stone for Opening Day. Francisco Lindor leads the group at SS, followed by Jose Ramirez at 3B, Carlos Santana at 1B, and Roberto Perez at C. The lone wild card position is at 2B, as the team did not re-sign Jason Kipnis. They also have two players who will be battling for this position, but Cesar Hernandez looks to have the first crack at winning the job. Hernandez was signed in the offseason after he was non-tendered by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The young talent the Indians have here is phenomenal, but most of them will have to go back down to the minors. Bobby Bradley, who plays 1B and can DH, has no real spot on the roster unless an injury happens. Yu Chang played 3B for the Tribe while Ramirez was healing from a broken bone in his hand. He will also find himself in Triple-A at the beginning of the season. The only position really available on the infield is the utility position. It will be interesting to see who Francona goes with.
A Crowded 2020 Outfield for
Terry Francona is going to have some difficult decisions to make with this group as to who makes the Opening Day roster. Bradley Zimmer is going to be healthy coming into Spring Training, which is a welcome sight. Oscar Mercado played well last year and is a lock to make this roster. Veteran Delino DeShields Jr. will also be on the roster as they acquired him in the Kluber trade. The power hitter of the bunch will be Franmil Reyes, but how much will he really be in the field? He appears destined for the DH spot. However, the group listed here could be the first four to be in the line up for Opening Day.
Obviously, the Indians cannot keep everyone that played last year on the team, which makes it difficult. They will need to either trade, demote, or cut someone that was on this team last year. The names fighting for two roster spots include Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Tyler Naquin, and Jordan Luplow. Who makes this roster may depend on who doesn’t have minor league options.
Final thoughts going into 2020 season
The hype for the coming the baseball season is always exciting, as it takes people back to their youths and causes us all to itch for regular-season games. This is especially true with Cleveland Indians fans, as the team has a chance to be really good even though we may not see it early in the season. Ultimately, it will depend on how the veterans play, but the young players the Indians have will make the biggest impact. If the pitching staff can avoid losing three starters in the first month of the season, they could be dangerous.
As much as the starting pitching will be key, the bullpen needs to step up from their performance from last year. Can Brad Hand go back to being the dominant closer he was in 2018? Will the young Indians position players be able to play consistent and mistake-free? Obviously, a lot of these answers will come as the season plays out. The AL Central should be really tough this year with it being three-team race. Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona on February 11th. The position players join them on February 16th. This should be a really good baseball season and whoever wins the AL Central will more than deserve it.
Make sure to check out the OTH Daily Podcast, hosted by me! We air Monday through Friday and cover all the big games and stories of each day. You can find the podcast on either Anchor or Spotify.
Eat your treats and not cheat on your diet this year! Head on over to our partners at GPop Foods for some treats that don’t mean cheat. Use the link above or our promo code, OTH1 at checkout for 30% off!