It’s opening day for Major League Baseball and the boys of summer are back.
While many aren’t as excited as years past for the Cleveland Indians, there should still be some optimism surrounding the ball club as they head into the 2019 season.
I know in recent days in light of the injuries suffered to their two superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor as well as the comments made by Indians CEO Paul Dolan to the Athletic regarding the team’s payroll situation and the looming fact that Lindor will not be a part of this organization for the long-term future, that still shouldn’t take away from how good this team can be this season.
This is a team that’s won three straight American League Central Division titles and has been to the postseason in four of the last six seasons including the 2016 American League pennant.
There was a lot of change made during the offseason and many will just point to the fact that they cut a lot of money off the payroll and that is very well true but the fact was they couldn’t bring the same team back from last season.
Cleveland won 91 games and then were swept by the Astros in the ALDS and clearly the organization felt that change was needed and I think most of the fans after the series would’ve agreed with that sentiment.
Cody Allen, Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Lonnie Chisenhall, Josh Donaldson, Yan Gomes, Yandy Diaz, Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion are all gone via free agency or trades but the core of the roster is still intact.
It all starts with the pitching staff and all five starters are returning for 2019 despite trade rumors that swirled all offseason.
Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber are one of, if not the best rotations in baseball and all could arguably be in the discussion for the Cy Young Award by the end of the season.
The Indians still have Lindor and Ramirez although Lindor will be sidelined for the start of the season after suffering a sprained ankle during a minor league game on Tuesday. Ramirez will play on opening day after only suffering a knee contusion on Sunday.
Carlos Santana is back and still should provide plenty of pop in the middle of the lineup and once Jason Kipnis returns from his calf injury, you hope he can provide around the 17 home runs he blasted last season while also getting back that great swing he had a few seasons ago.
The rest of the roster is definitley in the air and you hope some of the back end guys can find something to contribute to the team. The youngsters like Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Eric Stamets and Tyler Naquin or the veterans like Leonys Martin, Hanley Ramirez or Carlos Gonzalez once he’s ready to join the major league team.
Then there’s the bullpen which will be led by All-Star closer Brad Hand. There’s some unknown there as well but if guys like Adam Cimber, Dan Otero, Tyler Olson and Oliver Perez can produce to their potential or what they’ve done in the last few seasons then the Indians will be okay.
Clearly there’s storms in front of them as the season opens up but if they can weather through them early on and once this team is at full strength, they can compete with any team in baseball.
Not to mention the fact they still have the best manager in baseball in Terry Francona and they should be active at the trade deadline to upgrade the roster which they’ve been able to do the last several seasons.
The fact they cleared around $25 million in payroll should give them extra resources to add pieces at the deadline to make a postseason run.
I still fully expect them to win 85-90 games this season and be a playoff team and then I think anything is possible once the postseason begins. Everyone thought the last two seasons that the Indians were going to be World Series contenders and then the postseason came and it didn’t go as planned.
2019 could very well be the season where no one expects the Indians to be a legit threat to win the World Series and Cleveland goes out and shocks the world.
That’s why you have to let the season play itself out and not make irrational takes in late March before a pitch has been thrown or a bat has been swung.
In the words of Paul Dolan, “Enjoy it” Tribe fans and “Let’s Play Ball!”