Baseball season is getting closer and closer. I for one am thankful. These are the dog days: no Football, a month away from the NCAA Tournament, and I’m NBA Free. But pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear on Sunday, so that means the good stuff – Tribe games 6-7 nights a week – is coming.
That was the open to the piece that I was going to write about the Jason Giambi DH possibility. Well, I’m sorry Jason, your potential roster spot was just taken by….Michael Bourn. Wait…what? Did I just read that correctly? Michael Bourn? You mean the two time-All Star CF, with the speed and two-time gold glove? You mean the durable 30-year old leadoff man who will make the Indians outfield the place where fly balls and line drives go to die? Nah, the Indians couldn’t…The Dolan family wouldn’t pay a second free agent in the same winter…Not a chance…
It happened folks. This is not a test. This is the real thing. Your Cleveland Indians are players.
To me, this is very simple. The Indians had a serious image problem with its fan base. The Dolan family ownership knew it and knew they had to do something big. Firing Manny Acta was a no brainer. When they decided to stick with President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti to run the front office, it seemed like we would see more of the same. But as we know now, they played their trump card. Its like they had four aces up their collective sleeve. They pulled in Terry Francona as their new manager, something NOBODY, me especially, thought was possible. Francona was said to have brought instant credibility to the organization, but there was plenty of concern that the Dolan’s still wouldn’t spend money on free agents.
Well here we are on February 12th and the Indians makeover as as stunning as that old reality show “The Swan.”
Talk about a face lift. Manny Acta, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Casey Kotchman, Jason Donald, and Tony Sipp are out. Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Matt Albers, David Shaw, and Mark Reynolds are in. The Nick Swisher free agent signing on the heels of the Choo trade was move that showed Tribe fans the power of Francona’s reach. More importantly, Swisher’s energy and big contract were great signs to Tribe fans everywhere.
And then tonight, after hearing the Tribe didn’t want to give a major league contract to potential DH’s Hafner and Jim Thome and settling for a minor league deal with the 42-year old Giambi, the front office completed an off-season Grand Slam. Bourn, a Scott Boras client, had been waiting in the wings for the dust to settle. He and fellow big name free agent Kyle Lohse still were looking for a team. But as Boras always does, he pulled a 11th hour rabbit out of his hat and found a home and big money for one of his star clients.
Bourn (.274/.348/.391/42 steals in 2012), however, landed in a spot that nobody saw coming. He is your newest Cleveland Indian. The perfect fit to start the Wahoo offensive attack, which all of a sudden looks beastly. Antonetti gave the left-handed hitting all-star Center fielder four years and $48 million, with a vesting fifth year option. This is a contract that we thought we would never see under the Dolan ownership. Now it has happened twice in one off-season. And you know who you can thank for this?
If you think the Indians would be this serious about winning now with Sandy Alomar Jr. as their manager, you are nuts. Francona won’t admit to it, but you have to think he wasn’t taking this job unless he received some sort of assurances that ownership would spend money. Well, I’d say they answered that question pretty well, didn’t they? Don’t forget they also paid Hafner $2.75 million to go away.
Think about this – 12 months ago, the Indians gave Sizemore $5 million, Derek Lowe $5 million (via trade), and Casey Kotchman $3 million. That was it.
Now here we are, with a new top pitching prospect in Bauer, two new all-star outfielders signed for the next four years in Bourn and Swisher, all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera reportedly arriving in Goodyear in tip top shape, rising young studs Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis, former top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall finally ready to take over full time at third base, the answer for the utility man hole in Mike Aviles, and a loaded bullpen.
The options are for Francona are plentiful. Bourn undoubtedly will take over in center. Brantley has played plenty of left field and should have no troubles moving there. Swisher was signed to play right field, but can play first base as well. Will Stubbs and Brantley platoon in left? Will Stubbs play some right field with Swisher getting ABs at first? Will Reynolds become the DH or stay at first? Will Stubbs be used as trade bait to possibly lure another starting pitcher? Aviles, who at one point was thought to be the guy playing every day with a rotating DH spot, will assume the utility roll that the front office wanted him to be.
Whatever way Francona wants to go, we are all going to be on board. You could be looking at a lineup like this on certain days:
CF Michael Bourn
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Nick Swisher
C Carlos Santana
DH Mark Reynolds
2B Jason Kipnis
LF Michael Brantley
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
RF Drew Stubbs
I know Swisher be in right most of the time, but the thought of a Brantley-Bourn-Stubbs defensive outfield is incredible. That’s about as fast of a group as you will find in the majors. Meanwhile the Indians team speed, which has been all but zero these past few years, all of a sudden looks like a group that will be running on everyone.
If you were this excited about the season starting BEFORE tonight, I can’t imagine how you are feeling now that the Indians have added Bourn. I’ve already been contacted by two of the people who dropped out of my season ticket group wanting back in. This is a great night to be an Indians fan. I am as jacked as I have been in years. Kudos to Paul Dolan and Chris Antonetti for stepping up larger than any of us could have expected them to.
Now about that rotation…..