As surprising as the Indians off-season spending spree was, I still think the club’s basic strategy is unchanged: develop a young core of players internally and dip into free agency when you need it. It just so happened that they needed a lot of help this past off-season, and there was a bit of a perfect storm of available money, available talent, and a protected draft pick.
More often than not though, that sort of approach isn’t going to happen here. Mostly, the team is going to have to sink or swim with players who come up through the system. That’s why, of course, they have to draft well and lead the way in the international amateur market—to make up for what will often be paltry free agency spending.
And while developing good major leaguers is a wonderful thing, it’s also nice to have a front office that has some strategy for keeping them beyond their first six or so seasons (MLB players cannot elect free agency until they’ve served six years). The Indians teams of the 1990s were largely built around GM John Hart’s ability to lock up his young talent beyond those first six years, and it’s become clear that Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro learned their lesson.
The problem over the last several years hasn’t been that the Front Office doesn’t recognize the sound strategy of locking up young, core players to affordable contracts; it’s that there just haven’t been a lot of players worth investing in. After all, do you want a cost-controlled Matt LaPorta for the next five years? How about Lou Marson for a few million? Maybe I could interest you in a late-model David Huff or Jeremy Sowers? [Read more...]