Much of the problems associated with this season had their roots in what the team did last winter, and over the next couple of days, I'm going to cover what the Indians did and didn't do in the areas of:
- Free Agents
But first, a look at what the Indians were facing at the end of last year.
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The problem areas were:
- First base, where Matt LaPorta had fallen on his face, especially in the second half (.257/.323/.394). And that line didn't really capture just how bad he looked at the plate. There was no internal backup plan to LaPorta in AAA, so the Indians would need to either sign or trade for a first baseman while LaPorta got one more shot in Columbus.
- Left field, where the Indians had the same depth problems they had at first base. Michael Brantley was expected to play here, and wasn't that bad, but because Grady Sizemore would miss most of the second half, Brantley would spend a lot of time in center. Sizemore had a 2012 option, but the Indians were not likely to pick up, and even if they did, they couldn't count on Sizemore remaining healthy all season. And in general, they needed power, so signing a center fielder and sticking Brantley in left might fill a hole, but not improve the offense.
- Center Field, depending on what they did in left. Michael Brantley's offensive game fit better here, so if they signed a left fielder, they could move him to center.
Other positions that needed improvement, but had internal solutions to:
- Second base, which was filled when the Indians brought up Jason Kipnis from AAA. Kipnis was one of the Tribe's "Big Four" prospects, and he'd help keep the Indians in the race into early August.
- Third base, which could be filled in 2012 by either Hannahan or Lonnie Chisenhall, one of the Indians' top prospects. This was a position that the Indians could afford to do nothing with, as they had some depth.
Catcher (Carlos Santana), Shortstop (Asdrubal Cabrera), and Right Field (Shin-Soo Choo) were covered. Designated Hitter was also covered, as Travis Hafner was signed through 2012, but his injury history demanded that the Indians have at least one decent backup.
A big blow happened just after the Indians acquired Ubaldo Jimenez (sending Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to Colorado in the process); Carlos Carrasco would need to undergo Tommy John surgery, and miss the 2012 season. Other than Fausto Carmona (who had an affordable 2012 option), all the pitchers that ended the season in the rotation were signed or under team control for the next season. But with Carrasco's injury, the Indians would need to think about adding a starter, for Carmona had ended the season on a down note and Josh Tomlin had to miss the month of September with a sore elbow.
This was the one area of the club that the Indians didn't really need to make a major acquisition in. In fact, a lot of the speculation at this time revolved around whether they'd trade one of their relievers (Rafael Perez, for example) for help in other areas.