The Indians turned things around in a major way in 2013, winning 92 games and a Wild Card spot just one after after finishing 68-94. What moves should (or shouldn't) they consider making this winter in order to build on that success?
Must Keep: Francisco Lindor
There are other players the Indians should absolutely hold onto (such as Jason Kipnis), but none is more emblematic of the Tribe's current position than Lindor, the team's top prospect. Many believe that when a small market team is on the verge of contending (and given that the Indians hosted the Wild Card Game this season, it's probably fair to say they're beyond the verge) that they should 'go for it.'
Their window of contention won't stay open forever, so pieces should be acquired that give the team the best chance of winning NOW. That sort would like the Indians to package Lindor with some other pieces to land David Price, Giancarlo Stanton, or some other big name. Lindor is too valuable a commodity to move though. He could be too good and too cheap for too long. Kansas City dealt away their uber prospect (Wil Myers) last winter, and had their best season in years. They missed the playoffs though, James Shields will be gone soon, and Myers is now reigning Rookie of the Year for Tampa Bay. I hope the Tribe competes again in 2014, but Lindor can't go anywhere.
Should Keep: Carlos Santana/Yan Gomes
Many believe that now that Yan Gomes has been great for half a season, the Indians should trade Carlos Santana for "a real DH," overlooking the fact that Santana is one of the best hitters in the league. Santana is wildly underrated because he doesn't have a good batting average or hit a ton of home runs, and far too many fans still don't appreciate the value of Santana's fantastic walk rate (14.5% in 2013, second in the AL to only Mike Trout). Others understand Santana's value, but still think he should be dealt, because some other team will value him more (as a catcher). A smaller segment of the fan base wants to keep Santana behind the plate, and deal Gomes away, because 2013 might have been a fluke. I think Gomes' hitting is due to regress quite a bit, but his defense his legit, and I think his bat will still be above-average.
Santana is signed to a team-friendly deal through 2017, and Gomes is under team control through 2018, with the next two season costing only the league minimum. Those are exactly the kind of players the Indians need: good and cheap. Any offer for one of them would either hurt the team in 2014, or cost a lot more money (either immediately or very soon). Neither of those is a good fit for the Tribe. If some team comes in with a fantastic offer for one of them, swell, but the team shouldn't feel any pressure to move either of them. The two of them coexisted very successfully in 2013, even as Gomes caught more and more as the season went by. Why rush to change what works?
Neutral: Michael Bourn
I was disappointed in Bourn's 2013 season. His walk rate dropped, he didn't steal nearly as many bases as expected, and his defense didn't look particularly good. Meanwhile, he's owed $41 million over the next three years. It wouldn't take much of a rebound for him to be worth that kind of money, but it also wouldn't take much more of a drop for that to feel like a big overpay. He's not likely to have much trade value though, which means a potential deal wouldn't bring back anything likely to help in 2014, and the Indians shouldn't be making moves that hurt their chances for next season (because that's not what 92-win teams do!). I think we should all hope he's better adjusted to the American League next year, and settles in somewhere between his 2012 and 2013 production. If someone is interested in him though, and the deal can be made soon enough for the team to spend that savings on another helpful piece, I could get on board.
Should Trade: Drew Stubbs
Keeping Stubbs made sense 24 hours ago, but now that the Indians have signed David Murphy to roam the outfield,and with Ryan Raburn, there isn't really room for Stubbs on the roster. Fortunately, earlier this week there were already reports of interest from other teams in acquiring Stubbs, and he shouldn't be too difficult to move. He ought to bring back a solid bullpen arm (something the Indians could use), or a decent prospect and an extra $4 million or so to spend elsewhere (putting it towards a starting pitcher would get my vote).
Must Get Rid Of: Chris Perez
Done and done! Regardless of what you think of Perez as a dude, and even if you think he performed the primary task of a closer reasonably well, I hope we can agree that the Indians shouldn't have paid him $9 million in 2014, which is about what he would have cost. Non-tendering Perez was the most important departure of the offseason, and I'm glad it's done with.
How do your five stack up? Just cut and paste to add your choice into the comments:
Must get rid of: