The Cleveland Indians failed to live up to its lofty expectations for the 2015 season, finishing third in the AL Central with a record of 81-80. Bright spots included the starting rotation, rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, the consistent Michael Brantley, and all-star second baseman Jason Kipnis (coming off of a disappointing 2014 campaign). The Sports Illustrated cover boys put together a run late in the season but could not make up for a slow start. The Tribe had a 2015 opening day payroll of $86 million (highest since 2001), and according to mlbtraderumors.com, they should have some money to address needs in free agency. The MLB releasedthe list of 139 free agents available to sign/negotiate with clubs beginning Nov. 7. Barring any trades pursued by the club (such as dealing Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar for a bat), there are affordable options for small market teams like the Tribe. Here are four players the Tribe could pursue to address position needs.
2015- 5 HR/ 22 RBI/ .301 AVG/ .365 OBP /11 SB
Abraham Almonte did a commendable job filling the gap in center field for the Tribe last season, but realistically he is a fourth outfielder. Span, 31, has been a top-notch leadoff hitter throughout his career and would be an excellent addition to the top of the order. Although a back injury limited him to 61 games for the Nationals last season; he still managed to display how valuable he can be to a club (the Nationals offense struggled after his absence). An eight-year veteran, Span has a career average of .287 with an on base percentage of .352. He would provide speed on the base paths and would be a less risky signing than the disastrous Michael Bourn deal was, due to his (more) proven track record.
2015- 14 HR/ 56 RBI/ .257 AVG/ .323 OBP
I am not sold on Giovanny Urshela, 24, being the team’s 2016 opening day third baseman. I am sold on his glove at third, but his .183 batting average during the last two months of the season, and .225 clip overall, leave much to be desired. With David Freese, what you see is what you get. No fan will be overly excited for this signing, but Freese would be an affordable upgrade at third base. The 32 year-old veteran is a .276 career hitter and would add a respectable right handed bat to a lefty heavy lineup.
2015- 2 HR /16 RBI/ .270 AVG/ .289 OBP
Assuming the club does not pick up Ryan Raburn’s option for 2016, Delmon Young could form an effective platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall in right field. Although he was designated for assignment last season in Baltimore, there is plenty of evidence indicating the 10-year vet has some left in the tank. Young, 30, is a career .302 hitter against left handed pitching and would be a cost saving replacement for Raburn (.301 against LHP in 2015).
2015- 66 GP/ 57.1 IP/ 1.13 WHIP/ 2.98 ERA/ 64 K
Bastardo, 30, is coming off of an excellent season with the Pirates. The Tribe had three left handed relievers in the bullpen make more than 10 appearances; all three (Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Hagadone, Kyle Crockett) had earned run averages north of four. Rzepczynski was dealt to the Padres at the deadline, and Hagadone underwent elbow surgery, leaving Crockett as the only lefty in the Tribe pen at the moment. It goes without saying this is an area that needs to be addressed, and Bastardo would fit the bill.
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