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Moss Adds Instant Credibility to Middle of Tribe Lineup

Moss Adds Instant Credibility to Middle of Tribe Lineup

| On 13, Dec 2014

When the Indians swung a deal with the Oakland Athletics on Monday to acquire veteran first baseman and outfielder Brandon Moss it was a bit of a surprise. However, it should certainly be viewed a pleasant one.

Granted the deal had been rumored since late last week, it was surprising in that Tribe management made a move to upgrade the everyday lineup after maintaining from the start of the offseason that the pitching staff would be the top priority this winter.

Cleveland may still make a move or two on the pitching front to bolster a young staff with more of a veteran presence. However, the addition of a bat like Moss was sorely needed.

The Indians late-season postseason push this past year was derailed by an offense that fell flat far too often. A large reason for the sometimes missing offense was a lack of power. Beyond Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley, the starting lineup did not have a whole lot of pop. Some of that was due to down years by guys like Jason Kipnis and injury-riddled campaigns from the likes of Nick Swisher.

However, the addition of Moss suddenly gives the Tribe’s middle-of-the-order a lot more credibility. The 31-year-old belted 30 home runs in 2013 and seemed on his way to that number in 2014 before a bad hip slowed him down in the season’s second half.

In 2014 Moss was an American League All-Star, going into the break with 21 bombs, 66 RBI and .268 batting average. With the bad hip, that he had taken care of last month, Moss saw his numbers drop precipitously after the break. Moss says his hip is feeling good and should bee full go by spring training.

Moss brings a lot to the table for the Tribe. There is, of course, the fact that he will give life to the middle-of-the lineup, probably hitting fifth behind Brantley and Santana. With that trio, the Indians now have three guys in the heart of the order with the ability to hit 25-plus homers.

The addition of Moss will also take some pressure off Nick Swisher. Swisher, one of Cleveland’s big free agent signings of two winter’s ago, has not really lived up to the hype. He was serviceable in 2013. Last season, the wheels were going off the tracks before injuries finally took their toll and Swisher missed much of the second half of 2014.

With Moss in the fold Swisher will no longer have to bat in the middle-of-the lineup. Swisher is a good player, but not someone who should be hitting 3-5 in the order. He seemed, at times, to be pressing and trying to do too much when hitting cleanup.

Having Moss, who could play either corner outfield spot, should also take fielding stress away from Swisher. Swisher could spend more time as the designated hitter, allowing him to focus more on getting righted at the plate.

Another important facet Moss brings to the Tribe is big-game experience. With Oakland, Moss was in the playoffs each of the past three years. He has logged 11 postseason games – more than anyone on the roster other than Swisher. In the 2014 Wild Card loss to the Royals, he blasted two homers.

Having veterans with playoff experience is a must for a young team like the Indians. A team needs guys who know what it takes to win games, especially those in August and September that are much more magnified.

Barring another trade, the Indians every day roster and bench now seems pretty set. Moss will essentially take Jason Giambi’s place, pushing David Murphy into a bench role. Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles and Roberto Perez would likely round out the bench. That is not a bad backup group.

Someone could still be dealt between now and April. There have been rumors of the Indians exploring a Swisher deal. However, with the money involved and his struggles since joining the team, a Swisher trade seems like a nearly impossible task.

At any rate, Moss coming to Cleveland makes the Indians better in multiple ways. Provided he is healthy, as he said, the Tribe’s batting lineup now has a true middle-of-the order. Cleveland now has another veteran, big-game-tested, leader in the clubhouse. Also, the Indians have made a trade that one with hopes of contention would make – dealing a prospect for a proven commodity. So often we have seen deals go the other way for Cleveland.

The Indians are going into 2015 with hopes of playoff contention and getting more than the one postseason game they got in 2013. Those hopes grew a little more realistic on Monday. The Indians are not done making moves this offseason, but they have certainly made a big one with an eye toward being better next season than they were this past one.

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images