Despite it at first seeming that this would be a season where the Indians didn’t make many major shifts, the changes have been more plentiful than many fans could have predicted. From the trading of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to the rotating fifth spot in the rotation, the Indians have been often unrecognizable this season. And the changes, it seems, are not slowing down.
While the largest change in the Indians roster this season has absolutely been the Bourn/Swisher trade that sent the two to the Atlanta Braves and brought Chris Johnson to Cleveland, another quite notable shift in recent weeks has been the makeup of the Indians outfield. Just this week, the outfield lineup was comprised of Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez, and Abraham Almonte. Michael Brantley has been serving as the team’s DH since taking some time to rest with shoulder inflammation, thus necessitating his replacement in left field. With the trades of Bourn and Murphy, the rest of the outfield has opened up for other players to get a shot, despite not being players one would have expected to see there earlier this season.
However, one of the biggest changes this season could be something yet to come. Though it may not even happen, Mark Shapiro is reportedly a strong candidate for the position of president/CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays organization come the end of the season. Toronto will be saying goodbye to Paul Beeston, who will retire from the position of president/CEO after being with the Blue Jays since 1976, save a period from 1997 to 2002 when he served as president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. Beeston was set to retire after the 2014 season, but mismanagement during the Blue Jays search for his replacement led to Beeston signing a one-year contract to stay on with the organization through the end of this year.
Originally reported by Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro is apparently one of the big considerations for the Blue Jays job. Shapiro has been with the Indians since 1992, serving as the director of their farm teams and assistant general manager before becoming the team’s GM in 2001. He served in that role until 2010, when he was named President of the organization.
The Blue Jays reportedly also interviewed ex-Tigers president Dave Dombrowski for the position of president, but Dombrowski chose instead to head to the Boston Red Sox.
Shapiro’s allure for Toronto could come from a number of different avenues, as Rosenthal mentions, including his role in Progressive Field’s recent renovations, as the Blue Jays are looking to upgrade Rogers Center at some point in the future. Should Shapiro end up in Toronto, he could also have his selection of general managers, as current GM Alex Anthopoulos’s contract expires in October.
As for the impact this move would have on the Indians, it’s safe to say that the ramifications would be felt. In one option, GM Chris Antonetti could move into the role of president, with Assistant GM Mike Chernoff taking over Antonetti’s old role. Many Indians fans who have been critical of Shapiro’s tenure could have some solace in seeing him leave, but would find themselves still saddled with Antonetti, whom many have a similar disdain. However, with Antonetti at the helm of the more business-based side of the organization, and Chernoff possibly taking over the GM responsibilities that are linked more closely to the one-the-field product, the Indians organization could see some changes to the roster.
In another option, the Dolan’s could search for someone completely different to take over as the Indians’ president, which could lead to even more significant changes in the structure and operations of the Indians. While the team would still be saddled with the limitations imposed on them monetarily by the Dolans, a new individual in charge of the organization could have a different take on the organization’s situation. There’s no way to predict exactly what could happen with a fresh mind taking charge.
Perhaps, though, one of the most impactful ramifications of Shapiro leaving could come from Terry Francona. When Francona first came on board with the Indians organization, it was reported that the contract contained an out clause, in which he could leave the organization if either Shapiro or Antonetti were released by the organization. Antonetti never confirmed those terms, but it is believed to be true. If Francona left, the appeal for players to come to Cleveland would likely plummet. Francona is a player’s-manager and, while the team’s successes have been few and far between the last two seasons, Francona’s leadership is likely a big reason why many players do enjoy playing for the Indians. Losing him would be a bigger blow than anything.
Nothing is set in stone or has been commented on by the Indians organization. Should Shapiro chose to move away from the Indians, however, a chain reaction will follow, with the eventual ending unable to be seen.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer