Indians Fans Long For a Big Gift This Holiday Season

The Cleveland Indians have already given Tribe fans some reasons to smile this offseason. However, Wahoo Warrior faithful might like to see a little more as far as presents from the team as Christmas approaches tomorrow.

Give Cleveland management credit in that they recognized the clubs most glaring weaknesses and have gone to great lengths to at least bring in numerous options to fill the holes.

As the 2015 campaign ended, the Indians were a team that needed help in the outfield and bullpen pitching depth, particularly from the left-hand side. The Tribe needed a lot of outfield help when it was announced in November that star outfielder Michael Brantley had to undergo right shoulder surgery and could miss at least the first month of the season. High, too, on the team’s list of needs was a power hitter for the middle of the lineup.

So far, the Indians have gone about adding players in the hopes of filling all of those needs. Cleveland gave a one-year contract to veteran outfielder Rajai Davis. The 35-year-old is a decent hitter, having hit .258 with eight home runs in Detroit this past season. He is best known for his speed. His 18 steals in 2015 were a career low. He could help manager Terry Francona‘s lineup, hitting leadoff until Brantley returns and pushing Jason Kipnis to the two-hole. He will likely slide back to a more suitable No. 9 position in the lineup once the team is at full strength, giving the batting order speed at the top with Kipnis and bottom with Davis.

The only other real addition of significance has been Mike Napoli. That contract is not official yet, though should be in the coming days. The first baseman/designated hitter knocked 18 home runs between the Red Sox and Rangers this past year. That total would have put him second on the team, behind Carlos Santana. Napoli has 20-plus homer potential. It is concerning that he only hit .207 with Boston. However, he spent his final 35 games with Texas and turned things around, batting .295 with five his bombs in that stretch. It is possible he is poised for a bounce-back this coming season.

Other than those two, one-year, guaranteed contracts, the Indians have signed numerous relievers and outfielders to minor league, spring training invites and non-guaranteed deals.

Of note among those could be 27-year-old Joey Butler. He is most remembered in Cleveland for breaking up Carlos Carrasco‘s no-hit bid in Tampa in July with a two-out single in the ninth. 2015 saw Butler’s first extended time in the Majors and he responded with a solid .276 average and eight homers in 88 games. He could be coming into his own and prove to be a steal. He was picked up off waivers by the Indians. Cleveland also added 26-year-old Robbie Grossman and 29-year-old Collin Cowgill to the outfield mix. Cowgill could be a platoon player with Lonnie Chisenhall in right field. Cowgill hits lefties far better than righties while Chisenhall is stronger against right-handed pitching.

On the relief front, the Tribe has added a well-known name in Joba Chamberlain on a minor league deal. Chamberlain, 30, is looking to resurrect his year after a forgettable 2015. His is a right-handed thrower. So, too, is the recently acquired Dan Otero. On the left-handed side, Cleveland has added to its roster Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher. All are veterans who have had varying degrees of success over the years. All have a shot to get into the pen as lefty specialists.

So, the Tribe has been hard at work adding names to spots of need. However, none of the moves have been splashy. Davis and Naopli are solid players, but neither figure to swing the pendulum of division power much in the Indians favor. They will be helpful additions.

What has been done so far feels like stocking stuffers and small gifts. Tribe fans would surely love to find a large gift under their proverbial tree this Christmas. There are still some nice free agent names out there. Outfielders Justin Upton, Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes would look great in Cleveland uniforms. So would first baseman Chris Davis, for that matter.

However, money constraints make it unlikely the Indians will make a major signing soon. If any of those players were to slide off radars and still be available come late January or early February, maybe Cleveland could take a look at a discounted price.

The other avenue for a splashy addition would be via trade. Cleveland certainly has nice trade chips in the starting rotations and young players on the farm. However, the price and player would really have to be right for the club to pull the trigger on a deal involving someone like a Danny Salazar or a Carrasco. Even some of the organization’s top prospects, like Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer or Clint Frazier, would take a strong return back.

The Indians are still looking at an Opening Day outfield featuring Davis as the only man with a wealth of Major League experience. As of now, converted third baseman Chisenhall and 2015 second-half surprise Abraham Almonte are the other two names that would join him. Even when Brantley returns, it feels like the Tribe could still use one more big bopper in the corner outfield.

Third base is still a bit of question mark as well. Giovanny Urshela can certainly hold his own defensively, but questions abound as to whether his bat can hold up over a full Major League campaign.

Beyond Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, the bullpen is still full of question marks, as well. There are now plenty of names to work with and the potential for some to stick. However, a sure thing would be a welcome addition. A reliever on a Major League contract could definitely come later.

The Indians have definitely gone shopping and added potentially good pieces to a roster that is not far off from playoff contention. However, one – let’s get greedy and say two – more big pieces would be a welcome gift to Tribe fans everywhere. Even if it does not come in time for the holidays, a strong addition would be a welcome one a little bit later.

Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images

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