The second worst thing a baseball owner can do is to squander a good team; the worst is to do so without even persuasively saying why. It’s just not the kind of thing lifetime achievers do.
After struggling for the first few months of the season, both José Ramírez and Cleveland broke out in a big way with Ramírez discovering his old form and Cleveland going on a big run to catch the Minnesota Twins for first place at one point this month. Cleveland couldn’t quite keep up that pace over the last few weeks, falling a few games back of the Twins, but still looked to be in great shape for the wild card race. With news of a broken hamate bone and the resulting surgery for Ramírez, the team is losing their best hitter for the rest of the season, leaving a massive hole in the lineup and at third base. The club’s path to the playoffs just got a lot more narrow.
I don’t know what happened to Gazmuri after his baseball career ended — what he did, who he connected with, even whether or not he’s still alive today. I wish I did know. I wish that we could hear the story of the 17-year-old in the 16-foot boat, the best baseball player in all of Cuba, from the only person who lived its truth. But it’s too late now. Nobody ever asked him to tell it.
— Read on blogs.fangraphs.com/the-17-year-old-boy-in-the-16-foot-boat/
While some, if not all, of the trades Cleveland had pulled the trigger on recently may cause concern for fans, this analysis of the latest trade of Yonder Alonso reminds us how strong the team’s position is going into 2019.
With these moves, Cleveland’s payroll is now projected down to around $110 million for 2019, which represents a more than $20 million cut from last season. After gaining half a million fans in 2017 following their World Series appearances, the franchise kept the vast majority of those gains last season despite awful early-season weather and competition with LeBron James’ probable final season with the Cavaliers. Interest remains high in the club based on their local tv ratings, though the club’s rumored trade of one of their aces could serve to lower that interest. So far, the team’s moves to send away Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Yandy Diaz coupled with Carlos Santana’s return don’t portend much of a negative affect on the field. It would be near impossible for the team to do the same if it were to trade Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber.
Jeff Sullivan is one half of the Effectively Wild podcast and is a great baseball analyst and writer. I really like his speculation in this Fangraphs article about what Cleveland may be up to this off-season and what the front office’s motives are as the hot stove heats up.
I actually wonder if payroll isn’t the primary driver here. I wonder if payroll is secondary, behind the above. The above might just be harder to explain in a press conference. The Indians are already projected to have cut opening-day payroll by 12%. That seems like it should be good enough, if the team really does need to cut costs. Trading a starter would trim payroll further, but the farm system would improve. A team like the Indians always needs a good farm.
Maybe the real tell would come after. If the Indians traded one of their starters, we could then check to see whether they reinvest those savings in short-term improvements, behind the plate, in the outfield, or in the bullpen. Then we’d know this was at least as much about extending the window. Taking advantage of the opportunity the rest of the AL Central has provided.