It’s been a while since the Cleveland Indians spent a boatload of money in an offseason, but the team stole headlines this offseason by making two big splashes: signing free agents Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.
These veterans will be expected to provide leadership to a young score of players. The Indians hope this combination of youth and veteran ballplayers can help the team compete against the powerhouse Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
Swisher signed a four-year, $56 million contract this offseason in Cleveland. He will take over at first base and likely bat fourth for the Tribe. Bourn, meanwhile, agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal to be the Indians’ leadoff man and center fielder.
These two aren’t the only new faces in town, however. The team traded Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds for Drew Stubbs, who will play right field in Cleveland. In the same deal, the Indians acquired top-pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Mike Aviles and Mark Reynolds also join the Indians as potential options at designated hitter. Brett Myers will be a veteran arm in the rotation as well.
Many of these veterans have been role players on their former teams, but now in Cleveland, they’ll be expected to carry a significant portion of the load. If these vets hold their own, the combination of youth and experience may turn a few heads towards Cleveland.
Asdrubal Cabrera leads the Indians’ young core. He’s had back-to-back .270-plus seasons with double-digit home runs and is an excellent defensive shortstop.
If Carlos Santana can stay healthy, the Indians will have another young stud in their batting order. He’s been able to stay on the field the past two seasons since he’s played first base and DH, but manager Terry Francona intends for Santana to do the bulk of the catching.
Left fielder Michael Brantley seems to be coming into his own after hitting .288 in 149 games last season. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and second baseman Jason Kipnis round out the team’s young core. Both will be expected to continue their progression this season.
In addition to the veterans signed to guaranteed contracts, the Indians brought in several more veterans on minor-league deals as insurance options. Matt Capps, Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka will compete for spots in the pitching rotation. Capps especially have proven he can be a valuable late-inning relief option.
Cleveland also added Jason Giambi, Ryan Raburn, Ben Francisco and Jeremy Hermida. Giambi maybe has a few more dingers left in his bat and could see time this season as a left-handed pinch hitter. Raburn can be a versatile bench option for the Tribe.
While the Indians have plenty of young talent both on the current roster and in the minors, the veterans on this team will likely dictate this season’s outcome.