Is Terry Francona ready to win a World Series at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario?

1All is quiet at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Most teams are finishing up their “hot stove season” wish-lists and working hard to take care of their in-house business before taking their first foray into free agency and entertaining trade offers. The Indians seemingly began their offseason by wrapping up a couple of moves: they picked up the $3.5 million option on utility infielder Mike Aviles, and followed that up by extending the contract of Terry Francona two more years, with two years of club options. The deal could keep Francona in Cleveland through the 2020 season.

The Mike Aviles deal is what it is. EHC’s Mike Hattery did a nice job discussing the Aviles deal yesterday, making a case for Jose Ramirez and more notably, Zach Walters. There are multiple ways to view the Aviles deal, and while my hope was that they would part ways with a player that I see as fairly redundant, I’m willing to let the cards play out over the coming months. Let’s understand one thing: Mike Aviles should not get playing time before Jose Ramirez in any form and at any time, and I agree with Mike that Walters is a better option for a variety of reasons.

Aviles could pay dividends in other ways down the road. It’s possible that the plan with Aviles is to keep him around until they see how things shake out in the middle infield. If the Indians ultimately pull of a trade for a needed part this offseason that involves #JRam or Francisco Lindor, Aviles would be needed. He certainly wouldn’t be a starter, but he would continue on in his utility role. If the Indians were to deal Lonnie Chisenhall, it’s likely that Aviles would be the first in line to take over third base, at least in a limited capacity.

He’s the ultimate $3.5 million dollar insurance player.

In the end, if the youngsters make a statement heading into the 2015 season, it’s possible that Aviles and his $3.5 million could be dealt early in the year for a better fitting utility player, a bullpen arm, or a lower level prospect.

The Terry Francona extension was rumored over the past couple of weeks, and is certainly fantastic news for a fanbase that wouldn’t have been surprised had he decided to head to greener pastures. Rumors were circulating among insiders that the Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein were throwing pebbles at Francona’s bedroom window, hoping to convince him to call Chicago and Wrigley home. Whatever you believe, the Cubs were able to finagle Joe Maddon from the Tampa Bay Rays, and Francona continued to push Cleveland as his “last job.”

However you look at it, the Indians are a better team with Terry Francona as their manager, and he’s here for potentially six more years. That’s something to get excited about.

While it’s fun to talk about managers and utility players, most fans are scouring mlbtraderumors.com and ESPN Insider, hunting for all the available free agents that the Indians could sign, and all the expiring contracts that the Indians could deal for. To be clear, most of these moves (likely involving a Shields or a Martinez or a Stanton) are the pipe dreams of fans of an era that’s long gone in the City of Cleveland.

In all likelihood, the Indians coffers were used up way back in the 2012-2013 hot stove season in which they were able to acquire both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the tune of at least $114 million over four seasons. They have since then wrapped up the core of their youth when they signed the trio of Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis.

The Indians’ front office has exactly what they’ve wanted all along: a roster that is tied up for the foreseeable future, to go along with a top coaching staff. Every position player will be back, and they could have a bench made up entirely of players that are either currently on the roster, or current pieces in the minor league system. The starting rotation seems set, for the most part, and you could argue that in Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin, they have depth their as well (I’m not one of them). The bullpen was solid last year, and also seems to have refills ready and able.

In other words, the Indians seem to have a roster that’s ready to go. There really aren’t a lot of major question-marks, if you’re conservative thinking. I’m not sure if I’m conservative thinking, but I do like the majority of this roster.

Listen, I completely understand that the Indians are going to do a thing this offseason, other then potentially sign some meaty back-ups to fill bench roles and Triple A. I understand the market that we’re in, and get that we have to downsize a whole stadium to meet the needs of the city. I get what the Indians are likely going to do.

But I don’t have to like it.

Can someone explain to me when Indians’ fans got so uptight that you weren’t allowed to call to task a team that always seems to get close, but never be able to pull the trigger to get the last few players to take them over the top?

I’m really not interested in listening to the rigid masses that always seem to “know more than the next guy” because they heard it from the top, or they can line up the facts better.

What the hell fun is that?

I love the Cleveland Indians. I can say that as surely as I can say that I love my wife, my kids, my dog, and my job (yeah, really). I’m never rational when it comes to taking care of the things that I love.

NEVER.

I want the Indians to win the World Series.

I want the Indians to plug their holes.

I want the Indians to do what the Royals did this year, only better.

And when they sit on their hands, like I know they will, I’m going to fill this column with scathing hate for whatever Cleveland personnel try to sell me on that as being the right move.

But…

…if you really look at this baseball team, there is a lot to love. The absolute star of Indians Baseball Insider, Hayden Grove, talked about the Cleveland Indians starting rotation yesterday, and discussed the Indians’ rotation, and their need for a Corey Kluber cohort. His attention focused on Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco.

I agree with him to an extent.

I’m generally Bearish with regards to any rotation, and the Indians have been no exception over the years. This year, I couldn’t be further from that line of thinking. I’m Bullish on all five starters, and that includes T.J. House, who I will have a feature piece on in the coming weeks. Not only do I believe that Carrasco can be Kluber’s “Robin,” as Grove stated, I believe he could be better than Kluber.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Carrasco, there just isn’t enough consistency over the years to really convince me that it’s a lock. What I know is this: when he’s right, he’s a wipeout pitcher. When he’s off, he can be dangerously bad.

Trevor Bauer reminds me so much of Ubaldo Jimenez that it’s sickening. What I love the most about him though is that I firmly believe he’s on the “good side” of Ubaldo. I think he’s got some more upside in the tank, but I do worry about his mechanics and what the Indians will ultimately do with him.

House is better than people think. I’ve likely watched him play over the years as much as anyone, having watched him for his entire career in Kinston and Carolina. I’ll get into the depth of his ability in the coming weeks, but don’t let people pawn him off as a soft-tossing wuss. He’s far from it.

The player that this pitching staff hinges on is Danny Salazar. I’m going to get with my EHC cohort in the home offices and put together the whys, but Salazar is much better than a two-pitch heat-miser. He can throw hard, and he has a budding arsenal. I honestly believe that he’s going to be the best pitcher in this rotation over the next five seasons.

He’s going to be special.

Now, I don’t buy in the Zach McAllister-movement, even though he was able to apparently touch 98 MPH. Seriously, where did that come from? Did he have secret Tommy John surgery I don’t know about?

I have likened Corey Kluber to Cliff Lee over the years in demeanor, but there’s a small part of me that wonders if there isn’t some of that in McAllister. It’s a small part, but it’s a part nonetheless.

I have nothing for you with regards to Josh Tomlin.

Now, if the Indians sit with these six as their starters, I’ll be riding in on my high horse ready to shred the front office. You have to expect regression from one of these guys. You might not get the regression, but you have to expect it. The Indians need to go out and spend at least  $7 million on the rotation, or they have to make a sublime trade to rip someone off of a young guy.

Until Josh Johnson signs with the San Diego Padres for a ridiculously small deal, they should hammer down his door with a nice incentive laden deal. Past that, we’ll have to see how the cards fall. They need to supplement this rotation right now, and not hope for the best.

I’m not sure they will.

If the Indians infield is Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall, I won’t be ecstatic, but I can live with it. Santana is a top player in the league. As I noted in the Sunday Drive, he’s better than Yeones Cespedes, and that’s not debatable. Fielding-wise at first, he’s not bad. At second, Jason Kipnis has to improve this year. If he doesn’t, his position on this team will be the one that absolutely kills this team. His contract and position make him so valuable if he’s hitting. If he’s not, he blocks the potential of a better infield with regards to both defense, and potentially offense. In Lonnie Chisenhall, I can live with whatever he does until the Indians see fit in bringing up Giovanny Urshela.

Three years ago, I raved about what I saw of Urshela up close. While it was popular back then to listen to the timidity of the coaches’ public statements of his approach at the bat, behind the scenes, I was hearing that he was “can’t miss” as far as the glove goes, and if he continues to work, could be a 25-homer guy. He has done nothing but prove that coach right, and needs a little bit more seasoning to get there.

The Indians have enough in Zach Walters and Mike Aviles, and ultimately Lindor to fill in that infield with whatever happens going forward.

The outfield has Michael Brantley. He’s just a fantastic player, and I don’t think he’s met his ceiling. While others were throwing around their “bold BS predictions,” picking names out of a hat, we here at EHC were busy watching Brantley attack pitchers counts with the aplomb of Ted Williams. While I didn’t see the power burst, when I said in a podcast over a year ago that “Brantley could hit .330 for years to come,” I wasn’t kidding.

He does his homework, and has the highest baseball IQ on the team. How do you measure that?

Look at his numbers over the years.

He’s sick.

Michael Bourn is in center for better or worse, and he’s clearly on the downside of his career at this point. I’m surely not going to be making any sort of stance that he’s going to all the sudden have a .350 OBP, steal 30 and be special.

He’s not.

Can he stay healthy and hit at the top of the order and be a solid player?

Sure.

But I’d say that’s about 30% right now, and that’s pretty high. If they could deal him, then deal him, but who would be dumb enough to take on an aging player with a bulky contract? My only hope here is that he manages to hang around and be competitive, and watch JRam and Lindor take over the top of the order. I doubt it in 2015, but by 2016 it’s likely to happen.

There are rumblings out there that the Chicago Cubs may be interested in Michael Bourn, and might be dangling Edwin Jackson in the deal. Jackson was absolutely deplorable last season, and wasn’t all that good the year before. He’s been way below replacement-level playing in Wrigley Field, and still has two years left on his contract.

Am I crazy to want that deal?

Fiscally, the Indians would saye $5.5 million over the two years of the deal, and they would get a pitcher that someone like Mickey Callaway would likely love to work with. Seems like Kismet, right?

I’ll believe it when I see it.

In right field, I’m so done with David Murphy. I know that in some circles, he’s a guy that has “upside.” I listened to those circles last year, and won’t anymore. At best, he needs to platoon. At worst, he becomes the fourth outfielder.

Right field is the one area that I’d love to see the Indians upgrade. I personally think that the best way to do it would be to bump Kipnis there, move JRam to second (where he’d immediately be a top five defensive second baseman in the league), and bring up Lindor at short, but know they won’t likely do it. I still think it’s a viable option that the Indians are considering as the season progresses, even though you’ll hear people absolutely hammer that idea because they are shortsighted, and have to see it first before it can be fact.

With that said, if the Indians were able to find a platoon in right, I would be all for it. If it’s a guy like Mike Morse, I’ll throw up a little in my mouth. Is James Ramsey the guy? Mike Hattery thinks so, and while I don’t know much about his upside, he could be, and I’ve heard that the Indians think he is.

Another internal candidate.

See where I’m going here?

I’m not even going to mention Yan Gomes. He’s a star, and hasn’t hit his ceiling. Trust me.

The Indians have a really good team. They need to acquire a starting pitcher. They need to acquire a right fielder. They need to acquire some depth.

That’s it.

Where I’m intrigued with this Indians’ team is that they will stay together. The Tigers will reload, and I think KC will find ways to stay relevant too, but as is, the Indians could be very good.

So I have to ask myself one question: Can Terry Francona lead this team to a World Series? Is this team ready? They really COULD be.

I’m just sick of ‘could be.’

The rearviewmirror:

For those that have followed me over the years, in the RVM portion of my piece, I often say goodbye to a player, or to something relevant in the Indians organization, or a pop culture topic that is relevant.

Today, I’m going to do something a bit different.

I write for Everybody Hates Cleveland. I couldn’t be more happy to be doing that. I love all the sites I’ve written for in the past, but this site is something different. I absolutely love the writers that are here. Steve Orbanek may be the best writer in the Cleveland blogosphere. There isn’t a writer and Cleveland fan that cares more about Cleveland sports than he does. In the four years we’ve been friends, we laughed and cried about more than I could talk about. In Michael Hattery, you have another dear friend that cares more about these teams than I can begin to tell you. He knows his numbers, and he knows his sports. While he’ll be the first to tell you how “on” I can be when I make my calls on players, he absolutely nails trends with his pieces. If he wrote about half the stuff we talk about behind the scenes, you’d think he was a swami. Rich Primo is the late-comer to the team, but is equally as passionate as all three of us. He’s bled Cleveland sports longer than the rest of us (thanks Rich…I’m not the oldest anymore), and will do whatever it takes as a writer to give us quality content.

That’s our core, and trust me when I say this, we will do whatever we can to give you something special every day.

But that’s not all. John Grimm can do things with his writing that not many others can. When he’s dialed into the numbers, he can make them dance like none other. His best work is Grantland worthy, and you’ll be seeing him in the near future as well. Brian Andrews and John Bojarski bring you wrestling from every angle that you haven’t thought of. Kevin Fiorenzo used to write for the Florida/Miami Marlins at MLB.com, and is our movie/TV show specialist. I have agreed with 99.9% of what he’s written (which should scare him), but he isn’t afraid to twist the knife on a topic. Joe Cuneo has it in his blood, and when he cares about a topic, might be our best writer in that given moment. He loves Cleveland sports like we do, and I look forward to his biweekly column. Matt Kasznel came on board and is our end-all and be-all on any pertinent sports’ topic that is out there. His four pieces have been so insightful, and he can spin a phrase like a seasoned journalist.

I love these guys.

I love this crew.

I love our site.

I love doing what I do.

I promise you this: we write from the heart, that’s what Everybody Hates Cleveland is all about. We love what we do. We love what we write. We love being right, and being wrong, and talking about why.

I own my hypocrisy.

I own my mistakes and my “wrongness” right along with everything right that I get.

I’m human.

WE’RE human.

Will we be the best Cleveland website out there? Maybe…maybe not…but what I can tell you is this…

…we will write pieces from your perspective. We’re fans. We love Cleveland sports. We love talking sports with you, both on twitter, and here at the site. I love arguing with Hiram. I love learning from Jacob. I love talking with my old cohorts at IBI and MVN, even if they don’t want to talk to me.

I just love talking Cleveland sports.

Give us a follow, and give us a read every now and then, won’t you?

I promise you that we’ll have something here you want to read, or argue about, or sound smarter than, or just plain get fired up about.

Sure, Everybody Hates Cleveland, who doesn’t understand Cleveland.

We love it, and can’t wait for you all to hop on board for the ride.

Game on Cleveland…Game on.

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2 thoughts on “Is Terry Francona ready to win a World Series at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario?

  1. What about Tyler Holt? Is he a viable replacement for Murphy? Played pretty good right field at the end of the season I thought.

  2. I’m a huge proponent of Tyler Holt, and think that he has #4 outfielder written all over him. I’ll focus in on the outfield and talk about him more specifically, but don’t think the Indians are currently looking at him as a major cog in the outfield. There are other factors as well, but think that he has a ways to go to be a factor.

    What you were seeing last year was the best of THolt. If that becomes his new bar, then I think he could surprise in 2015…

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