The Indians are next in our Offseason In Review series. Here's what we wrote about them on September 30th. Changes for 2009:
Additions: Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa, Carl Pavano, Luis Valbuena, Juan Salas, Joe Smith, Greg Aquino, Jack Cassel, Vinnie Chulk, Matt Herges, Tomo Ohka, Kirk Saarloos, Tony Graffanino, Jamey Carroll (exercised option). Midseason: Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Zach Jackson, John Meloan, Anthony Reyes, Carlos Santana
Subtractions: Franklin Gutierrez, Juan Rincon, Matt Ginter, Jorge Julio. Midseason: Casey Blake, Paul Byrd, C.C. Sabathia, Jason Michaels
The Indians' offense ranked 6th in the AL last year with 4.97 runs per game. The infield was the obvious area for improvement, and GM Mark Shapiro acquired DeRosa. CHONE projections suggest bounceback years for Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, resulting in 5.37 runs per game for Cleveland. That level of scoring would've ranked second in the AL last year.
Defensively, The Fielding Bible II ranked the Indians third in the league last year. Much of that run prevention came from the departed Gutierrez, however.
The Indians set out to get a closer, and Shapiro signed Wood in mid-December. The move is risky, given Wood's injury history. Still, he was among the best relief arms available and did not cost a draft pick. The pen was also bolstered by the addition of sidearming groundballer Smith.
The big question for the 2009 Indians is the rotation. Cliff Lee is the only safe bet. They'll need Fausto Carmona to bounce back, and healthy, decent performances from Pavano and Reyes. The Indians might've been able to get a more reliable pitcher than Pavano on a one-year deal. There are several decent options for the fifth starter job, and Jake Westbrook should be back midseason.
If the Indians match last year's 761 runs allowed, they're a 92 win team. But with the loss of Gutierrez's defense, regression from Lee, and no contribution from Sabathia, that's a tall order. Still, with a middling 780 runs allowed they'd project for 90 wins.
Bottom line: Shapiro succeeded in adding an infielder and improving the bullpen. 2009 may rest on four variables: Martinez, Hafner, Pavano, and Reyes.