Indians owner Paul Dolan held court on a variety of topics recently with Zack Meisel of The Athletic (subscription link). It’s essential reading for fans of the organization; there are a few items worth highlighting from a hot-stove perspective.
Dolan’s comments are sure to raise a few eyebrows from those who’d like to see the team spending more. After capturing a third-straight AL Central title last year, the Cleveland organization is set to enter the 2019 season with a reduced payroll.
That’s a reflection in part of the fact that there wasn’t any real postseason revenue last year, says Dolan. He claims that the team lost money last year and does so in most seasons, though annual bottom lines are subject to quite a lot of interpretation and Dolan also acknowledges that the ownership group has “seen an asset grow in a considerable value.”
Dolan indicated that the general philosophy in the Indians organization is to aim to keep open a contention window for a lengthy stretch, rather than to push in too many chips in a given year. Reaching the playoffs more often, in theory, creates more chances to win it all and tamps down on the number of lengthy losing stretches.
That’s what the team is engaged in at present, says Dolan, who says “the downside is out there somewhere.” Maximizing chances now would also mean raising the specter of a quicker and more dramatic decline. The hope, says Dolan, is that “we can put it off for as long as we possibly can.”
If it’s not clear enough already, Dolan left little doubt that huge contracts aren’t part of the plan. The Cleveland org “probably” won’t be doing any $300MM contracts — at least, he says, unless and until “somebody else is doing $1 billion deals.” He even critiqued the small-market Padres for spending $300MM on Manny Machado, saying that the club will “bump up against the issue with having so much of their payroll tied up in one guy.”
And what about the club’s own star, Francisco Lindor? Dolan says that fans should “enjoy him and then we’ll see what happens.”
There’s some conflict in some of Dolan’s positions. At one point he plainly stated that a team should never assume it is going to the postseason. Later, he cited the weak AL Central competition as part of his justification for the organization’s shopping of its elite starting pitching this winter.
“We ended up not doing it, but you heard talk about some of our elite pitchers,” said Dolan. “…we could theoretically have moved somebody there to get some upper-level talent that would have the effect of extending our window, taking our payroll down a little further, and if it took a few wins off of our expected wins this year, we probably have that buffer.”
Having failed to identify a suitable trade arrangement for Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, and with an affordable new deal in place for Carlos Carrasco, the Indians will enter the season with their trio of veteran stalwarts still fronting the staff. They’ll also carry one of the cheapest and most questionable outfield groups in baseball. As Dolan hints, the roster is still quite a bit more talented than those of its division rivals. (The White Sox, of course, were denied the opportunity to invest in Machado.) But taking a title — and setting up in the best possible manner for the postseason — can never be taken for granted.
Some fans, surely, will be frustrated with the explanations proffered. Some, perhaps, even wish the Dolan ownership group would turn things over to another. “You just don’t know,” Dolan said on that matter. “There’s no plan not to own the team. I’ll put it that way. My parents are aging, so things could happen.”