I rarely disagree with Buster Olney; right behind Gammons I consider him to be the best baseball writer out there. However, I’m not sure I’m on the same page with him here. Don’t get me wrong; I desparately want him to be right….but, I’m just not sure….decide for yourself:
The Indians haven’t spent the most dollars or landed the biggest names, but they have quietly had a very nice offseason so far, augmenting a team that could be very dangerous next season.
Some scouts believed that at season’s end, Cleveland was playing the best baseball of any American League club. The Indians ranked third in the AL in ERA in August, fourth in September, and they finished the year ranked second in the majors in runs scored, behind the Yankees. Cleveland went into the winter as one of the very few teams with its starting rotation — C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Sowers and Paul Byrd — basically set, and in good shape.
Cleveland needed bullpen help and a second baseman, and right away the Indians landed second baseman Josh Barfield from San Diego without giving up any of their frontline guys.
In the last five days, the Indians have signed three veteran relievers who aren’t necessarily dynamic but will provide Cleveland with a bullpen framework and give the young Indians relievers, like Tony Sipp, some time to develop. Cleveland grabbed Joe Borowski, Aaron Fultz and Roberto Hernandez on short-term deals, and those guys will be at least OK in handling the end of games — perhaps good enough for a team with a good rotation and a powerful offense.
And the Indians were able to do this without committing to big-money, long-term deals, in keeping with their modest financial constraints.
“We have added some depth and experience to the bullpen,” Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro wrote in an e-mail late Wednesday. “Hernandez with over 300 career saves and Borowski with back-end experience and 36 saves last season give us some back-end stability. I feel better about our bullpen now, but still would like to add one more guy who has had some closing experience if possible.
“Knowing this bullpen market was thin and had some risk to it, we felt it important to add as much depth as possible in order to give us the best chance to build a quality bullpen for the ’07 team.”
If the bullpen can be at least stable, and if Lee can take the next step and become a consistent force, the Indians could be poised for a breakthrough season in ’07. We’ll see.
The Indians are looking for one more veteran reliever, writes Paul Hoynes; I bet they wind up signing Octavio Dotel, too.