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Waiting for next year is so outdated
Offseason additions boost Indians' season outlook

By Stephanie Metzger
April 4, 2013

The city of Cleveland tends to host an annual, “Here we go again” party. For many, this party is a national holiday marked on calendars months in advance as they anticipate the annual pilgrimage to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. While most fans gather for small talk over beer, the diehards set their fantasy rosters and analyze the new line-up.

This year, the party theme is a bit different from past years. The Cleveland Indians had a tumultuous offseason as they signed a handful of notable free agents and completed a trade that brought in one of the top pitching prospects in baseball to Cleveland. The team front office spent money this offseason, and the negative skepticism and sarcastic remarks of better luck in years to come have been temporarily muted.

Back in December, the Indians shipped right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds as part of a three-team trade that ultimately brought pitching prospect Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.

Bauer is one of the most highly regarded young pitchers in the game and his addition to the organization boosts the team’s pitching depth as he should be ready to join the major league club by September.

A few weeks later, the team also signed free agent Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract. The former Ohio State Buckeye is arguably the most notable addition to the team. Swisher is a welcome upgrade at first base after last year’s pitiful platoon of Casey Kotchman and Matt LaPorta. Swisher’s bat will be a significant advancement and his presence alone will boost the atmosphere within the clubhouse.

In February, the team inked outfielder Michael Bourn for four years and $48 million. Bourn is a huge upgrade in the outfield and he’ll be a true leadoff hitter, capable of 40 stolen bases and a .300 batting average. With Bourn, Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley, the team has three centerfielders patrolling the outfield.

In addition to the three most notable moves made by the team, the acquisition of starter Brett Myers, underdog Ryan Raburn and veteran Jason Giambi were also significant.
Now, the opening day roster is set. Though it looks like Ubaldo Jimenez will start the home opener, Justin Masterson, has once again been pegged as the team’s ace. Jimenez will be on a short leash after last year’s deplorable season that left fans questioning the trade that sent two of the organization’s highest pitching prospects to Colorado. Myers can eat up some innings as the third starter, followed by Zach McAllister. Finally, Scott Kazmir, who signed with the team in the offseason, will take the fifth slot in the rotation. Kazmir fell from grace after his days with the Tampa Bay Rays, which left him pitching in independent ball. Kazmir had a solid spring though, leaving the Indians’ staff with no other choice but to start him, sending Bauer to start in AAA.

The bullpen also looks formidable as Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and Chris Perez were automatic choices. Also returning is Cody Allen, who rose all the way from high-A Carolina to Cleveland last season.

Nick Hagadone was also granted a spot, though he was recently optioned to AAA-Columbus in light of a minor injury suffered by Kazmir. If Kazmir cannot make his scheduled start Saturday, it seems Corey Kluber, Daisuke Matsuzaka or Bauer could recieve the start.

Finally, there’s Bryan Shaw, who came from Arizona as part of the three-team Bauer trade. Shaw has potential of being a valuable reliever with a reliable cutter and breaking ball that will induce a lot of groundouts. Collectively, the Indians bullpen looks solid, and even boasts some depth this year with arms like Scott Barnes, Matt Langwell, and prospects Trey Haley and Shawn Armstrong lurking in the shadows.

The team’s new leadership is also a vital component to its facelift. Terry Francona has already been an uplifting factor in the team clubhouse, and his managerial components are exactly the final piece to the Indians’ new puzzle. Francona provides experience and wisdom that craft a new breed of baseball for Cleveland.

The 2013 season began in Toronto on Monday and the home opener takes place on April 8. Though they probably won’t win the division, the year looks promising for the Indians. The past may have echoed remarks of, “There’s always next year,” but for a newly designed team, there’s no better time than now.