Cleveland made it to the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons under Tito in 2020 and were dispatched by the Yankees in a 2-0 sweep. The feel around the team once the season came to an end was that there were going to be a lot of changes. Usually, a team that makes it to the playoffs looks to get better. For Cleveland, it was a different story.
Key Additions: Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez
Key Subtractions: Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Carlos Santana, Delino DeShields Jr., Tyler Naquin, Brad Hand
Lindor was asked after their series loss in the 2020 postseason if there had been any talks about a contract extension between he and the team; Franky laughed. If that doesn’t sum up the position Cleveland is in then I don’t know what will. The owner isn’t really willing to spend the money necessary to compete at a high level despite the team having success under the circumstances. Making the playoffs five out of eight seasons is quite the feat when forced to play with one hand behind your back. It’s interesting to think what Cleveland could’ve done if they had people in charge willing to invest in winning.
Now, the club is in a position where it’ll be harder to compete as some of the best players have moved on. Lindor and Carrasco was shipped to the Mets, Santana left for KC, Hand is in Washington, and Naquin and DeShields fled for (somewhat) greener pastures. Francona has found ways to maximize this team’s talent but I’m hard pressed to see this team be anything more than mediocre. They don’t have the talent to compete like they have been due to the owner’s unwillingness to spend money. At least they got Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez, though.
This team isn’t devoid of talent. I’m not trying to make it sound like they’re dead in the water or anything. José Ramirez is one of the better players in the league while Shane Bieber firmly put himself in the conversation for best pitcher in the league. I know two players don’t make a team, but that’s a pretty decent start. César Hernández decided to come back, giving them a solid leadoff hitter. Franmil Reyes looks to replace Slamtana’s production while Óscar Mercado and Roberto Pérez are poised for bounce back seasons. Tito has something to work with and you better believe he’ll do everything he can to make this a competitive team.
Cleveland has steadily produced tremendous pitching talent. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Cookie are a few that’s left. The team should be devastated having to go on without these guys, but they’ve just looked to replace them. As good as all those guys mentioned above are, Bieber is better and throwing in the likes of Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, James Karinchak, and Triston McKenzie makes this team dangerous. I don’t know what Cleveland is doing in terms of their development of arms, but it is working wonderfully. If the young arms they have continue to get better this is a team people will fear.
Even if the team does manage to compete for a playoff spot I think there will be a cloud of dismay hanging over Cleveland. If the team was willing to trade away Lindor, they won’t hesitate in trading anyone else. Ramirez’s contract is set to end in 2021 with the team holding options for 22 & 23. Fans of the Tribe better cherish José while he’s there because it won’t be long before he’s being traded away. Same goes for Shane. He’s under team control till 2025 so it may be a year or two too early to mentioning his inevitable departure, but it will eventually happen. A team unwilling to pay a switch-hitting stud like Francisco won’t be willing to pay anyone. Cleveland’s only hope of winning is if they catch lightning in a bottle and ride that to a pennant.