Indians seeking creativity for challenging off-season

Franchise avoiding reactionary decision making

Alex Hooper
October 10, 2018 - 4:33 pm
Oct 8, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Fans display a sign in the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Houston Astros during game three of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians are not letting a pair of disappointing exits from the postseason detract from what they believe to be true. The organization is still ‘healthy’ and ready to continue to compete.

As manager Terry Francona, Team President Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff addressed the media for exit interviews Wednesday, they looked to steady the ship of an unsettled fan base by preaching what they always do: Process over results.

“When you set out for a goal and you come up short, it stings, so you have emotion for a while and that goes away after a little bit and then you try to get a perspective of where are we?” Francona said. “Legitimately what can we do better? Because if you make decisions when you’re emotional, then you blow the whole place up and that’s not healthy.”

There was no false confidence put forth by the trio. The Indians got beat by the Houston Astros in every facet of the game. All parties admitted such.

Still, they will avoid becoming reactionary, attempting to put each of the season’s lingering questions in perspective.

Why was José Ramírez unable to play himself out of a slump that ate up the final month of the regular season and playoffs? Antonetti noted that slumps of this length are prone to happen to any hitter, and that of the MVP candidate just came at the wrong time.

Antonetti referenced Hall of Famer Jim Thome’s struggles in the early parts of his career, and questions about his potential benching before pointing out similar cries from Boston fans about David Ortiz.

Would somebody need to answer for never righting perhaps the most intricate part of the ship en route to shipwreck? Hitting coaches Ty Van Burkleo and Victor Rodriguez are equally to praise for Ramírez’s upward trajectory as they are to blame for his demise, Francona said.

The staff seemed to be in agreement that the entire coaching staff would be back, and suggested that if anything, they would only have to replace those who were hired by other teams.

A three game sample size has never been enough to draw conclusions, but on a 162-game scale, the organization may have not been in a better position since 1995.

The team enters the off-season with two players who will finish top-7 in MVP voting, and four more who should finish in the top-10 of the Cy Young. All six of those players are under team control through at least 2020.

Antonetti pointed to that fact as reason that most teams would want to trade positions with the Indians even still.

That was not to say that the organization is in a perfect spot. The team’s $40+ million coming off of the books in free agency will mostly be reinvested in their current core. That means players with large contracts may need to be moved in order to free up wiggle room, something the front office anticipates.

“One of the things we challenge ourselves every offseason is to try to be creative and not look at things in any one lane,” Antonetti said. “Really we try to be very purposeful about soliciting creative, out-of-the-box ideas just to make sure we’re considering all avenues to put our organization in a better position moving forward. We’ll be doing that here over the next few months to try to figure out what that might be.”

The outfield is in enough of a state of flux in itself, and may take a ton of that creativity to solve. Antonetti mentioned that Jason Kipnis, under contract through 2019 with a 2020 club option, could shift to left field in the case free agent Michael Brantley exits.

Francona hinted that Yandy Díaz, while viewed as a dangerous hitter within the organization, may have to make another position change in order to get his at-bats.

While creativity is a large part of the organizational philosophy, the overarching philosophy of the franchise has put them in the position they are currently in. The franchise predictably believes they are in an admirable position despite the results.

Do not expect the Indians to be reactionary, expect more of the same process that got them to where they are.