It has been a rough six months or so for fans of the Cleveland baseball team.
It started when the franchise returned to the playoffs last season after missing them the season before, only to be soundly defeated by the Yankees. From there, things only got worse.
In the offseason, the team traded superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and fellow fan-favorite Carlos Carrasco to the Mets. With Lindor just one year from free agency and the two sides never even coming close to an extension, it was the right move, but it left fans with a familiar feeling. In addition, beloved long-time first baseman Carlos Santana left in free agency following one of the worst seasons of his career.
For the last decade, Cleveland has been a competitive team despite consistently having a lower payroll than most of the best teams in baseball. This move was yet another in a series of the team trading away its star players because it either would not or could not pay them.
Following that trade, the Indians had one of the lowest payrolls in the sport, and fans were rightfully feeling dejected about the team’s chances to build upon last season’s success.
However, the front office responded to the Lindor trade by adding two solid free agents by signing outfielder Eddie Rosario away from the division-rival Twins and re-signing second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who was one of the team’s best performers last season.
For me, those two signings provide a reason for optimism for Cleveland. Rosario, as well as mid-season acquisition Josh Naylor, should help bolster an outfield that was atrocious at the plate last year. Hernandez and perennial MVP candidate Jose Ramirez lead an infield that should continue to perform well despite the losses of Lindor and Santana, as those two had poor seasons in 2020.
In addition, Cleveland should once again have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. That starts with a rotation led by defending AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Cleveland has consistently been able to bring young starters through and have them perform well. That should continue with Triston McKenzie, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill, who will anchor the back end of the rotation behind established starters Bieber, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.
Cleveland’s bullpen was excellent last year, and the team will offset the loss of closer Brad Hand by having young flamethrower James Karinchak step into that role. In addition, Emmanuel Clase, who was Cleveland’s big acquisition in last year’s offseason trade of Corey Kluber, will be returning from a suspension and the team hopes he will be able to help replace Hand as well.
Overall, I believe this year’s team is going to be even better than last year’s squad that fell just a few games short of winning the AL Central. Some of the big names are gone but given how poor Lindor and Santana were last year, the offense should be better due to the signing of Rosario, as well as shortstop Andres Gimenez, who was the big piece in the Lindor trade and has been excellent in spring training.
The bottom line is that even though it has been a rough few months for fans, I believe the Cleveland baseball team is really going to surprise people this year. Led by the superstar duo of Bieber and Ramirez, Cleveland is a team ready for another successful season.
Will Cunningham is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Will? Tweet him @willocunningham.