The Cleveland Indians season is just past the quarter pole. This year has already been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Tribe - it seems every time they get close to the .500 mark, they begin to lose steam. Cleveland has been one of the streakier teams in the league, winning four games, losing four games, then winning four more. It's been a season of positives and negatives, but unfortunately for the Indians and their fans, there have been more negatives than positives.
Every team has questions that need to be answered all season long, but not many have as many glaring questions as these 2014 Cleveland Indians.
1) What should they do with their "ace", Justin Masterson?
Justin Masterson was the ace on a team that made the playoffs last season. He was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA, and could be counted on for a good start each time he went out there in 2013. This season has been a different story, as Masterson has been one of the more inconsistent starting pitchers in the league.
Masterson is currently 3-4 with a 4.72 ERA through eleven starts. That 4.72 ERA ranks him fourth on the team amongst starting pitchers. After the 2014 season, Masterson is set to become a free agent. Before this season he and his agent offered a couple different contracts asking for around $17 million a year, the same number that Ubaldo Jimenez asked for the year before when Cleveland let him walk.
Masterson's value may not be the greatest at this point, but with the trade deadline right around the corner, the Indians should look to trade him if they aren't planning on re-signing him this offseason. The bottom line is, the Indians are treating him like an ace when he isn't. Truthfully, Clevland hasn't had a true ace since Cliff Lee departed in 2009.
2) Can, or, will the Tribe be able to trade Asdrubal Cabrera?
The Indians shortstop, much like Masterson, is in a contract year. The talk around the organization is that the Indians would like to move Cabrera before the trade deadline next month. He hasn't gotten off to the kind of start that Cleveland was hoping for. A good start would have added value to his trade stock. His numbers up to this point of the season are a mediocre .243 with 4 HR and 17 RBI. If they choose to look at the trade market for Cabrera they will probably be looking for a reliable starting pitcher but they won't make a move if the value isn't there.
The Indians have been in this situation before with the shortstop position - in 2004 they had Omar Vizquel, but instead of re-signing him they let him leave in favor of the up-and-coming Jhonny Peralta. Then in 2010, they traded Jhonny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers because of the rising Cabrera. Now with Francisco Lindor and stop-gap prospect Jose Ramirez on the rise in the Minors, the odds seem to be stacked up for 2014 being the last season as an Indian for Cabrera. He is likely to be gone via free agency or a trade.
3) Where can they find a right-handed power bat?
Looking at the current Indians starting lineup, there isn't a true right-handed power hitter in there. In fact, the only true right-handed hitters on the roster are Yan Gomes, Ryan Rayburn, Mike Aviles and occasionally Jesus Aguilar when he gets called up. While Aguilar is projected to be a power hitter, he certainly looks the part, but has shown that he may still need some time down on the farm so far this season. Aguilar should be a solid 20-30 home run candidate at the next level in the coming years. Giovanny Urshela has a little bit of pop in his bat but has just hit the Triple-A level this season.
So, there's nothing in the farm system as far as immediate help, so they could try to use one of the before mentioned Masterson or Cabrera in a package deal to bring a right-handed bat or starting pitching.
4) What can Carlos Santana do to get back on track?
The Indians tried to move their star catcher from behind the plate to third base this season. Initially it was working out okay, but we've seen recently that it's undoubtedly taking a toll on his offense. During this adjustment period, Santana is hitting for a meager .159 AVG with only 6 home runs and 17 RBI. Santana is currently on the DL with concussion symptoms, and is undoubtedly trying to figure out just what is going on at the plate. His one positive is that he is still drawing a high amount of walks (43), but unfortunately he has also struck out 46 times.
Opponents are employing defensive shifts against him from both the right and left side. Santana, like many hitters, is just driving shots right into them. He has the capability to go the other way, though, instead of being pull happy and only trying to hit for power - once he realizes that, he should be able to turn it around. A killer swing doesn't just leave a young, talented player like that.
5) What needs to be done to get back to the playoffs?
Playoffs? Did you say PLAYOFFS?! Sorry, had to.
Through 58 games, this team is leading the Majors in both errors (56) and unearned runs (40), two elements of an unsuccessful formula. In the AL Central, a division ruled by the Detroit Tigers, the Indians' only hope is to get in on a wild card bid. Currently sitting two games under .500 and having to beat out teams like the Angels, Yankees, Orioles, Mariners and Rangers for the final two spots, the pickings are going to be slim. Even last year, the team may have outperformed itself and barely squeaked in with a magnificent late-September run.
So to get back to the playoffs, they need to clean up the defense, an absolute must, and find a way to outperform themselves again. Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber appear to be ready to become a 1-2 punch in the rotation going forward, bringing life to the ball club...but they aren't everyday players. Until they can get everyone else on board and firing on all cylinders, this season could play out like it has so far - just under the .500 mark, which won't be good enough for the playoffs. Especially with plays like these: Yikes!Back to the Cleveland Guardians Newsfeed