The Cleveland Indians have mostly been dormant this off-season while the Baltimore Orioles have picked up a number of pieces over the past week or so. Included in that spending the Orioles brought in now ex-Indian Ubaldo Jimenez on a 4 year deal for around $50 million. That followed signing Suk-min Yoon to a 3 year contract for the 27 year old out of Korea to compete for a spot in their starting rotation. Yesterday may be the final step in the Orioles off-season additions with the signing of slugger Nelzon Cruz to a 1 year deal. So the Indians, who made the playoffs, stood pat, lost a starter and the Orioles, who missed the playoffs, added that starter, another starter and a big bat. Lets delve a bit deeper into the clubs:
Last off-season the Orioles made no big pickups. Instead their biggest move may have been to let Mark Reynolds go and not offer him a contract. Besides that the Orioles signed some of their own players to one year deals, took a few veteran chances on minor league deals and kept their team together.
The Indians on the other hand signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn while trading for Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer in exchange for Shin-Soo Choo. Swisher signed a 4 year deal worth $56 million while Bourn’s deal was 4 years worth $48 million. Swisher’s contract called for $11 million in salary in the first year which jumps to $15 million over the next 3. Bourn’s was structured similarly with only $7 million last year bumping up to $13.5 million this year.
Between those 2 contract the Indians added $10.5 million to this year’s salaries. That is a great deal of money to a cap strapped team who television revenues are dwarfed by the Orioles. The Orioles lack of action allowed them more flexibility this year while the structure of the 2 big contracts the Indians signed caused a limitation in Cleveland.
Roster Make Up
The Orioles were led in almost every major batting category by first baseman Chris Davis and have a young budding star at third in Manny Machado. They even get good production from their shortstop JJ Hardy as well as 2 of their outfield positions manned by Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Their production at their other outfield spot and DH left something to be desired. Cruz answers one of those issues for the team.
The Indians, for all of their warts, have quality outfielders in Bourn and newly extended Michael Brantley. Swisher is also able to play out there. With Carlos Santana, Jason Giambi and Swisher the Indians have the ability to fill both their first base and DH positions with good bats. In right field the Indians brought in David Murphy to platoon with the scrappy Ryan Rayburn. Signing Cruz makes less sense for the Tribe.
Divisions and Results
The Indians play in the Central division with the vaunted Detroit Tigers and no other team that should be huge obstacles on the Indians schedule. The Orioles play in a division with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays who have all been serious contenders in the recent years. The Red Sox and Yankees are able to spend money with anyone as well while the Rays have developed a farm system that Old McDonald would be jealous of. The Orioles are some where in the middle. They have some money to spend and have developed some quality depth in their farm system. On neither end are the Orioles elite, they have to figure out a balancing act of spending and developing. The Indians have the same issue but with only 1 other team to compete with are able to be more patient and pick their spots.
The Indians also have flexibility of having made the playoffs last year. While Twitter fans may not forgive the Tribe making moves, the casual fan is excited about last year’s success. The team will hope to build on it but know they have earned a bit of grace, not a lot, by winning last year when it was unexpected. The Orioles had a winning record but did not make the playoffs. That 5 game difference is huge in the mind of fans. Either you make the playoffs or you don’t. Trying doesn’t count. The Orioles took the opportunity when it availed them, similar to the Tribe last off-season, to try to get over the hump.
The Orioles spent money and brought in the Tribe’s #2 starter. Are you mad at the Indians? Do you understand their decisions? Does Cruz signing make you wish for something different last off-season when the Tribe structured future oriented contracts with Swisher and Bourn? Tell us your thoughts.