September 18, 2021

This Won’t Be Your Father’s Rebuild

With SS Francisco Lindor and SP Carlos Carrasco now in New York Mets uniforms, it is officially time for the Indians to close the book on that chapter. While 2015 to 2020 was a fun and amazing time to be an Indians fan, culminating in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, it wasn’t going to last forever. Fans won’t hear the term rebuild but make no mistake this is a rebuilding year and so will the next several years. One difference between this rebuild and the previous attempts by the organization is the length of time.

Indians GM Mike Chernoff and president Chris Antonetti spoke at length about how they approach every roster decision. It isn’t just one-dimensional as they are always looking at the now and the future. This is similar to how the St. Louis Cardinals front office ran for decades. The idea is by balancing the present and future, they can minimize the length of time a rebuild will take. This explains why after the 2016 World Series loss they didn’t just go and spend all out to get them over the hump. The goal is to maintain a competitive window as long as possible without mortgaging the franchise’s future.

Traditionally in baseball and other sports, teams spend big during their championship window and don’t worry about tomorrow. Once that window is closed they spend several years selling off pieces and putting an atrocious product on the field trying to accumulate top picks. Indians fans remember this well and how this type of rebuild would take five years to a decade at least. Now the Indians are balancing win now with win tomorrow and the goal is instead of five years of terrible baseball, they can rebuild while being competitive and it will only take two to three years.

This explains why Indians manager Terry Francona is willing to stick around through the next couple of seasons. The Indians won’t be losing 100 games a year or even 95. The Tribe still have one of the premier players in 2B Jose Ramirez and will have one of if not the top pitching staffs in baseball and expectations would put this team around 75+ wins a season. Assuming everything goes to plan and with a little luck, that title window could be open again as soon as the 2023 season.

The frustration from Clevelanders over the SS Lindor/SP Carrasco trade is understandable but shows a lack of understanding. What the Indians got in return was underwhelming but that was the best they were going to get.

Several factors played into this…

One: COVID depressed the market as most teams weren’t willing to add $20 million to their payrolls next year.

Two: Lindor only has one year left on his deal and realistically they should’ve traded him two years ago.

Three: Carrasco isn’t a front-line starter. He will be 34 years old next season and can barely make it through five innings.

Chernoff and Antonetti are very highly respected in the game as teams with bigger budgets try to poach them every year. The Mets, with their new billion-dollar owner, tried to hire them to run the organization with a much bigger budget and they turned him down. They believe in what they are doing here and that should be solace for the fans.

Rebuilds are never fun and next year will be filled with bad hitting and errors galore, but there is also something fun about no expectations. To have a season or two where disappointment won’t creep around the corner and ruin your winter. The chance to sit back and watch a group of prospects fight to see if they can stick in the big leagues and the potential of another under-the-radar prospect blossoming into an all-star a la OF Michael Brantley.

The rebuild was long overdue but don’t expect it to take a decade or more.

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