With the Royals Winning the Series What’s Next for the Tribe?

tribevibes.mlblogs.com
tribevibes.mlblogs.com

Well, we have reached the end of the 2015 World Series and the Kansas City Royals have been crowned World Series Champions. The Royals, after losing a heartbreaker to the San Fransisco Giants in 2014, beat the NL Champion New York Mets in five games and were able to beat them with three come-from-behind-wins.

Throughout the season the Royals were able to use their extremely high contact rate, incredible defense, and shutdown bullpen to make their way through the playoffs and on to the World Series championship. From the perspective of Indians fans, we just saw a mid-market team compete in two straight World Series and win one and can’t help but think, why can’t we do the same?

With the MLB offseason hot stove about to heat up and the beginning of the signing period for unrestricted free agents beginning on November 7th, the Indians look to build on what they have and may look to mirror the Royals’ strategy to finally take another step forward.

For the Indians, the offseason begins with adjustments due to the small changes in the front office. Back in August, Indians President of Baseball Operations Mark Shapiro left for the same position with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Indians promoted GM Chris Antonetti to President of Baseball Operations. Then they named former Assistant GM Mike Chernoff active General Manager.

Nobody knows if these minor changes will have a major affect or not in our free agent and trading strategy, but we as a fan base may see a change in the way Chernoff negotiates with free agents and/or in trades.

Right now, the Indians have a solid core of players which include Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor. They also bolster a solid and young starting rotation of Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Cody Anderson.

The Indians have been building up a solid core of players for several years and are bound to take a big step next year and according to the stats they might not be as far apart from the Royals as everyone thinks.

The Royals and Indians are constructed differently on paper, but the stats say otherwise. When it comes to overall team slash lines, the Indians and the Royals are extremely similar.

In 2015, the Royals produced a slash line of .269 AVG/.322 OBP/.412 SLUG compared to the Indians who produced a slash line of .256 AVG/.325 OBP/.401 SLUG. The averages are off by a little, but the on-base percentage and slugging percentage are almost identical.

During the playoffs, the media put a ton of emphasis on the Royals low strikeout rate, high contact rate and high defensive fielding percentage. When looking at those stats in the regular season both teams recorded very similar numbers

In 2015, the Royals ranked 1st in all of baseball with a 16% strikeout rate compared to the Indians who were ranked 7th in baseball with a 19% strikeout rate. As for Contact Rate, the Royals ranked 1st in the MLB with a 81.9% compared to the Indians who were 3rd in the MLB with a 81.6%. And for fielding percentage, the Indians actually ranked higher with a .987 mark (5th in MLB) than the Royals who had a .985 fielding percentage (11th in MLB).

The similarities don’t just show in hitting and fielding but in the pitching as well. The Royals clearly have a better bullpen then the Indians do, but if you look at the totals between the entire pitching staffs the stats are again similar during the regular season.

During the season, the Indians pitching staff generated a 3.67 ERA while only giving up a .237 batting average against and a .297 on-base percentage against. The Royals pitching staff, last season, generated a 3.73 ERA while giving up a .249 batting average against and a .314 on-base percentage against.

I understand that it’s hard to compare the whole staffs side by side but when you look at the stats the starters and bullpen for both teams practically even each other out. So on paper the Indians don’t seem to far away from the Royals, but, of course the Indians must make a couple of additions to match the Royals.

Entering the offseason the Indians have a few needs that need to be addressed whether its through free agency or via trade. Those needs include a right-handed power bat preferably in right field, one or two relievers, and a stop-gap center fielder before Bradley Zimmer is ready.

Here is a list of free agents that could fit those needs through free agency:

Right-Handed power bat/right fielder:

OF Justin Upton- .251 AVG, 26 HR, 81 RBI (this is my pipe dream)

1B/OF Steven Pierce- .218 AVG, 15 HR, 40 RBI

OF Alex Rios- .255 AVG, .287 OBP, 32 RBI

OF/2B Ben Zobrist- .276 AVG, .359 OBP, 56 RBI

Reliever: 

LHP Antonio Bastardo- 2.98 ERA, .188 BAA, 1.13 WHIP

RHP Ryan Madson- 2.13 ERA, .212 BAA, 0.96 WHIP

LHP Jeremy Affeldt- 5.86 ERA, .293 BAA, 1.61 WHIP

RHP Darren O’Day- 1.52 ERA, .198 BAA, 0.93 WHIP

Center Fielder:

OF Denard Span- .301 AVG, .365 OBP, 11 SB

OF Dexter Folwer- .250 AVG, 17 HR, 46 RBI

OF Austin Jackson- .267 AVG, 9 HR, 48 RBI

OF Rajai Davis- .258 AVG, 8 HR, 18 SB

Most of these free agents are “within” the Indians price range (of course Upton is a little bit of a stretch) and now after the Indians declined OF Ryan Raburn’s option, the Indians need a couple of outfielders. The Indians also have a couple of good bullpen options on the free agent market to pick from, but who knows if they can pull the trigger because of their budget.

Out of the free agent right fielders, if I were the Indians, I would try to sign Alex Rios due to his solid veteran savvy and low price tag and/or Steve Pierce who is a low-risk high-reward guy who can bring the Indians some pop.

Out of the bullpen pieces I think the Indians should go after Antonio Bastardo and/or Darren O’Day because behind Cody Allen these arms would solidify an already solid bullpen. And finally, for a stop-gap center fielder the Indians should attempt to sign Dexter Fowler, but if he is out of the Indians small price range they should go after Rajai Davis who can generate speed and play a quality center field defensively.

Right now, after factoring in arbitration cases, the money the Indians sent over in the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn trade and current player contracts the Indians look to be sitting in the $74-$75 million range for payroll. This gives the Indians about $10-$15 million to use this winter for additions if they want to stay within the $85-$90 million range.

With the lack of funds to go out and get a big name free agent (unless they increase their funds) trading may be the route to go. A couple of players that could be on the Indians radar are Marlins OF Marcell Ozuna and Los Angeles Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig. If the Indians go to the trade route I believe that they will focus on offense more than pitching because of their glaring need for a bat.

The Indians will get an internal offensive and defensive boost during the 2016 season because prized SS Francisco Lindor will be with the club for a full season. Many thought if Lindor started the year with the Major League club that he would’ve been enough to put the Indians into the playoffs last season.

The Indians, with Lindor joining the core, are just a couple pieces away from a solid playoff team and when we look at the stats between the 81-80 Indians and the World Series champion Royals, the gap may not be as large as we think.

 

By Gabe Cohn

Follow Me on Twitter: @CSTGabe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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