The Indians are facing an offseason of changes following their early exit from the playoffs. Cleveland was swept by Houston in the American League Division Series on Monday. It was likely the last game for this group of players.
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says the team struggled to recapture the magic of that 2016 World Series run.
2016 vs. 2018
The Indians have lost six straight playoff games going back to last season.
“In 2016, a lot came together and a lot went right. They seemed to play really loose and free. They looked like a team that went down fighting. In 2018, they looked like a team that wanted to go home early.”
Free agents gone
Pluto says this year’s offseason will bring a lot of changes, as a number of players become free agents. Among them – relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, and All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley.
“I was trying to think the last time an Indians player of prominence became a free agent and at that point, the Indians signed him. I couldn’t come up with a name. The Indians either have them signed up before [free agency] or at midseason, or that person walks.”
So, Pluto expects that Michael Brantly and others will be gone, and "the team will be adding a lot of new players. And they won’t be breaking the bank."
“When the Indians go out early in the postseason, it puts a real dent in the budget. If you’re selling season tickets for the Indians, fans don’t want to hear it right now. They’re talking about Baker Mayfield.”
Pluto says players who will be returning include Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Yan Gomes and Edwin Encarnacion.
And he says the good news is that the starting pitching rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer will remain in tact.
“Usually the hardest thing to find is good starting pitching, so at least you have that. But you’ll have to build a bullpen and an outfield and you’re not gonna have a ton of money to spend.”
The other plus is that the Indians remain in a very weak American League Central Division.
“The Indians were the only team with a winning record. So they could turn around and go 85-77 and win that division next year. But I can’t sit here and say this was an anomaly. This was a reality. The gap between the Indians and these elite teams is huge.”
A last impression in the shadows
And, Pluto says the impression this team left on fans at Progressive Field on Monday will be a lasting one.
“Sitting at Progressive Field of the 37,000 who were there, there was 6,000 left. Most of them pretty quiet. Shadows were coming over the ballpark. Players are walking off and they had that look in their face that they just want to go home and not think about it. And unfortunately, that’s probably how your fans felt. And it really isn’t how you want them to feel going into the offseason.”