One of the surprising early rumors of the 2018-19 offseason for Major League Baseball is the Cleveland Indians wanting to reduce payroll. The Indians, who finished the season with a 91-71 record, won the American League Central by 13 games. Of all the playoff teams, the Indians retained the worst record coming into the postseason. After the collapse of the Minnesota Twins, they were virtually guaranteed the division. The Houston Astros manhandled the Indians in the playoffs. However, despite having a lot of good players, the Indians are looking to tear down payroll. That is a mistake.
The 2018 Indians team had their flaws. The bullpen was mostly terrible. The Astros exposed that in game 3 of the American League Division Series, when they went ape on the bullpen. Andrew Miller was on and off the disabled list. Cody Allen became inconsistent. The Indians were relying on Neil Ramirez, a cast-off, to get crucial outs. While that works in the lackluster division, the same concept does not work in the playoffs. The Indians picking up Brad Hand and Adam Cimber helped enormously, but could not help a sinking ship.
Now, the stalwarts of the bullpen, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, are free agents. They are not guarantees to come back. Worse comes to worse, they have Cimber and Hand to take their spots. However, Allen seems a likely candidate to return, if the team wanted to spend money. The Indians spent $169 million last season once all the salaries were calculated. The 2019 team already has $93 million under contract pre-arbitration/pre-arb players. The highest player by cost is Edwin Encarnacion ($21.666 million) at age 36. Corey Kluber is next at $15.2 million, followed by Jason Kipnis at $14.666 million.
The big one that the Indians could trade off is Jason Kipnis. It is clear since the arrival of Jose Ramirez that Kipnis is in a position of lower value. With Jose Ramirez stuck at second base, Jason Kipnis is forced to center field. Jason Kipnis is clearly a second baseman by trade. He can fake center field, but is not the smart option. Leonys Martin, coming off a near death experience, signed a deal to be a center fielder for the Indians in 2019 at 1 year, $3 million. The best defense moves Jose Ramirez back to third base, puts Kipnis at second and Martin in center field.
The idea of trading Jason Kipnis would be $14.666 million off the roster. However, why would they do such a thing? Jason Kipnis is basically insurance if Michael Brantley departs in free agency. There will be multiple offers for Brantley. There is a good chance he departs the Indians for the 2019 season.
The Indians are only a few good bullpen pieces from being a competitive team once again. There is no way that reducing payroll would help. The Indians owners are billionaires. They make millions upon millions each season from their fan base, sponsors and so on. They can afford to keep this payroll. Tearing apart this team would be a mistake.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.