It has been a surprisingly and agonizingly cool Hot Stove season with many of the big-named free-agents still looking for their big paydays. Spring training is mere days away and most of the star players and teams still have no ideas where they are headed. The Indians are no exception; with their biggest addition of this deep frozen winter being Yonder Alonso and that didn’t exactly settle the fans expectations for a suitable replacement for the Philadelphia-bound Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, who returned to the Mets.
Suffice to say, this little nugget from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale probably will do more to rile and anger than it will excite. According to Nightengale, JD Martinez is growing increasingly frustrated with Boston’s reluctance to dole out the big bucks when he was the guy they have been long-rumored to covet. Boston, instead, has been looking for cheaper alternatives in case Martinez’ impatience pushes him elsewhere.
One of these ideas was Edwin Encarnacion. Per Nightengale, it died pretty quickly when the Indians asked for Jackie Bradley, Jr., but let’s just say that this report hasn’t been received with overwhelming happiness that the Indians have apparently let it be known that one of their true sources of power is available. Sure, both Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez can be reasonably expected to be in the 25-to-30 homer range; as can Alonso if last year in Oakland and Seattle was more than a mirage. The Indians seem to be going all in on completely healthy and strong campaigns from Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis if the Indians are making Encarnacion available. This is a risky proposition even if the AL Central appears to be theirs for the taking.
With so many names still available, it’s frustrating to see that the Indians are not being more proactive even with so many unknowns that they’re placing bets on. Picking up Brantley’s option has long been a curious move and it now has seemingly hamstrung the Indians’ ability to add. And for a fleeting moment, it looks like they were willing to subtract Encarnacion from their books as well. It all adds up to a less than assuring look at where the team sits at the moment. If the Dolans are content with a division title, that’s fine. But from a fan’s perspective, there’s a less than comfortable feeling about the optics that they may already be trying to shed payroll when we initially thought the World Series contention window is wide open.
Unless Nightengale’s report is erroneous (it’s probably not) and the Indians are going to pull a rabbit out of their hat (they probably won’t) then this will be the lid on a really disappointing winter for the team. Of all times to go for it, the team has allegedly chosen to stay quiet. Yet, today we found out that it could’ve been much more painful.