In our Hope for the Hopeless series, we take a look at all of the teams in the league that finished under .500, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2012 season.
Unlike a lot of teams that we're going to be profiling in this series, the Indians really aren't a total lost cause for the next few seasons. As I mentioned earlier today in the Post-Mortem, the Indians have a solid core up the middle with Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley. Combine those four with rising star Lonnie Chisenhall at third base and (potentially) Shin-Soo Choo in right, and the Tribe could have a really solid offense next year.
Offensively, all Cleveland needs is a corner outfielder, a DH, and a first base….which are three very important offensive positions, so it's not as if a defense-first shortstop is all the team needs. The team has been counting on Matt LaPorta to fill one of those roles for years…and it still hasn't happened, and probably won't, meaning that an external solution will be necessary
But then….there's the pitching staff. Things were disastrous for the Indians this year, with Zach McAllister being the bright spot in his rookie season. Last year's ace Justin Masterson took a huge step back, but his style of pitching is erratic and prone to dramatic swings based on the defense behind him.
Cleveland *needs* starting pitching. Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, and Jeanmar Gomez all got double digit starts and had disastrous seasons. The Indians minor league system isn't ripe with pitching, especially at the upper levels. The team would need to either look into the free agency or trade markets for help, or they could cross their fingers and exercise the options on Roberto Hernandez and Ubaldo Jimenez and pray that they turn into their former selves, when both were Cy Young contenders.
It's a frustrating time to be an Indians fan after the second half collapses of the last two seasons. The team needs some sort of infusion of talent on the pitching mound, but at least the core of the offense is in good shape. There is a lot to build on here, and the Indians are going to have plenty of money to play with this winter to turn their core into a contender.