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Cleveland snapped its nine-game losing streak Thursday night with a 7-4 win over the Royals that helped Terry Francona’s team avoid falling below .500 for the first time since May 1. While this young team deserves to be proud of their exciting comeback, capped by Franmil Reyes’ first homer at Progressive Field, it appears to be a temporary respite in what seems destined to end as Francona’s first losing season of tenure at The Land.
Cleveland is still as close in ranking to the Twins in fourth place, hugely disappointing, as they are to the division-leading White Sox. His first nine-game losing streak since the Manny Acta era should cause a delayed reexamination of this club’s roof.
Julio opened with sweeps by the Astros and Rays, who sent off the Tampa Tribe with a seven-inning no-hitter, extending a sobering stretch that included series losses to the Tigers, Twins and Pirates in the past three weeks. . The unofficial nature of the no-nos did not prevent them from becoming the first team in MLB history to be hitless three times in one season.
On June 29, the day before Detroit swept them on a doubleheader to begin the losing streak, Cleveland was two games behind in the wild-card chase, another half game behind Chicago in the AL Central and had 26% chance of reaching the final. playoffs, according to Fangraphs. That figure dropped to 5.4% before Thursday’s win. There are still four AL East teams and four AL West teams with better records, which means the climb to wild-card spot is perhaps even more daunting than their eight-game divisional advantage. the White Sox.
The two starters with the most innings thrown, Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale, are on the disabled list with no schedule to return, and the third (Zach Plesac) returned from a rare thumb injury Thursday at a 60 pitch limit. He hung a slew of slow pitches, two of which resulted in home runs for Carlos Santana and Hunter Dozier, and allowed three runs in four innings.
That trio aside, Cleveland’s starters have combined for an 8.00 ERA, bringing the total rotation ERA down to 5.30 (27 in MLB, 13 in AL), a disastrous result for an organization with a reputation for producing. young arms.
Sure, Cleveland is still just five games away from the wild-card hunt, and that’s not an embarrassing deficit considering all the injuries (aforementioned starters Eddie Rosario, Josh Naylor, Jordan Luplow) they’ve suffered in recent weeks. Perhaps the Fightin ‘Francons can save this final series of the first half against the Royals, come out strong from the All-Star break and convince the front office that they have a chance to compete this season.
However, for the first time in a long time, it would be a mistake for Cleveland to buy at the deadline. All that time in the treatment room, combined with the poor performances of many of the healthy players on the roster, has doomed the club’s opportunity to maintain its status as a true contender with the remnants of the core that led them to the Fall Classic in 2016. It’s time to start looking beyond the second half, and even beyond 2022.
Last season, Cleveland finished one game away from its fourth division title in five years, even with Francisco Lindor enduring what was, at the time, the worst year of his career at the plate (an outing for which fans of the Mets would just be a little less upset). Tribe’s strength last year was its throwing and defense. If he squinted, he could see a possible return to the postseason behind Bieber, Jose Ramirez and a group of talented youngsters beginning to realize their potential.
But Bieber hurt his shoulder, and while his healthy form was good enough to warrant an All-Star game invitation, he wasn’t the world champion he was in 2020, which would have been a tall order anyway. Ramirez also deservedly made the All-Star team, but he’s unlikely to match his first three previous MVP results. The biggest problem of all, now and for the future, is the lack of development shown by Cleveland’s young position players.
Bobby Bradley, a 2014 third-round pick, has exhibited the group’s greatest promise as a high-powered first baseman. But he has a lot of holes in his swing, and as a result he strikes out a ton; If it is the most successful product on your system, there is a problem. Amed Rosario is still only 25 years old, but we have nearly 2,000 plate appearances in the majors that tell us he will never be an average offensive shortstop, and his defense isn’t good enough to make up for it. Corner infielder Yu Chang and Owen Miller were completely outclassed in their stints in the majors this season. Andrés Giménez is only 22 years old and could still be the shortstop of the future who was acquired in the Lindor trade, but his line of .179 / .226 / .308 in 85 plate appearances this year wasn’t exactly encouraging. Jake Bauers was traded to Seattle last month after he ran out of opportunities.
Then there are the outfielders, who have been the second least valuable group in the sport. Bradley Zimmer, a 2014 first-round pick, is 28 and has never matched the .692 OPS he posted as a rookie in 2017. Luplow and Oscar Mercado are hitting below Mendoza’s line. Naylor and Rosario were below the league average at the plate before getting injured. Harold Ramirez, a 26-year-old who left the Marlins in February, has the highest OPS + among active options at 106.
This is not the core of a club that can make noise in October.
But we don’t have to worry about GM Mike Chernoff making myopic moves. Even though it would have fallen to the team in the recent past to be more aggressive in acquiring veteran players, team owner Larry Dolan has shown little desire to exceed his established roster. When Cleveland had a legitimate shot at ending MLB’s longest title drought during its three-year career for the divisional championship (2016-18), it largely missed the moment after being so close to the Cubs. in the curse of the World Series.
Cleveland traded Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati before the 2019 trade deadline, then sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego before the 2020 deadline; both moves abruptly damaged seasons harboring playoff aspirations to avoid losing players who would later leave in free agency. In January, Lindor and Carlos Carrasco were sent to the Mets to cut costs. Former rotation member Adam Plutko and reliever Adam Cimber were also traded this offseason in separate deals, both for cash in exchange. Rather than use the money saved from all these exchanges to prop up the outfield, Cleveland sat on his hands.
Interestingly, their 2016 World Series opponents have fallen out of playoff contention at the same time, with an 11-game losing streak that finally ended Wednesday with a Cubs victory. Chicago also appears to be in a cost-conscious rebuild that some would call overdue. But the average Cleveland fan probably would have traded fan experiences with the Wrigley faithful after their classic championship showdown, even setting aside the historic victory. At least Cubs fans could see the core of their team make several repeat runs without having to cut several key components from the roster mid-season. Ramírez and Roberto Pérez are the only significant contributors to the 2016 pennant-winning team who have stayed the entire time in Cleveland, and Pérez hardly makes a difference.
So if it doesn’t make sense to buy, which players could the Tribe sell to true contenders over the next few weeks to win back prospects? There are not many options. In a reflection of the franchise’s $ 53 million payroll, the lowest in the league, according to Spotrac, the list contains only a few outstanding free agents, none of whom would bring a substantial return. The most likely trade candidates in a measured sale would be Cesar Hernandez (.223 BA, .303 OBP, and -6 defensive runs saved), injured outfielder Eddie Rosario (who was not tendered by Minnesota last winter and has a career – OPS down .685 in 2021) and reliever Bryan Shaw (3.25 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 27 walks in 36 appearances).
The sad irony here is that changing Ramirez is probably the most sensible way to go. The team’s MVP is signed only until 2023. Unless a group of young players dramatically improve or Dolan suddenly allows a spending spree after the pandemic, Cleveland hasn’t had a path to the World Series for the past two years. and a half of Ramírez’s contract. (which pays you $ 12 million in 2022 and $ 14 million in 2023). The organization’s agricultural system was ranked # 2 by Keith Law from Athletic during the preseason, and a hugely successful deal from the three-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner could climb to the top spot. A move of such magnitude is likely to happen in the offseason, but if you’re impressed this month with a heavy offering on prospects near the majors, why not jump ahead of the inevitable reload now?
Cleveland announced in December that it would adopt a new nickname before the 2021 season. It will be a new era for a franchise that has been known as the Indians since 1915 and has long resisted parting ways with the racist and tacky Chief Wahoo. It would be ideal to usher in the new moniker with a team worthy of the World Series next season. But its owner’s stingy approach has already made it nearly impossible.
As painful as it may be for team fans to hear this for the umpteenth time, the probability of a future World Series title will likely only increase significantly with a move that will greatly decrease the odds of a championship this season and the next. Even without a Ramirez trade, it’s almost certainly not going to happen, anyway.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.