CLEVELAND, Ohio – AL Central is improving. Can the same be said for Indians?

The twins won 101 games last season. They lost a couple of their free agency power-hits, but the lineup that set a big league record with 307 homers still has a lot of hits.

White Sox have spent over $ 240 million this winter to improve their list. They were only 72-89 last year, but still had gone 11-8 against the Tribe.

The Indians won 93 games last year, but finished eight games behind the twins and lost the season after the season after four years. They traded Corey Kluber and his $ 17.5 million contract with Texas in December to create cash flow. He helped them fill a hole in second base by signing Cesar Hernandez, also adding Emmanuel Clase and outfield player Delino DeShields to the Kluber affair.

“I think overall, at this point we feel good where we have been with our list with the additions we have made,” said Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations. “We believe we have improved our bullpen with Emmanuel Clase, our outfield options with Delino DeShields and a really solid second base with Cesar Hernandez.”

The Indians open spring training on February 11 and Antonetti and the front office will continue to seek opportunities to improve the roster. But they’ll have to do it with a payroll that has been cut by over $ 44 million since 2017 when it hit a franchise record of $ 135 million.

The Tribe avoided arbitration with five players on Friday, including Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger, with five annual contracts that amounted to just over $ 26 million. However, the expected payroll stands at just over $ 90 million.

Indian baseball leaders know that operating on a tight budget is a fact. The same goes for those who manage the team. When Terry Francona was hired before the 2013 season, Antonetti told him bluntly that Cleveland was not Boston – Francona’s previous job – where there were no limits to the payroll.

However, wages went up in Francona’s first five years as manager before property hit the brakes. Last year it fell by $ 15 million to around $ 120 million. Now it is resting about $ 90 million.

In a company where there is always pressure, a limited budget adds even more. It is difficult to be perfect, to make every operation or game move successful. Not to mention injuries and poor performance. Rarely does a team play an entire season without being tested for injuries and collapses.

Antonetti, however, believes that the Indians can still win the division, make it into the postseason and compete for the World Series.

“We know that our division continues to improve,” he said. “The twins are the defending champions and we know that we have to eliminate them to go back to where we want to be. And the White Sox have improved a lot over the past few months. But we feel really good about the group of guys we brought back from last year and those that we added to that mix.

“We won 93 games last year and many of them were with young players and young players who moved effectively to the Major League level. We played better when we are younger … we feel like we are able to contend with the twins and the White Sox. “

Oscar Mercado, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber, Franmil Reyes and Jordan Luplow were among the young and untested players who helped change the Indian season around last year. Can they do it again? If not, can Indians afford to leave the organization and find players they can?

Cody Allen

The simple trader

Former Indian lifter Cody Allen.

Cody Allen, the Indians’ franchise leader for bailouts and relief appearances, is still looking for work after being released by the Twins last year.

Allen launched his second offseason bullpen on Wednesday in Dallas. He was throwing 91-92 mph, a slight increase from his first bullpen session. Allen worked with a four-ounce ball (the official MLB ball weighs between 5 and 5 1/4 ounces), which pitchers do to increase their speed.

Nineteen teams attended Allen’s first bullpen session on December 20. Wednesday’s training was a private session. Allen’s last season with the Tribe was 2018.

Free agent Tyler Olson, who has spent part of the past four seasons with the Tribe, is still unsigned. It attracted the interest of several teams. Olson’s 2019 season ended soon after coming with shingles.

Dan Otero, another free agent breeder who has spent the past four years with the Tribe, is not signed. Otero went 10-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 200 appearances with the Indians. He hit 154 and walked 27 in 219 innings.

Tyler Clippard, unlike Olson and Otero, found work after leaving the Indians’ bullpen as a free agent after 2019. He signed an annual contract of $ 2.75 million with the twins. The Indians were interested in keeping Clippard – who had had the most appearances (698) in the past decade – but lost the twins.

“We had great respect not only for the way he contributed, but also for his professionalism in the arena,” said Antonetti. “But I think he found an excellent solution and that finances make sense to him and we couldn’t make a move at that point.”

Travis Shaw

Getty Images

Travis Shaw has signed an annual $ 4 million deal with Toronto.

The Toronto Blue Jays, with the addition of Travis Shaw, could open the season with a battlefield manned entirely by children of former great leagues. Image Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the third, Bo Bichette at a short distance, Cavan Biggio per second and Shaw at the beginning. Guerrero and Biggo’s fathers (Vlad and Craig) are in the Hall of Fame. Bichette’s father Dante played 14 seasons and ended his career as a .299 hitter with 274 humeri. Jeff Shaw, drafted by the Indians in 1986, turned 12 and saved 203 games. … Antonetti said that no one in the Indian organization has been questioned in expanding the MLB’s investigation into the use of technology to steal signs. Houston has been under investigation since November. Now the Red Sox are also being studied. … Third base prospect Nolan Jones, according to Antonetti, is recovering well from right thumb surgery and should be ready to start spring training. … Negotiations between the Indians and Clevinger agents took care of getting a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. They settled for a one-year contract for $ 4.1 million, but apparently there was little discussion of an extension. This could come in the spring.

Abraham Almonte

The simple trader

The former outfielder of the Indians Abraham Almonte.

Checking out some old friends as spring training gets closer and closer:

* OF Abraham Almonte, who played with the 2015-17 Tribe, signed a minor league deal with San Diego.

* RHP Craig Stammen, who spent the 2016 season in minors with Indians while recovering from arm problems, signed a two-year $ 9 million deal with San Diego.

* C Tribe backup hunter Kevin Plawecki last season signed a $ 900,000 contract with Boston. It turned out that he changed places with Sandy Leon, the Tribe’s new backup receiver. The day the Indians acquired Leon from Boston, they did not weigh down Plawecki.

Joey Cora, who played for the Tribe in 1998, will return as a Pirate third-base coach.

* Asdrubal Cabrera, who played for the 2007-14 Tribe, has signed a $ 2.5 million annual deal with the World Series Nationals champion.

Lefty Rich Hill, which launched for the Indians in 2013, has signed a one-year deal with the twins for $ 7 million despite being sidelined until June after an elbow surgery.

* Hector Rondon, a former tribe prospect, has signed an annual $ 2.5 million deal with Arizona.

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