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With Terry Francona in fold, Indians can’t be so cheap

Oct 6, 2012, 6:09 PM EDT

Terry Francona AP

The Indians’ move to hire Terry Francona looks like a coup. Getting a two-time World Series-winning manager to come to Cleveland and take over a team that hasn’t finished over .500 in five years makes for quite the turn of events.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see if it does any good. Francona was a great handler of personalities in Boston and kept a roster loaded with big salaries and big egos pointed in the right direction for the vast majority of his tenure.

This will be an entirely different kind of gig for Francona. He won’t have to worry about handling a Manny Ramirez or a Josh Beckett or a David Ortiz. Of course, he also won’t have any of those kind of talents to rely on.

Here’s a truth about the Indians: even as salaries have continued to increase throughout the game, their franchise-high payroll came back in 2001. They spent $93 million that year. The last three years, they’ve come in at $61 million, $49 million and $65 million.

Now the good news: Travis Hafner‘s awful contract is finally off the books. At $13 million, he was the team’s only player to make more than $5 million this year. Also, the guy who made $5 million, Grady Sizemore, likewise contributed nothing and is now a free agent.

That leaves five guys, all of whom will get raises over $5 million if they’re kept in 2013: Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Chris Perez. Many view Choo and Perez as trade candidates. Cabrera and Masterson could be as well. Jimenez has a $5.75 million option that could be declined after his rough year.

Essentially, the Indians have the ability to start over and build around Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis if they want. And that might have been a good idea had they chosen Sandy Alomar Jr. as manager. The Francona hiring suggests that they want to contend in 2013. And they need to after drawing just 1.6 million fans this year.

So, it seems a lot more likely today that the Indians will be keeping Cabrera, Choo and Masterson. They’re not going to be major players in free agency, but they need to bring in at least one first base/DH-type, an outfielder and a starting pitcher. A Perez trade might fill one of those needs.

Fortunately, the Indians won’t need to be a great team to contend for a playoff spot in the AL Central. If Kipnis and Santana can play their best for full years instead of half-seasons and some young arms come along, it’s hardly a hopeless cause.

  1. pastabelly - Oct 6, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Good luck to Tito – class act

  2. wjband - Oct 6, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    so itll be like when he coached the phillies. that didnt turn out that well.

    • xmatt0926x - Oct 6, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      Not sure if you are a Phillies fan or not but his time with the Phillies would never be held against him. He and the Phillies over the years have acknowledged many times that he was pretty much a sacrificial lamb in those days. He was a 1st time manager with a team that everyone knew was not built to compete. This was pre-Citizens Bank Park and the organization had a totally different financial mindset then. It’s very similar to the new manager in Houston. He basically knows he’s a caretaker for a deep, multiyear rebuilding phase.

  3. jboyxl73 - Oct 6, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Good for Tito … Indians are getting a class act …. Lol they could have ended up with Bobby V ….

    • Kevin Gillman - Oct 6, 2012 at 6:50 PM

      Bobby V was interviewed before they hired Manny Acta 3 years ago…LOL It could have been worse.

  4. Kevin Gillman - Oct 6, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    I want to add something here…the Indians throughout their entire storied history, and yes, they do have that, they had never brought in someone that has won 2 WS titles to manage their team. This is just like when Detroit brought in Jim Leyland a year after they lost 110 games. This CAN have that same kind of impact too. I love Sandy, but I am glad they hired Francona.

    • frank433 - Oct 6, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      Tigers were 71-91 the year before they hired Leyland. They also called up Verlander, Granderson, and Zumaya for the whole year then they signed Kenny Rogers (plus an injured Ordonez and Carlos Guillen coming back healthy) I’m not too familiar with the Indians, but I doubt they can add that kind of talent in 1 offseason. As great as a manager can be, you need talent too.

      • Kevin Gillman - Oct 6, 2012 at 7:28 PM

        Frank, the Indians don’t have a Justin Verlander, no doubt, but they do have some talent in the high A-s, that could make a major impact in 2 years. For now, the Indians beat Justin verlander on July 26th, and were 3 1/2 games back at that point. Then the bottom hit the floor, but there are guys that either on the team now or through trades that can contribute on 2013 and beyond. They just have to make the right plays. Josh Willingham could have been on this team now, if Antonelli had agreed to a 3 year deal, it was never about the money. Carlos Beltran also could have been an Indian, but he chose St. Louis, that was never about the money. But now they also have a manager who is highly respected all throughout the league. Not too sure Manny Acta was regarded highly, but of course it wasn’t all of his fault either. But there is no reason why Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana can’t have very good seasons in 2013. No reason why Michael Brantley can’t continue to develop into the consistent hitter he was in 2012. Defensively, up the middle, the Indians are very solid. But they must get better at starting pitching. I think Justin Masterson can be good, but I also don’t think he can be that ace they need. Ubaldo needs a lot of help, but Carlos Carrasco will be ready to pitch, and he did well, before he had TJ surgery in 2011. Plus, there is a reason why Francona took this job, he is ready, and hopefully the Indians can make some moves here and there, and are ready to contend for a full season.

      • tashkalucy - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:31 PM

        Kevin,

        I disagree with you about everything.

    • florida76 - Oct 6, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      No, it’s factually inaccurate to use the word “storied” when describing the history of the Cleveland Indians. Anyone with a “storied” history must have at least several world titles on the resume, and the Indians only have two(or the output of the Miami Marlins).

      In fact, the Indians have gone since 1948 without winning the big one, which is just plain inexplicable. There’s a reason why the movie “Major League” was based on the Tribe.

      That said, the Indians do have a good amount of HOF players, so they would rank ahead of teams like the Rangers and San Francisco Giants.

  5. blantoncollier - Oct 6, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    There is no way the Dolan’s spend the money to make the Tribe a winner.

    They dont have the bankroll and they dont have the guts.

    The create a budget based on attendance and TV ratings.

    They drew less than 1.4million you do the math.

    • Kevin Gillman - Oct 6, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      They drew 1.6 M, so you were wrong there, and their ratings were high on STO, right around the time they were contending.

      So let’s just see what happens during the offseason. I will say this, they DID give Kerry Wood a 2/20M deal a few years ago, so they have spent money before.

      But I will go on record to say put up or shut up time for the Dolans, because IF they signed Terry, they need to spend money elsewhere.

      • tashkalucy - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:32 PM

        Kevin,

        Their rating were down 1/4 from the year before in early August! I didn’t hear how they’d slumped since then.

      • Kevin Gillman - Oct 7, 2012 at 7:46 PM

        If it was down, it happened in August, because in June, they were ahead of where they were at the previous season. The losing streak obviously didn’t help.

  6. sweepthleg - Oct 6, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Well we know if an infield-fly is called 30 yards into the outfield and it cost the Indians a game. Terry won’t get upset about it because he knows it’s a “judgement call” and an a MLB ump has unquestionably good judgement.

    • dan1111 - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:18 AM

      Francona is certainly diplomatic, but don’t mistake that for not caring. You may want a manager to say what he thinks about everything–until you get one that does that. And then you wish your team had (hired/not fired) Francona.

  7. aceshigh11 - Oct 6, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    I wish Francona all the luck in the world.

    Honestly, with the way the Sox have behaved over the last year, I could see myself kinda rooting for the Indians when they play the Sox next year.

    Call me a bad fan, but a team has to earn peoples’ loyalty, and the Sox have done just about everything possible to flush a decade of goodwill down the toilet.

    • tashkalucy - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:35 PM

      You are a true Red Sox fan.

      Bitching, moaning like a little kid that doesn’t get his way, and using any comment to somehow twist it to the Red Sox.

      America doesn’t care about the Red Sox! You’re a bunch of two-faced, low-class fans, and the way you people turned on Nomar the day he was traded let America see you for the slimeballs you are.

  8. 8man - Oct 6, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    Tito is 8-0 in World Series games. Good hire.

    ‘Nuff said,

  9. dgcaz - Oct 7, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    I wonder if he talked to Lebron before deciding on Cleveland….

    I hope he wins the world series and tell’s luchino and henry to kiss his ass when he accepts the trophy

    • dan1111 - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:13 AM

      But of course he would never do that. And that is what is great about him.

  10. dan1111 - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:12 AM

    Jimenez had a rough year, but a young guy with his potential for under 6 million is still a bargain. I would be shocked if that option is not picked up. If the Indians don’t believe in him, they can trade him to someone who does.

    As for Francona, I’m glad to see him back in the game. As a Sox fan, I’ve always been a fan of his (and never more than this year!).

  11. willclarkgameface - Oct 7, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    Terry Francona is the man and will do an excellent job. I don’t feel like they are going to be super competitive in 2013, but look out in 2014 and beyond.

    If this experiment doesn’t go well, it won’t be Terry’s fault. Blame the ownership for not spending to put the pieces in place to get it done.

  12. tashkalucy - Oct 7, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    This reminds me of when the Tampa Bay Rays hired hometown boy Lou Pinella to take over the team. That was great. But they still had a terrible ownership group and a dysfunctional front office. Well, the Indians ownership group and front office can give the Tampa Bay people a run for their money.

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