Translation: Good morning. Or in this case, Wake up!
No, this is not a complaint that the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians failed to sign Masahiro Tanaka. Yes, this is a wake-up call to the Ohio-based baseball clubs that the 2014 season is approaching rapidly, and neither squad has done anything significant so far this winter.
Both of these teams made it past Game 162 last year, bringing plenty of excitement to America’s heartland, but they’ve followed up their promising campaigns with no significant moves to help them build upon last year’s success.
What have the Reds done in an effort to repeat, or even improve upon, their 2013 Wild Card berth? They lost leadoff man and center fielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Texas Rangers, surrendering his stellar .400-plus on-base percentage. Sure, burner Billy Hamilton is taking over and should provide better defense, but he’ll have to prove he can get on base in order to put his 80-grade speed to work.
Starting pitching stalwart Bronson Arroyo is taking his 200-inning-eating ability to Arizona, leaving his rotation spot likely in the hands of Tony Cingrani, who has only two pitches in his repertoire and a steadfast desire to stick with his fastball in nearly all occasions.
Yes, the decision to let Choo and Arroyo go is defensible, particularly from a financial standpoint, but when the biggest acquisition the Queen City team has made this offseason is Skip Schumaker, something is amiss.
Cincinnati has St. Louis and Pittsburgh (another do-nothing team) to contend with in the National League Central, and Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Arizona and likely a surprise team or two to contend with for postseason spots. Doing all but nothing in the wake of last season’s 90-win campaign is inexplicable and inexcusable.
At the other corner of the state, the Tribe has done a bit more to secure its present and future, but not much. Starting hurlers Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are gone, as are closer Chris Perez and his bullpen mate Joe Smith.
John Axford was brought in to take Perez’s place in the ninth inning, and Drew Stubbs was dealt to Colorado for reliever Josh Outman, so the two vacated spots in the pen have been back-filled. And David Murphy was inked to a two-year deal, which covers for the loss of Stubbs. That’s three of five spots covered. Additionally, Michael Brantley was signed to a four-year deal with a team option for 2018.
However, that does leave the two gaping holes in the rotation to fill. Danny Salazar seems capable of taking over one spot, but the competition for the fifth starting gig will be a battle royale featuring Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Shaun Marcum, Trevor Bauer and Aaron Harang.
No, a fifth-starter role is not something to be overly concerned about, but the overall effort by Cleveland to improve on last year’s 92-victory success has been underwhelming. There are a plethora of AL teams with the potential to be playoff contenders. If the Indians aren’t careful, they could go from the postseason to one of the league’s bottom feeders in no time.