Z Files: Indians need to swing for the fences

Z Files: Indians need to swing for the fences

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Only four teams in Major League baseball had a lower payroll than the Indians in 2015. That's not news. Their payroll of $86,091,175 was higher than only the A's, Rays, Astros and Marlins. And while it's early in this offseason, the Tribe has yet to make the big splash that fans annually hope for yet never see. And unfortunately, that's not news, either. The Indians reportedly were in trade talks concerning Todd Frazier, the Reds infielder who's belted 64 home runs the past two seasons, but he's on his way to a division rival, the White Sox, instead. So, the Indians dished out $7 million to 34-year old first baseman Mike Napoli, who went deep 18 times for the Red Sox and Rangers last season, but certainly isn't the 'big bat' everybody's been waiting (praying?) for.

The economic reality is what it is for the Tribe, and the perpetual question is, which has to come first: the fans, or the marquee players to draw them. The Indians averaged just over 17,000 fans per game last season. Only the Tampa Bay Rays did worse. And the trust just doesn't seem to be there, on either side, between the fans and the Dolans, that improvement from one will lead to improvement from the other.
More frustrating, other small-market clubs find ways to spend and compete. The Kansas City Royals were ten spots higher on the payroll list than the Indians in 2015, and the champagne still hasn't dried from their World Series celebration. Yet the Indians keep bringing in thirty-somethings hoping to extend or resurrect their careers on one-year deals every winter. Dellucci, Reynolds, Moss, etc. These moves don't remotely excite the fans, and that eventually shows at the gate.

That's not to say that the 2016 Indians will be bad. Far from it. They have one of the best rotations in baseball, and a core of solid, if unspectacular players. But they could be better, and they have the pieces (pitchers) and prospects to swing a deal that could make it happen. Cleveland sports fans don't want to hear about 2017 or 2018, when one or more of these prospects will finally swing away at Progressive Field. They've waited long enough. There must be a way for the Tribe to make a splash this offseason without sacrificing the future. A multi-year, big money, big name splash. They do that, they'll finally light a fire under their fans, and then it'll be up to the fans to pay 'em back.

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