Can cash-strapped Cleveland Indians still compete for a division title?

Team’s payroll has hit rock bottom, but Tribe is still optimistic

Can cash-strapped Cleveland Indians still compete for a division title?
Cleveland Indians Progressive Field (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - In 2018, the Indians opened the season with a $124 million payroll, which put them in the top half of Major League Baseball.

Three short years later, they’re under $40 million, and at the very bottom.

Gone is the game’s best shortstop (Francisco Lindor) ... one of the game’s best closers (Brad Hand) ... and two other key players (Carlos Carrasco and Carlos Santana) from what has been a perennial contender.

You can debate the decisions. Could they really have paid Frankie? Are Santana’s best days behind him?

But you can’t debate this: it’s been a long, painful fall in a short amount of time. Tribe fans are beyond frustrated, wondering how their team will still compete?

“Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said on Thursday. “When you start with two of the best players at their position, that is a really great starting point.

“It will be a different group, but it’s a group we feel is young and talented.”

The talent includes Eddie Rosario, who as a member of the Minnesota Twins belted 11 home runs, 12 doubles and three triples in 45 games at Progressive Field.

“We can talk about who we don’t have, but I’d rather talk about who we do have,” pitcher Adam Plutko said. “Eddie Rosario is a guy who just abused us over the years, now he’s on our team.”

Mostly, though, the Indians are going to have to survive on pitching. No organization develops it better, no team will rely on it more.

But no doubt, it’s tough to watch a small-market team like the San Diego Padres dish out $340 million to Fernando Tatis Jr. recently, the type of deal that could have kept Frankie in a Tribe uniform, while instead the Indians head in the opposite direction.

“It would be inappropriate for me to talk about San Diego’s rationale, other than Tatis is a great player and they wanted to do everything they could to keep him,” Antonetti said.

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