With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Indians squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the vision?CLEVELAND -- The Indians made it clear this offseason that they are not content with being the American League champions -- they want
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Indians squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the vision?
CLEVELAND -- The Indians made it clear this offseason that they are not content with being the American League champions -- they want to win one more game than they did in 2016.
• Every club preparing for Spring Training with own vision
Cleveland had a need for power, so it went out and signed free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. It also wanted to strengthen its bullpen, so it added veteran lefty Boone Logan. Those two fortify a roster that returns mostly intact and makes the Tribe one of the preseason favorites to repeat as division champs and contend for another pennant. The Indians' vision goes one step further, though -- win the whole thing.
"It's a new year. It's a fresh year," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "We believe we've got a really good mix of guys that has a chance to be a very good team. Now, that doesn't mean it's just going to happen, though. I think we all have profound appreciation for how hard it is to win and how hard it is to build a successful team, and that a lot of things go into that success.
"It's not just going to be a question of us just showing up and going out there. It's really the work that we put in from Day 1. I think that we've got the right group of guys and the right leadership in [manager Terry Francona] and our coaching staff to set that tone and begin that work in earnest when we're out in [Arizona]."
Even without offseason additions, Cleveland would be in great shape to contend for a second consecutive AL Central crown. But after coming excruciatingly close to winning a World Series -- the Cubs defeated the Indians in Game 7 of the Fall Classic -- the Tribe knew that there was no time better than the present to hit the accelerator.
Cleveland isn't known for blockbuster free-agent signings, but it added Encarnacion on a three-year pact worth $60 million guaranteed, marking the largest free-agent signing in franchise history. Logan was signed to a one-year, $6.5 million deal to help strengthen a bullpen already anchored by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Add in the raises some holdovers earned through arbitration, and the team's projected payroll now sits north of $120 million.
"There's no better time than now," Indians owner Paul Dolan said last month. "We're coming off the World Series almost-win, and with the core talent that we have in place, there's absolutely no better time to make that reach than now."
The dramatic increase in payroll -- Cleveland operated in the $85 million-$90 million range for the past few years -- came as a welcome surprise for Antonetti and the front office.
"You have certain preferences and guys that you think would be good targets and good fits for your team," Antonetti said. "At the start of the offseason, I didn't think we'd have any opportunity to sign either Edwin or Boone, let alone both of them, given how well they've performed and the markets we expected them to command, and then also with where we expected our payroll parameters to be.
"But, because of that incredible leap of faith of ownership, we were able to acquire two of our very top targets for our primary needs."
Encarnacion joins a lineup that already features Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez and, hopefully, a healthy Michael Brantley. Logan gives Cleveland six relievers who are virtual locks for the Opening Day bullpen, which projects as one of baseball's best. After enduring injuries this past year, the Tribe's rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin returns intact.
The Indians' ownership and front office made the team's vision clear with its successful winter. The players now know it is their turn to see the franchise's goals realized.
"We've got a long ways to go. It's a long season," Brantley said. "It's not going to be easy. The only thing I think we earned from last year is a target on our backs. We are the defending champions. When you come into town, everybody's going to know they're going to have to play a great game to beat us. It just raises everybody's expectation level, ours as well. We've got to go out there and get the job done."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.