GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians understand that their window for competing for a World Series crown is wide open. Even with a depleted roster, Cleveland captured the American League pennant last year and pushed the Cubs to the limit in the Fall Classic.Lefty Andrew Miller -- a prized pickup at
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians understand that their window for competing for a World Series crown is wide open. Even with a depleted roster, Cleveland captured the American League pennant last year and pushed the Cubs to the limit in the Fall Classic.
Lefty Andrew Miller -- a prized pickup at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last summer -- played an integral role in the Tribe's run through October. The fact that the Indians landed Miller, and showed aggressiveness on other trade fronts, let the baseball world know that Cleveland was no longer standing pat due to the perceived payroll limitations.
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The Tribe not only wanted to go for it last fall, but it made moves to sustain its window in 2017.
"That was part of our thought process at the time," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "With the guys that we were targeting, [we wanted to] ideally find players that impacted us in '16 and also helped us address potential needs in '17 and beyond."
Expect a similar approach this season.
Miller -- acquired from the Yankees for four prospects, including highly touted outfielder Clint Frazier and lefty Justus Sheffield -- is under contract for the next two seasons. Outfielder Brandon Guyer, who was obtained in a deal with the Rays prior to the Deadline last year, signed an extension this winter through '18 with a team option for '19.
This past offseason, the Indians continued their aggressive additions. Cleveland signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million contract, representing the largest free-agent deal in franchise history. Lefty Boone Logan -- a target at the Trade Deadline last year -- came aboard on a one-year, $6.5 million pact that includes a team option for '18.
With those moves, the Indians fortified a roster that was already deemed one of the best in baseball.
Cleveland is the favorite to repeat as AL Central champion, but the first four months will be used to identify possible ways to get even better. Last year, the Indians needed help in the outfield, especially against lefty pitching, and landed Guyer. They also needed a lefty in the bullpen, and got one of the best relievers in the game in Miller.
The Indians also tried to trade for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but he blocked the deal before the Deadline and later approved a trade to Texas. By not having that deal go through, Cleveland retained catching prospect Francisco Mejia (No. 2, per MLBPipeline.com), outfielder prospect Greg Allen (No. 9), shortstop prospect Yu-Cheng Chang (No. 11) and relief prospect Shawn Armstrong (No. 25).
The Indians -- a franchise very reliant on drafting and developing -- have shown a willingness to part with young talent due to the window that's right in front of them. The signing of Encarnacion further displayed the kind of aggressive mindset that Cleveland's ownership and the front office have right now.
Looking ahead to this summer's Trade Deadline, Cleveland will likely be monitoring the outfield market (if Michael Brantley's latest comeback does not go as well as planned) or catching landscape (if Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez continue their offensive struggles). The Tribe's pitching staff is strong, but the depth runs the risk of being exposed if any injuries arise.
If such setbacks were to take place, the Indians made it clear last year that they will be relentless in their pursuit of a World Series title.
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.