They won about the quietest 85 games in baseball last year. I was surprised when I looked that up because I didn't recall them being anywhere near the wild-card race, yet the standings show they missed being in the wild-card game instead of the Athletics by only three games.
They have the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber, who the Tribe's TV guys spent nearly an entire inning interviewing while Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant were smashing home runs off his rotation-mate, Trevor Bauer.
Bauer's an interesting case. The third overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Diamondbacks, Arizona didn't hesitate to trade him as there were rumors they didn't like his work habits. (Of course, that was the Towers/Gibson "Grit" D'backs, so there's a caveat right there.) Bauer, who just turned 24, had 23 decent-but-not-great starts for Cleveland last year and they are hoping he steps up his game in 2015. Gavin Floyd was supposed to be their third starter but he reinjured his right elbow yesterday and is out "for the foreseeable future."
Say. Think maybe the Tribe might be interested in Edwin Jackson? Can't hurt to ask.
The Indians' big offseason acquisition was Brandon Moss, obtained from the Athletics for a minor leaguer. Moss is 31 and had a pretty good year for Oakland in 2014, and will be installed in right field in Cleveland while Nick Swisher moves to full-time DH. Whether Swisher comes back from an injury-plagued 2014 will be a major factor in whether the Indians contend this year.
But heck, they won 85 games with him missing a lot of time, and with a rotation mostly in shambles after Kluber. They had a lot of help from a solid bullpen which was led by first-time closer Cody Allen, who was handed the job after John Axford pitched his way off the roster.
As with the White Sox, in a division where last year's playoff teams might be in decline, the Indians could lurk around the fringes of the wild-card race again.
The Cubs will play the Tribe in one of those four-game, back-to-back two-game sets that are the bane of the interleague schedule. They work fine when they're in the same city (as with the Cubs and White Sox last year), but when the interleague matchups are the same division and the "rivalry" games expand to six, there has to be another team that gets this two-and-two thing. So the teams will play June 15 and 16 at Wrigley Field, then reconvene June 17 and 18 in Cleveland. In any case, I can think of three Cubs who would be very happy to face Trevor Bauer again.