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Know your enemy: Cleveland Indians

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This is not your father’s Cleveland team. Heck, it’s not even last year’s ballclub.

Goodyear Ballpark, spring home of the Indians
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

KEY ADDITIONS: Eddie Rosario, Amed Rosario, Ben Gamel

KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Brad Hand, Carlos Santana, Domingo Santana, Delino DeShields, Tyler Naquin, Adam Cimber

The Indians came within one win over the Twins of being the AL Central champions in 2020. They did make the expanded postseason and promptly got swept in a wild-card series by the Yankees.

And then... they pretty much dismantled their team. Just look at that list above! The Indians have shed themselves of perhaps their best position player, one of their top starting pitchers and three of their better relievers, including their closer.

In doing so they have shed enough payroll that their 2021 total player compensation might, per Spotrac, be under $40 million.

If that’s not an argument for a salary floor, I don’t know what is.

The Indians still do have the 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner and a couple of other young starting pitchers who could be decent, including Triston McKenzie and one of the 2019 poster boys for “Don’t do this in a pandemic,” Zach Plesac. (He’s the nephew of former Cub and NBC Sports Chicago announcer Dan Plesac, in case you were wondering.)

The bullpen, though... yikes. Without Brad Hand, the total number of MLB saves recorded in 2020 by current members of the Cleveland bullpen is... two. One from James Karinchak, who will get the first shot to close, and the other from ancient Oliver Perez.

There are still some decent hitters on this team, including Jose Ramirez and the new left fielder, Eddie Rosario, so they might put up some runs. They’ll need to, because the staff is going to give them up at a high rate. At best, this appears to be a .500 ballclub.

It’s also the last year we will be calling them “Indians,” as they announced in December that they’ll be rebranding for the 2022 season. After this season, the Cubs won’t face them again until 2024, so whatever the new identity is (Spiders? Rocks? Blues? Something else?) should have taken hold by then.

The Cubs are scheduled to face the Tribe (they’ll have to dump that alternate nickname, too) in a pair of two-game series in 2021:

May 11-12 at Progressive Field

June 21-22 at Wrigley Field