Any team that wins 96 games and comes within a win of the World Series has had an outstanding season. And when that team has its core of players back the following year, it must be considered a favorite, especially if you figure General Manager Mark Shapiro continues his magic and improves the team in the offseason.And, for the most part, I agree.
But what kinda Mark Shapiro "magic" has he been seeing? I don't want to come across as trashing Shapiro, because obviously, he's done a fantastic job. He's rebuilt the Indians. There's young talent littered across the diamond.
But the task he has to complete now (adding veteran players and key free agents), hasn't exactly been a task he's excelled at. Shapiro has built the Indians through the farm system. His best moves have been the ones where he trades an aging veteran for a prospect (and he gets a Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner or Coco Crisp). He's drafted well and has had a good eye for prospects. In that regard, he's been phenomenal.
However, the moves he's made that haven't worked out tend to be his free agent signings. Despite his Game 2 heroics, I can't believe anyone thinks that the Trot Nixon signing went well. How about Matt Lawton? Ricky Gutierrez? Roberto Hernandez? David Dellucci?
I'm not saying that there hasn't been some good ones (Paul Byrd), but Shapiro's track record with free agents isn't exactly stellar. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a lot of this also has to do with his budget constraints; he's had to go for bargain basement guys and mediocre talent. That's fine, I understand that.
But right now, the Tribe is in a position to compete for years to come. They should be past the stage of bargain shopping.
Shapiro needs to add solid veteran talent this offseason. A run producing corner outfielder would be a nice start. Or maybe a veteran starting pitcher with big game experience. Whatever he adds, via free agency or trade, it needs to be a non-platoon player; he needs to be legit.
And for all the success that Shapiro has had (and he's had a lot) his strength hasn't been finding veteran talent to compliment his young ball club.
Which is exactly what needs to be done this offseason.