Indians would benefit to follow Cubs model of youth
The Cleveland Indians went toe-to-toe with the red-hot Chicago Cubs this afternoon. Corey Kluber was once again masterful, and for his sake didn’t take the loss today. Unfortunately as a team the Tribe did lose, done in by a ninth-inning home run by the Cubs Kris Bryant–as well as an inability to scratch out any more than the one late run in the ninth to tie the game. Indians’ skipper Terry Francona is known to like his veterans. But this year’s struggles have led to a youth movement that they need to embrace, and to look no further than the team they lost to today to know why.
The Indians have experienced more success than recent years than the Cubs (Who hasn’t?), but over the last few years you could call it a “calculated failure”. They avoided big-name free agents–as well as the contracts that come with them–building depth in the farm system and using their draft picks to solidify their future.
On a normal day, the Cubs boast four rookies in the starting lineup. The loss today of Jorge Soler hurts the Cubs, but the front office has built depth to overcome injuries like this. It’s simply what happens in a 162-game season. As Kluber battled Jon Lester, the Cubs first big free agent signing, it wasn’t hard to see the similarities in the two teams and the direction they’re heading–or could be if the Indians adopt a similar philosophy.
The Indians already have a starting staff, spots one through four, to rival any team in baseball. They have solid core players in Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. And this year, after shedding several “failed” signings, the Indians are moving forward with the youth. Francisco Lindor, Giovanny Urshela have been two key players, while several other rookies have made appearances this season.
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Without waiting for the window of opportunity to pass with the core of Gomes, Brantley, Kluber and Kipnis, the Indians need to focus on youth. Of course, there will be growing pains. Before Lindor was called up, his numbers weren’t overly impressive, and many thought it was too soon. Now with a slash of .298/.332/.424, not many are speaking out against the move.
Cody Anderson showed some promise early on before hitting the DL. Players like Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer appear to be a year or more away, but it may be time to fast track them. Zimmer has played college ball, so his timeline can be advanced. The Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber is a great example. He spent less than a full year as a Cubs farmhand and is now a critical part to their success. Will Zimmer be the same impact player? Maybe. Maybe not. As our Jeff Mount recently wrote, waiting two years for him to get here won’t help any.
It’s time for the Indians to make the future now. This team isn’t that far off the pace, and I know that sounds off for a team in last place. But now rid of some bad deals, and roster spots open, the September roster expansion needs to include some of these young prospects. Give them a taste of what the Show is like and see how they respond. It’s not a “sink or swim” situation, but the youth model for teams seems to be working. It might be time to hop on board.