3 focal points for the second half of the season for the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians are kicking off the second half of the season down, but not completely out, when it comes to the playoff race. After a brutal nine-game losing streak, there are rumblings of the team being sellers at the deadline rather than aggressive buyers, but there’s still half a month to go – and I’m not so sure the Cleveland Indians shouldn’t be buyers no matter what.
Regardless of what happens to Cleveland’s postseason chances, there is going to be plenty to focus on as July rolls into the final two-month stretch.
Here are three focal points for the Indians the rest of the way:
Finding a trade that works for the present and future
The Indians are in the unique position of getting to be buyers at the deadline no matter what their record is – if they’re so inclined. With a small payroll, little money tied up beyond 2021, and a looming 40-man roster crunch, Cleveland should be looking for deals that bring back players with years of control – a Bryan Reynolds, for instance.
A move like that wouldn’t come cheap, but the Indians have the prospects to deal, and a player like Reynolds would fill one of the team’s annual positional headaches.
Reynolds is going to be coveted by plenty of teams – and it’s unclear if the Pittsburgh Pirates would even want to deal their best player – but it’s certainly the right fit for Cleveland and their future contention plans; Reynolds begins his first year of arbitration eligibility next season.
Continuing to push for the postseason
Even if the Indians fall further out of the playoff picture, this is invaluable experience for one of the youngest rosters in baseball.
July is a real meat grinder of a schedule – the Indians finish out the month playing the Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox – but things by default get a little bit easier in August and September. If the Indians can survive until August, things could get very interesting. But if the team falters in this critical stretch, it’s important to still play like something’s at stake.
I have no doubt Terry Francona would see things that way as well, riding that mentality right into 2022 when the contention window “officially” opens.
Just Stay Healthy
Imagine, if you will, that the key components of the starting rotation – Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale – were all healthy during Cleveland’s offensive awakening in June and July. We’d likely be talking about not just the Wild Card, but a potential American League Central crown as well.
Plesac has already returned to the rotation after his aggressive shirt-ripping incident, but it’ll certainly be exciting to see Civale (who is still among the league leaders in wins) and Bieber (who is still among the league leaders in strikeouts) return to a team that has found its offensive identity. I’m not the biggest believer in momentum from year to year, but ending the year on a strong note with a healthy staff heading into 2022 could really set Cleveland up nicely.