Strengths: Middle infield. I know, I know, odd choice, but Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera make up a pretty awesome 2B SS combo on both sides of the ball. Also, their general lineup depth is pretty solid. Guys like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Ryan Raburn aren’t stars but they produce. I like the David Murphy signing too because it allows the Tribe to manage the exposure of the talented but flawed Drew Stubbs.
Weaknesses: Pitching. Their bullpen was a collection of mediocre arms anyway, and that was before the departure of the best of the bunch, Joe Smith. Vinnie Pestano may have the inside track at the closer gig with Chris Perez being gone, but how comfortable is manager, Terry Francona going to be with that? Now let’s look at the rotation. Not bad by any standards, but definitely boosted by resurgent seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, both free agents. Who is going to fill that void?
Off-season Needs: Well, apart from replacing the quality starts and innings provided by Jimenez and Kazmir, they definitely need to find a semi full-time lineup spot for Yan Gomes. There’s chatter about moving Carlos Santana to third base but his offensive value pretty much comes entirely from the fact that he’s a catcher. Move him to third or first, he’s entirely mediocre and a defensive liability to boot. About the closer spot, look for them to make a run at a guy with a good track record but a lost 2013. Maybe Joel Hanrahan.
2014 Outlook: Good. I think. If I’m a tribe fan, I’m terrified of the pitching situation beyond Masterson and Kluber, but you have to think that Terry Francona will be able to coax enough wins out of this team to contend for a wild card. I love the resigning of Jason Giambi too. One of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of the WAR stat is that it doesn’t have a way to quantify the value of a guy like Giambi.