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Tribe Notes

Commentary: Indians front office deserves loads of blame for leaving bullpen vulnerable

  • Indians-Spring-Baseball-24

    Indians manager Terry Francona, left, talks with team president Chris Antonetti in February 2017.

    AP

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The Indians’ front office didn’t err by not bringing back veteran relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith.

Though both are proven pitchers, neither deserved the big-money salaries — Shaw $27 million over three years and Smith $15 million over two years — they received on the free agent market. Certainly not from a franchise that can’t afford to just throw money around.

No, where team president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff screwed up, and they did — big-time — was not replacing them in the offseason. Shaw, at least.

They thought they had their fill-ins with right-hander Nick Goody and lefty Tyler Olson, who looked like the real deal for half of last season. They thought the duo, which had a combined one year and 285 days of big league experience, had proved enough.

And if not, though he wasn’t nearly as good last season as he was during his debut season of 2016, veteran righty Dan Otero was going to give them another solid season and righty Zach McAllister was going to finally turn the corner and bring something other to the table than a 95 mph fastball down the middle.

They were wrong on every single front.

After a struggling start, Goody has been on the disabled list for most of the season and is probably headed for Tommy John surgery. Olson, who didn’t surrender a single earned run over 30 appearances last year, has allowed like a ton this year — 11 over 16 innings (25 games).

Otero has been batting-practice brutal (6.97 ERA over 21 games). And McAllister? Same old, same old. This dude has pitched as a starter and reliever, and has yet to do either well on a consistent basis.

Because he’s been overused thanks to an injury to left-hander Andrew Miller — or maybe not — closer Cody Allen, one of the best in the American League over the past two or three seasons, has even got in on the stink show.

With one of the top rotations in baseball, including two-time and reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, and a lineup full of All-Stars, including MVP candidates Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, Cleveland’s brainiac brain trust decided to roll the dice in the bullpen.

How smart is that?

Sure, Antonetti and Co. get a pass for getting blindsided by injuries to Miller, who has been on the disabled list twice in the first two months. But it sounds as though the latest ailment, a right knee sprain, has been bothering him since last season, when he made two trips to the injured list. So I don’t know if it comes as that much of a surprise.

But with a World Series-ready rotation and lineup, shouldn’t the executives prepare for injuries and obstacles, especially in the bullpen — the most fickle of departments?

Answer: Yes!

This is a major mistake by a front office that is considered one of the best in baseball, one that manager Terry Francona bends over backward to praise whenever he gets the opportunity.

I bet Tito isn’t real pleased with Chris and Cherny right about now.

Coming off a World Series title, this faux pas would be somewhat easy to excuse.

That’s not what we’ve got here.

The Indians were supposed to win it all last year, at least plenty predicted as much after they came so close during a surprising 2016 run that saw them lead the Cubs 3-1 before pulling a Golden State Warriors.

And this was considered a somewhat make-or-break year, with Miller and Allen set to hit the free agent market in the offseason and Michael Brantley healthy and looking as though he is back to All-Star form as he plays out a $12 million option.

Kluber, Lindor, Ramirez and other pivotal parts are under contract for a spell, so the window isn’t closing, but it’s not all the way open, either.

How can you not prepare for everything and at least try to insure that your bullpen is in order, maybe even more than that, in case something like say an injury strikes your best reliever, who showed you a year prior that he is susceptible to as much?

Cleveland’s front office has been praised in the past for working with less than the rest, but not replenishing the relief corps showed the guys in that department ain’t all that, after all.

The Indians will still win the Central Division — even with their ragged relievers — though it’s not a lock anymore. But unless their front office figures this mess out, they aren’t going anywhere in the postseason.

That wasn’t the plan when the season started, but they should’ve planned better in the bullpen.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.


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