Monday was the first official day for players to start reporting to their respective MLB Spring Training camps.
As the day began, we didn’t know which camp Michael Bourn was going to be reporting to in the coming days as he remained a free agent despite being one of the prize pieces on the market.
By the end of Monday we found out the answer and it wasn’t one many would have guessed heading into the offseason. Bourn became the latest acquisition in a surprisingly active winter by the Cleveland Indians, agreeing terms on a four-year, $48m contract (approximately £147k per week).
Cleveland lost 94 games in 2012, with only AL Central division mates the Minnesota Twins losing more in the American League (96), and finished 20 games behind the division-winning Detroit Tigers. They’ve got a lot of ground to make up in 2013 if they want to compete for a playoff spot, but that challenge, combined with their busy offseason, makes them an appealing option for any British newcomer looking for a not-too-obvious team to call their own.
The Indians’ projected pitching rotation dampens the enthusiasm and ensures that they will not be shaking off the underdog tag anytime soon. Justin Masterson couldn’t repeat his impressive 2011 showing in 2012, whilst Ubaldo Jimenez’s 42 starts for the Tribe since being acquired from the Colorado Rockies during the 2011 season have been underwhelming to say the very least (5.32 ERA). Spying the names of Brett Myers and Daisuke Matsuzaka alongside Zach McAllister in the projected rotation makes you realise it’s not going to be the most fearsome five in the AL this year.
But you don’t need to be Ian Drury to find reasons to be cheerful.
With Bourn following Nick Swisher’s lead in signing on with the Cleveland club, the Indians bagged two of the best position players on the free agent market this offseason. Those headline player moves came after the Indians pulled off something of a coup by convincing Terry Francona to become their new manager.
The unique pitching prospect Trevor Bauer should be taking one of those rotation spots at some point during the season and he’ll have a good outfield behind him with the presumed new centre fielder Drew Stubbs sliding over to right field alongside Bourn, with the presumed new right-fielder Swisher now likely to spend the majority of his time fielding at first base.
Add in Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis and there’s definitely some talented players for a new fan to immediately take a liking to.
Cleveland also played in the joint-ninth highest number of pre-midnight U.K. time games (21) during the working week last season, so there should be plenty of chances to catch their games live at a convenient time.
If you’re not keen on jumping on board with an established winner and prefer a plucky team with an outside chance of causing an upset this year, Cleveland may well be the team for you.