The KC Royals won’t be Cleveland’s doormat this season
Key losses will make Cleveland less of a threat to the KC Royals in 2021
To be accurate, the stripping of critical Cleveland components began before last season even ended. It was nearly mid-August when starters Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac found themselves on the restricted list after violating baseball’s COVID-19 protocols; although Plesac is still with the Indians, they traded Clevinger to San Diego shortly thereafter.
Perhaps the deal had something to do with Clevinger’s running afoul of pandemic controls; perhaps it didn’t. But money played at least a part—Clevinger left Cleveland with two years of arbitration eligibility left, was 38-18 for the Tribe from 2017-19, and was pitching well when traded. For Clevinger, there was more to be made in post-season arbitration than his $4.1 million 2020 pay and, as the Indians proved over the winter, money was becoming an issue in Cleveland.
Losing Carrasco and Hand will also hurt. Carrasco’s comeback from leukemia was successful—he was 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 2020 and won the players union’s Comeback Player of the Year award. He won 60 games for the Tribe from 2015-18 (including a majors-leading 18 in 2017). That kind of production isn’t easily replaced. And Hand, one of the game’s top closers, saved 50 games from 2019-20 and led the big leagues last year with 16.
Then there’s the loss of Carlos Santana to the Royals. Santana is one of the best in the game at finding ways to get on base, and hit 216 homers, drove in 710 runs, and posted a 121+ OPS in 12 Cleveland seasons.
The biggest loss of all, of course, is shortstop Francisco Lindor. He was the franchise, the players the fans most hated to see go. Cleveland won’t fully replace him any time soon.
(The Tribe also lost outfielders Delino DeShields and Tyler Naquin, and backup catcher Sandy Leon).