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The Indians' offseason banks on 2015 just being bad luck

The Cleveland Professional Baseball Team didn't do much this offseason. But with an under-performing team in 2015, maybe that isn't so bad.

Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor were key cogs in the best middle-infield in all of baseball last season.
Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor were key cogs in the best middle-infield in all of baseball last season.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Professional Baseball Team has some strengths. They had the best production in all of baseball from second base and shortstop. They also had the sixth-best bullpen in the majors.

So why on Earth did they finish 81-80 last season? A fraction of a win over .500 thanks to one game just not being played.

They also have some dire weaknesses. There's no real way around this truth. They were eighth-worst in production from third basemen last season. They were fourth-worst in centerfield production.

As a team that sat at .500 thanks partially to bad luck and partially to positional weaknesses, one would assume the one variable that can be remedied over the offseason to be addressed. Instead, the Indians didn't do particularly much but that might still be alright.

The Trades

When Todd Frazier was rumored to be available from the Cincinnati Reds, some expected that the Indians would make a play. Their need for any production at third base seems to be dire. However, the division rival Chicago White Sox ended up making a play for Frazier, and they didn't really give up that much.

The Indians had quite a bit to gain if they could have pulled off a similar deal. Instead, their inaction on this matter seems to have directly cost them ground in their own division.

Instead, the only acquisitions the Indians made via trade this offseason were for Collin Cowgill and Dan Otero.

Over his 745 plate appearances, the 29-year old Cowgill has shown that he can be an above average bat against left-handed pitchers, and also provide good defense.

Otero struggled last season thanks in part to a strand rate that appears to indicate some regression. His career 3.29 FIP will help bolster one of the best bullpens in the majors with good, right-handed depth.

The Free Agents

Although the Indians seemed to keep quiet in the free agent market, they actually made some sneakily-good, low-cost moves.

They started the offseason by signing Rajai Davis to a one-year, $5.25 million deal. The 35-year old outfielder posted his best defensive season since 2009 last year, and the best ISO of his entire career. Although he's normally known as a speedster, his stolen base totals took a slight dip last season. It's a weird age for Davis to start slugging, but perhaps he has found a knew knack or approach. Mix that and the fact that he's free from platoon duty with Anthony Gose and the Indians have perhaps found themselves quite a deal.

Although he was reportedly added in the same day, it took a while for the Indians to make the Mike Napoli deal official. At one-year, $7 million, the 34-year old Napoli represents little risk. While 2015 was his worst year at the plate -- in fact, his only below league-average season -- he still obliterated left-handed pitching. He and Carlos Santana will likely split time between designated-hitter and first base.

Other than that, the Indians most recently added Juan Uribe and Tommy Hunter into the mix. Uribe is going into his age-36 season but seems to remain ageless on defense and will hopefully answer their need at third base.

The under-appreciated Hunter seems to be another depth addition to a strong-but-somewhat-shallow bullpen. While the Indians bullpen seems very right-handed, the signing of Hunter to a one-year, $2 million deal represents almost no risk at all.

Reasons to worry

It's actually really hard to look at the Indians and worry. You have to be actively pessimistic. That being said, let's take a look.

The three major additions they made this offseason are all over the age of 34. While that isn't particularly ideal, they did all sign one-year deals which represent very little risk, and disliking someone based on age is just blatant ageism.

The AL Central looks like it will be even more competitive than last year. The Detroit Tigers look like they could contend and the White Sox made some moves as well.

Michael Brantley will be starting the 2016 season on the disabled-list, which is definitely less-than-ideal. Especially considering the Indians outfield depth. And coming off of shoulder surgery, a clean recovery is never guaranteed.

The last reason to worry would likely revolve around how cost-conscious this offseason was despite the Indians cutting Chris Johnson entirely. He'll be due nearly $17 million over the next three seasons and won't play for them. For a team without much payroll flexibility, that doesn't seem like the best move, and it could hurt them in the 2017 free agent market as well.

Reasons for hope

Corey Kluber is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He's under team control until 2022.

Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are two of the best young, up-and-coming pitchers in the game. They're under team control until 2021.

Cody Allen was the best reliever in all of baseball by FIP and FanGraphs WAR. Better than Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, literally every other reliever in baseball.

Similarly, Jason Kipnis was the best second baseman by fWAR. His wRC+ indicates that he hit 26 percent better than the league average.

Francisco Lindor is going to play a full season with the Indians in 2016, and all indications point toward him being the real deal. He was just narrowly bested in AL Rookie of the Year voting by fellow shortstop Carlos Correa.

The best middle-infield in baseball. The best closer. One of the best rotations. A plethora of young, controllable talent. Top it off with an 85-win projection from Depth Charts and a 92-win projection from PECOTA and Indians fans can hold their heads high heading into 2016.