I highlighted the Indians off-season a couple weeks back. You can read it here. They now have four starting outfielders, but obviously just three spots for those players. Michael Brantley is the young and promising player, and likely should remain in the field. Drew Stubbs really only offers value as a fielder, as his hitting was brutal last season. Swisher just signed a big free-agent deal, and it would seem that he would be given time in the outfield to justify the money. Obviously, Bourn needs to be in the outfield, as he is a great fielder.
There are a few scenarios I suppose. Swisher could move to first base and Mark Reynolds could DH. Swisher could simply move to DH. Or, Stubbs could become a fourth outfielder. A Stubbs/Brantley platoon could work pretty well too. That would seem to be the route that maximizes the offense the best. Does Cleveland want one of their few young players in a platoon? Removing Reynolds from the equation altogether might work too, but that seems unlikely considering the contract he just signed. Stubbs as the fourth outfielder seems most likely.
What the Indians ultimately do means little in comparison to what they have already done. They gave up two draft picks to sign a couple of good outfielders to long-term contracts. Signing two good outfielders is not a bad thing, but losing those draft picks could be a long-term issue. The cost/benefit is certainly worth discussing. The Indians have two great prospects in Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer. They have other interesting prospects, but all are multiple years from playing in Cleveland. Did the Indians mortgage their future to make their major league team marginally better? That might be too strong a statement. However, they haven't improved enough in the present.
In my opinion, their starting pitching is not strong enough to win the AL Central. They could easily finish around .500, but unless Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson bounce back in huge ways, their pitching likely will not be good enough. Trevor Bauer should be great eventually, but will he be great in 2013? I mean, the Indians could go really crazy and sign Kyle Lohse (they'd lose another pick, but don't seem that worried about picks anyway) and that still might not even be enough. The lineup is impressive and their outfield defense should be really good, but starting pitching will still be the key for this team.
The Indians have made moves this off-season that should ensure their fans will not suffer through another 90 loss season. Never a bad thing. This brings me to my beloved Minnesota Twins. The Twins made some moves this off-season, but nothing as big as signing a Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher, or even a Brett Myers or Mark Reynolds. The Twins decided to make minor deals, while making trades to boost the farm system. The plan is aimed two or three years down the line, but 2013 will almost certainly end in a huge, embarrassing failure. The Indians will likely hover around or above .500, but ultimately seem destined to fall short of the playoffs.
So, would you rather be an Indians fan or a Twins fan? In 2013, the answer might be Indians fan. They could get hot, jump out to a lead and stay in the race for the whole season. Do they have realistic World Series aspirations? Probably not, but they will be a lot closer than the Twins. If the Indians can add some big names after the 2013 season, they might be even closer when 2014 comes around. However, if they keep giving up picks and signing merely good players to long contracts, their window could close abruptly and violently. Twins fans know their team will be terrible in 2013, but can see the future success on the horizon. A lot has to happen to get there, but the future looks bright in Minnesota. The future in Cleveland could be bright, but could also be extremely dark.
Make no mistake, signing Bourn is good for Cleveland. He is a really good player, both offensively and defensively. He can provide them with lead-off at bats and play a good center field. He might lose some of his speed as he ages, but he will only be 34 when his contract ends. He isn't the type of player that changes the fortune of his new team, but he is the type of player that fans enjoy watching. I always applaud teams that "go for it." The fans enjoy it and sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle. Who knows, maybe this off-season is the turning point that the Cleveland fan base can look back on when they are celebrating their first championship in 5000 years.