Though the cold weather is lingering in Ohio, both of the state’s professional baseball teams are well into their preseason spring training games.
Both the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds have been active in the offseason in terms of transactions, but it is clear that one team is selling while the other is buying in preparation for the summer of 2019.
In order to pay their star-studded pitching rotation, the Indians had to part ways with some players that have helped them through the past few years. First baseman Yonder Alonso is a new member of the Chicago White Sox, and longtime outfielders Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall left Cleveland for the Houston Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively.
The bullpen lost a couple pieces as well. Veteran relief pitcher Andrew Miller opted to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, and closer Cody Allen recently agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels
Many of these players were members of the Indians’ 2016 World Series team that narrowly lost to the Chicago Cubs, but this exodus of players was to make room in part for their dominant pitching rotation. Former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber will return, along with Carlos Carrasco, Shane Bieber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger. Carrasco recently extended his contract.
Cleveland has also added first baseman Jake Bauers to the infield, and welcomes back designated hitter Carlos Santana after a one-year stint with the Philadelphia Phillies.
While the Indians were selling in the offseason, the Cincinnati Reds were buying. Big names added to the Cincinnati roster include former Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, both of whom will bolster an outfield that has suffered in recent years. Though Kemp is aging quickly, a fresh start with the Reds might be what he needs.
The Reds also signed ace pitcher Sonny Gray from the New York Yankees, and inked journeyman reliever Zach Duke, last seen with the Seattle Mariners. With this pitching help and support in the field, the Reds could actually be competitive in their division this coming summer. Combine this with the steady bat of veteran first baseman Joey Votto, who has suffered through numerous seasons with the team that have ranged from mediocre to dreadful, there could be a recipe for success.
The Indians, on the other hand, need to work on a rebuild. They boast a solid starting rotation, but also owe much of their success to being in a poor division. This is not to say that they cannot produce runs, just that there is definitely room for improvement. The Indians will need all the run support they can get from their big bats such as infielders Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramírez, and closer Brad Hand must be at his absolute best. Thankfully for both teams, spring training statistics mean very little.
While one team bought and the other sold, both the Reds and the Indians seemed to have improved. October and the 2019 World Series are a long way away, but both teams are hopeful to get there.