Originally written on Burning River Baseball  |  Last updated 11/14/14
There has been no season in recent history where the Indians have entered the season feeling so positive. Everything started with the signing of Terry Francona which completely changed the perspective of everyone in Cleveland. A slew of big free agent signing filled all the holes in the roster when it had looked prior to the end of the season that they would be filled internally or with AAAA Spring Training invitees (like Mike McDade). This has changed the expectations from being picked to finish in fourth, competing with the Minnesota Twins for last place to being contenders for the division title along with the Tigers and White Sox. All this may be a little overblown as the Indians still have a very problematic starting rotation and an offense that is still not on the level of the Tigers or either of the big AL West teams (the Rangers and Angels).  The good news for the Indians is two-fold. First, every part of the team has been improved from the 2012 season (and they actually played very well for the first half of that season). The defense has been dynamically improved, starting with the removal of the lead weights who stood in left field last year and replacing them with the greatest active defensive outfielder, Michael Bourne. With three career centerfielders starting in the outfield, it truly should be a "death to all flying things" situation. The biggest offensive improvement was switching out Casey Kotchman for Nick Swisher and adding a DH (Mark Reynolds) after playing most of 2012 with Travis Hafner on the DL. Even the pitching has improved with Derek Lowe and Tony Sipp (among others) gone, replaced by Brett Myers and a crew of top end relievers. The second point of optimism for the Indians is that this team is not built to win in 2013. Swisher and Bourne each signed four year deals while Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and the other young Indians that were developed in house are under team control for years to come as well. In fact, the only players signed to one year deals are Myers and Reynolds, who each have replacements already with the team (Trevor Bauer and Jesus Aguilar) who should be upgrades for the 2014 season. This long-term establishment allows the Indians a window of contention much longer than just this year. It also leaves them able to compete this season by using the players signed to single year contracts. Remember to keep this in mind if the Indians struggle at all this year, that it isn't time to panic and pull the rip cord, instead, just relax and enjoy the ride.
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