For the third time in four years, the Cleveland Indians are coming off a season of at least 93 losses. General manager Chris Antonetti, having already fired manager Manny Acta before the 2012 season ended, spent the winter remaking the face of his club. That meant bringing in two-time World Series champion Terry Francona to manage and bidding farewell to longtime offensive cogs Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner, part of what ended up being a surprisingly active offseason for a small-market team seemingly so far away from contention.
After acquiring Drew Stubbs in the Choo deal and signing Mark Reynolds, Cleveland then forfeited two high draft picks to sign Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to expensive four-year deals. The new quartet -- along with returning bats such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana -- should make for an immediate upgrade to a Cleveland attack that finished 22nd in runs scored.
Yet for all the effort Antonetti put into reshaping his offense, he seemingly did little to improve a pitching staff that ranked as the least effective run-prevention unit in baseball (non-Colorado division).
Needless to say, the offseason strategy has left many confused. Why, after all, make commitments of more than $100 million and two draft picks to improve the offense immediately, but fail to upgrade one of the worst rotations in baseball enough to make a real playoff push?
The answer: Antonetti may not have made a prominent addition to his rotation, but he did help his team take a huge leap forward in preventing runs.