Cleveland Indians fans likely aren’t going to be pleased with changes the front office will be making this offseason. The team is expected to part ways with about 10 players who are free agents, including Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. And, it's possible the team could trade a big star, like pitcher Corey Kluber.
Flat payroll, attendance
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says one of the biggest factors driving the Indians' cost-cutting: attendance was flat from 2017 to 2018.
“They didn’t get extra postseason revenue and it dampened when you’re trying to sell tickets for next year.”
The Indians were swept in the ALDS against the Houston Astros this past October. They played just one postseason game at Progressive Field.
The Indians ranked No. 14 in payroll in 2018, according to spotrac. As for attendance, the Indians ranked 21st out of 30 teams.
The cable TV cash cow
Pluto says Cleveland has another disadvantage: Its’s a small market team. “Unlike football, which has a tight salary cap and they spread all of their TV revenue around, the big driving force in baseball is cable TV.”
Teams in much larger markets have their own TV networks that net lots of extra revenue.
- The Boston Red Sox, which had the highest payroll in baseball in 2018, have the New England Sports Network. It’s owned by a joint venture of Fenway Sports Group.
- The Chicago Cubs, which had the fourth-highest payroll, have a 20 percent stake in NBC Sports Chicago. They’re currently interested in launching their own network after the 2019 season.
- The New York Yankees broadcast on YES (Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network). YES is owned by 21st Century Fox and Yankee Global Enterprises. They had the sixth-highest payroll in 2018.
Trading a star pitcher?
Pluto says it’s possible the Indians will trade one of the team's star pitchers. “Right away teams are calling, as soon as they heard they aren’t spending money.”
So, the front office is probably considering offers for Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer or Carlos Carrasco. Kluber will make $17 million in 2019. He’s under contract for three years. Carrasco will be paid $9.5 million in 2019 and $10 million in 2020. Bauer is under team control for two more years. His projected salary is $11 million in 2019.
“There’s a lot of value in trading those guys right now,” Pluto says.
Pluto expects fans will be very frustrated with the team in the offseason.
“The great thing is we’re complaining about a team that’s probably going to win the A.L. Central Division again, regardless of what they do and a team that could get hot in the playoffs and be fun. We’re not talking about a team that it’s hard to look ahead to next year.
But, fans are thinking, ‘We want greatness and we want it now.’ Well, you might not get it.”