The Indians begin the American League Division series today in Houston. While the team is focused on a World Series title, the front office is looking a bit further ahead.
Assistant General Manager Carter Hawkins has been with the Indians for 11 seasons, starting as a scouting intern. The team's recent success was preceded by several sub par seasons. Hawkins says those memories help them appreciate recent achievements, taking nothing for granted. This is the team's third straight trip to the playoffs.
"As you look back at the years we were struggling, 2009, 2010, 2011, you kind of viewed this future of 'hey if we can get x, y, and z to work for us, things could look really good for a long period of time.' We’re kind of right in the middle of that, right now."
Keys to success
Hawkins credits the team's scouts for providing information that has helped the front office make beneficial decisions. He also says the team has worked to get beyond simply evaluating players to developing them. "Players like Jose Ramirez who were a $50,000 sign out of the Dominican Republic and now were one of the top five players in baseball."
Hawkins also credits Indians Manager Terry Francona, who joined the team in 2013. "Bringing Tito in has made a tremendous impact on our major league culture."
All of this has been predicated on what Hawkins describes as "unbelievable support" from the team's owners, the Dolan family.
The last hurrah?
Hawkins acknowledges the team faces difficult decisions once the season is over, as a number of the players will be free agents. Among them, Michael Brantley, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Of particular concern is the future of the "face of the franchise," All-star shortstop Francisco Lindor. He can enter arbitration at the end of the season, and fans have been wondering if or when the team will sign him to a long-term deal.
"Obviously, we'd like to have him with us as long as we possibly can," Hawkins said. "Right now we’re taking a year to year approach and so is he."
While the front office strategizes about the future, Hawkins says the players are concerned with only one thing. "Those guys are focused on winning every single day. They know if they have that great process whatever lies in the future that should come to them, will come to them."