Indians built for long-term success
Most core players under contractual control for several years
CLEVELAND -- Back in the Bronx, they're sweeping up the remains of the Indians' champagne-soaked celebration in the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium and preparing to do likewise to what had been a great Yankee dynasty.The Tribe's Game 4 win in the American League Division Series on Monday night might have effectively put an end to that dynasty, as we know it, given the dubitable job status of New York manager Joe Torre and the equally uncertain position of the Yankees' rash of free agents. Only time will tell if what happened in "The House That Ruth Built" was as significant as it looks on paper. But for now, it appears that one of the AL's premier ruling regimes is gearing up for a facelift just as another is in its infancy. Because while the Indians might have sent a sizable shockwave through the baseball world with their advance to the American League Championship Series, they don't intend for this October glory to be their 15 minutes of fame. "We've talked about it all along," manager Eric Wedge said. "We didn't build this thing to be here today and gone tomorrow." And Wedge's Indians have the roster to prove it. Take a look at the Tribe's regular starting lineup of center fielder Grady Sizemore, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, designated hitter Travis Hafner, catcher Victor Martinez, first baseman Ryan Garko, shortstop Jhonny Peralta, left fielder Kenny Lofton, right fielder Franklin Gutierrez and third baseman Casey Blake. Now, consider that, in that group, only Lofton will be a free agent after this season, while Hafner and Cabrera are under contractual control through 2013, Sizemore, Garko and Gutierrez through '12, Peralta through '11, Martinez through '10, and Blake through next season. The Indians' four-man playoff rotation of C.C. Sabathia (signed through '08), Fausto Carmona (under control through '13), Jake Westbrook (signed through '10) and Paul Byrd (club option for '08) could be kept intact next year, with depth options Jeremy Sowers (under control through '12), Aaron Laffey (under control through '13) and Cliff Lee (signed through '09, club option for '10) also on board. And in the bullpen, back-end relievers Joe Borowski (club option for '08), Rafael Betancourt (under control through '09), Rafael Perez (under control through '12) and Jensen Lewis (under control through '13) aren't necessarily going anywhere. "We'll probably have less turnover than any [playoff] team," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "I know it will be less than anyone in our division." That stability is what the Indians were shooting for when they began locking up their core players to long-term deals. But beyond the contractual backbone, the Indians have the added benefit of a group of players who mesh as well as they mash. In short, these guys really do like each other, and not just when the champagne and beer are flowing.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.