The 2020 Cleveland Indians were able to finish with a record of 35-25 and qualify for the expanded postseason.
The final result was a painful sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees.
Then came the offseason when Carlos Santana was allowed to walk and both Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco were traded to the New York Mets.
Brad Hand also left and signed with the Washington Nationals.
Positives did come with the re-signing of Cesar Hernandez, the signing of Eddie Rosario, and a promising young shortstop in Andres Gimenez, who was the centerpiece in the Lindor deal.
The Indians were able to post a .583 winning percentage and finish second in the American League Central while also capturing a playoff spot in 2020.
Can the 2021 squad repeat those results?
A thorn in the side of his opponents, Rosario will be doing the damage for us this year. 🌹
From his 3-homer day against us in 2018 … pic.twitter.com/DX5jhMXdue
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) February 4, 2021
A Pessimistic Prediction
Let’s get the low end of the prediction out of the way.
A .583 winning percentage equates to about 94 wins, which is likely what it will take to land second place in what should be a competitive AL Central division.
The Indians have reached the 94-win mark only twice since 2010.
The first time was in 2016 when the Indians won 94 games and nearly took home a World Series crown.
Then the 2017 squad went 102-60 in what was still a weak division.
The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox are now both expecting to make the playoffs, while the Indians lost a handful of positive-WAR players.
One good thing is that the Indians still have stars like Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez leading the way.
Adding Rosario proved there is not a true tank job taking place and the goal is to at least attempt to win, even if the payroll is minimal.
Still, the low end rounds out to about a 75-80-win season that is on-par with an average team avoiding a true rebuild.
A More Optimistic Outlook
The unknowns with this team are what can swing the record from the low end up into the 90-win range.
Will Gimenez turn out to be a steal in the Lindor deal?
Can players like Josh Naylor, Franmil Reyes, and Daniel Johnson make huge leaps in 2021?
The questions also remain with the entire pitching staff and whether the young arms in the rotation and the bullpen can keep the team’s pitching success rolling along like nothing changed.
Losing Lindor is the notable move of the offseason that may have some fans panicking.
His WAR averaged up over 5.0 in a normal season and that is tough to replace.
However, WAR is not a direct counting statistic.
The hope is Gimenez and potentially even Amed Rosario can step in and be suitable, above-average replacements.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 17, 2020
Barring a surprise trade, Jose Ramirez keeping up his elite play will also play a big role in the team’s success.
Predicting any team’s record is a tough task when there are major changes to a roster.
Assuming the team doesn’t panic and sell at the trade deadline, a fair final prediction is an 85-77 record with the hope the Indians can sneak into the postseason with a Wild Card berth.