A hot topic in the off-season is what your team needs to add in the off-season. A look at the Royals in 2015 and 2016 shows that not much changed. However, a few injuries to key players and not having a quality 5th starter turned out to be the difference between a WS champion in 2015 and a .500 record in 2016.
The key for me is to address areas of possible weakness as much as areas of actual weakness. Let's take a look at the Indians, area by area:
Bullpen: We need a solid setup man who has closed successfully in the recent past. Look, I know we have Miller, Allen and Shaw. But look at how those guys were used in 2016. It would be an amazing feat if those guys pitched as strongly and as long in 2017. Francona rides his bullpen hard and I don't honestly believe that relying on these three guys to go 7th, 8th, and 9th (or 8th and 9th or just 9th) every time we have a close game is realistic. We need to have another guy who can save the arms of these 3 or, more likely, can give us quality relief WHEN one of these guys goes to the DL. We won't be able to afford the luxury of what we really need: one quality righty and one quality lefty who is more than a loogy. We will have to settle for one of those two. Yes, we have McAllister and Otero and should probably re-sign Manship but we need more than Armstrong, Adams, Colon, Crockett, etc. to back the top 6 up. If even one of those last 4 end up giving us quality innings all through the 2017 regular season I will be ecstatic. Hoping for more than that is just too much to ask, in my opinion.
Catcher - I think we are probably good there and investing any resources in a catcher is probably a waste of time. Yes, we might be able to upgrade but at what cost? Better we re-sign Chris Gimenez and Adam Moore to minor league deals and hope Gomes and Perez give us good production next year. I think it is a good gamble they will.
Infield - First, I don't think we re-sign Napoli unless we can get him at the same price we got him at this year. Santana is a good alternative at first base and decent DHs are cheaper than giving Napoli a multi-year deal. Hard to swallow but I think I am being a pragmatist here. You really don't know how much production you will get out of him next year after how hard Francona rode him this year. I want to sign him but not for more than one year with a club option for the same amount or a $2 million buyout for the second year.. Assuming we re-sign Napoli, the obvious position we need help with is third base. Yes, Jose Ramirez did well there when he was pressed into service. But imagine if we could use him as a super sub and get him 500 ABs and get good production at third base from a free agent! I think we need to focus some (actually MOST) of our free agent dollars here. The guy, whoever he would be, could spell at DH, too, giving Napoli and, to a lesser degree, Santana more rest than they got this year.
Outfield - Right now the Indians are set in the outfield IF Michael Brantley comes back. If that happened they wouldn't even need to re-sign Rajai Davis. One caveat, however. I really, truly believe that Tyler Naquin might not make this team next year. His weaknesses on both sides of the ball were so exposed in the World Series that he might actually be done. Add that to his likely unrepeatable HR rate and he looks like a 4th outfielder to me at this point. Thinks could change and I hope I am wrong but he has got to fix the things that made him an automatic out in the WS. Other than that, I would not want the Indians to give the guy a chance just because he was able to get hits before the Cubs figured him out. Assuming Brantley doesn't come back strong next year, you almost have to re-sign Davis and Napoli and hope that the 2016 chemistry and magic carries over to 2017. If things don't go well in the first half of 2017, you can still go out and get an OF bat at the deadline. I know it didn't work this year in terms of getting an impact OF bat in July but availability might be better this coming July, if the need arises.
The rotation - Look, every team wants more starters. The Indians have talked about having 10 guys who could start next year. Frankly, I think they already have that here. The same logic applies to the starters as it does to the outfield. Yeah, it would be nice to have more depth but if the need arises you get a rotation arm at the deadline. Until then, even with injuries, you have enough to muddle through until near the trade deadline, especially if you can stash an innings eating minor league free agent signing or two at Columbus until the end of May.
The bench - We have already covered some of this above but the bench is an area I wouldn't waste resources on. My infield bench, if Ramirez is a super sub, is Erik Gonzalez with Michael Martinez stashed at AAA. In the outfield we have platoon guys and I think we are good there, especially considering the other things I am suggesting doing above. Plus, there is still the chance that Zimmer and/or Yandy Diaz could be ready to help in the OF by next June.
Summary - This team needs an impact bat, especially at third base. This becomes the mega-signing that I think the Indians need to gamble on as I think it will help team morale and get the fans pumped up for next season. If we can get him on a one-year deal we need to bring back Napoli, too. He is the heart and soul of this team as long as we don't ask him to be the statistical or innings played leader of the team. We also need an excellent bullpen arm and it would help if he was left-handed but could still get righties out, although a particular handedness is not a necessity if he can get all hitters out. I think, for a major league team with the payroll Cleveland has to work with, that is all we actually NEED. Note that the Royals brought back almost everyone in 2016 but didn't bring in a lot of talent in addition to the 2015 team and it wasn't nearly enough. We need to learn from that model. You can't go spending-happy as a small market club but if you believe like I do that 2016 was more magical than pre-ordained, we need to prepare for 2017 to have more bumps in the road than 2016, especially as I expect the Royals to rebound. In order to do that we have some work to do and will have to spend money this off-season to get that work done.