2014 Outlook: Cleveland Indians

2014 Outlook: Cleveland Indians
January 13, 2014, 2:00 pm
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2013 record: 92-70, 2nd place in AL Central
Manager: Terry Francona, 2nd season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $82 million
Key additions: OF David Murphy, RHP John Axford, LHP Josh Outman
Key losses: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, LHP Scott Kazmir, OF Drew Stubbs, OF Jason Kubel, RHP Chris Perez, RHP Joe Smith

Projected lineup
CF Michael Bourn
1B Nick Swisher
2B Jason Kipnis
DH Carlos Santana
LF Michael Brantley
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
RF David Murphy
C Yan Gomes
3B Lonnie Chisenhall

Projected rotation
RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Corey Kluber
RHP Zach McAllister
RHP Danny Salazar
RHP Carlos Carrasco

Top relievers
CL John Axford
RHP Cody Allen
RHP Vinnie Pestano

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Can they make up for the losses of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir? The Indians' surprising success last season was in no small part made possible by the resurrection of both starters' careers. Each is gone now, though, so Cleveland will need to fill the gap. There are several promising young arms in the mix, headlined by Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister. At least two of those guys need to step up and seize the opportunity.

2. Can John Axford return to top closer form? The Indians also lost several key arms out of their bullpen, including former closer Chris Perez and setup man Joe Smith. Who fills that void? Enter John Axford, the onetime closer of the Brewers who lost his job in Milwaukee but then became part of the Cardinals' postseason bullpen in October. If Axford can rediscover his top form, the Indians will be well-positioned to close out tight ballgames.

3. How much do Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher have left in the tank? The Indians weren't known for going out and spending big money on free agents, but they made two big splashes last winter, bringing in Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Which each contributed to the club's 92-win season, neither performed up to career norms. Can they revert back into the guys Cleveland thought it was getting, or was this the start of an inevitable decline in production from both veterans?