MLB: Why the Indians Can Win Now with Terry Francona

Evan Vogel@EvanVogelTweetsContributor IIIDecember 1, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 24:  Manager Terry Francona #47 of the Boston Red Sox loks out from the dugout during a game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on August 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

When the Cleveland Indians named Terry Francona their manager, they added a manager with experience and success, as he had 12 seasons of major league managing under his belt, including two championships with the Boston Red Sox.

But...this is the Cleveland Indians that he was taking over, the same team that finished 2012 with a 68-94 record while going 24-53 in the second half.

While Francona doesn't have Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz, the Indians do have some talent. The issue at hand for Francona is to show that he can win with a small payroll and the talent that he has, getting the most out of each player possible to create a contending club in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Indians front office has been very vague about the direction of the franchise, but one has to wonder why Francona would have taken the job if he knew that the Tribe was just going to be turning the roster over via trade during the winter meetings and the entire offseason.

Terry Francona is going to win in his first season because the Indians, their ownership and upper management, will be held accountable for creating a product that is worthy of the manager that they brought to town to run the show.

What does this all mean?

Shin-Soo Choo will spend the 2013 season with the Tribe and he will be offered a qualifying contract for 2014 so that the team gets a compensatory pick when he leaves town for a multi-year deal in free agency.

The Indians are going to keep Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. He is signed at $6.5 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. Entering his age-27 season, Cabrera is in his prime.

If he doesn't lead another collapse in the second half by sliding on his own for a third straight season, he could very well increase his trade value next offseason, allowing young, middle infield prospects like Tony Wolters and Francisco Lindor to show that they are ready to take over in 2014. Why deal him now? Use Cabrera to win.

See what you have in the greatly underachieving Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Not many starters can throw 95-mile-per-hour sinking fastballs like Masterson, and Jimenez was so good in 2010 that he has to have something in that arm of his that is capable of regaining some of that form.

Carlos Carrasco will be healthy, returning from Tommy John surgery. The once-promising prospect will be dealing an impressive fastball once again while bringing youth and stability to the back end of the rotation.

Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and Cody Allen provide a group of dominant right-handed relief pitchers who can shut down the opposition from the seventh inning on, but they need the starters to be a little more reliable for that to happen.

Add in one of the top, young, slugging catchers in the game in Carlos Santana, a promising, speedster and capable hitter at second in Jason Kipnis, and very promising players in Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall, and you have yourself a team that could surprise the league.

When you take a young team with a lot of talent, unreached potential and a total lack of expectations and shake it together with a winning leader like Terry Francona, you get a team that is very much alive and well.

With a few small additions, such as a solid starting pitcher like Brandon McCarthy, Jair Jurrjens or Joe Saunders, and a power-hitting, right-handed hitter like Mark Reynolds or Ryan Ludwick, you have a team with very few weaknesses.

Sometimes a little leadership is all that a team needs. Teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics were able to thrive with the talent that they had and a few young players; why not Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians in 2013?