Finishing just a game above .500 (81-80) in 2015, the Cleveland Indians organization was in need of a few fresh faces. A third place finish in the AL Central Division and second consecutive season without reaching the playoffs led to a sequence of transactions that pieced together a championship caliber roster.
From the bitterly cold Northeast Ohio winter, to the late-season push of September, seven different acquisitions were made in an effort to bolster a roster that featured the likes of Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Santana.
Responsible for these moves was the front office battery of President Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff.
1.) Rajai Davis: December 17, 2015 (Free Agent Signing)
With Michael Bourn and Brandon Moss traded, Ryan Raburn and David Murphy gone due to free agency, Tyler Holt and Jerry Sands designated for assignment, and Michael Brantley injured, the Tribe outfield looked rather bleak.
A 36-year-old veteran, Davis grasped a leadoff role throughout the month of April. Once Carlos Santana claimed the spot against right handed pitching, Davis became the right-handed hitting half of a center field platoon alongside rookie Tyler Naquin.
Although a .249 batting average marked his lowest number since 2011 (.238), Davis demonstrated a dominant proficiency in swiping bases with a league-leading total of 43. He was only caught on six occasions and added a surprising amount of pop at the plate, with a career-high 12 home runs.
His talent to manufacture runs on the base paths made him an integral part of a right-handed heavy lineup opposite southpaws.
2.) Dan Otero: December 18, 2015 (Trade with Philadelphia Phillies in Exchange for Cash)
A surplus of bullpen arms never hurts an organization.
This belief held true when the Indians acquired Otero for cash considerations in December.
Most recently playing with the Oakland Athletics, Otero’s career has been defined by inconsistency. He had recorded two seasons with poor earned run averages of 5.84 (2012) and 6.75 (2015), but also found his groove in two separate campaigns with marks of 1.38 (2013) and 2.28 (2014).
Which Otero would show up in 2016?
Finishing the year with a 5-1 record and 1.53 ERA, Otero flirted with an All Star bid and solidified himself as a go-to middle inning reliever. The 31-year-old righty accounted for season-highs in strikeouts (57), strike percentage (68.1%), opposing batting average (.211) and WHIP (1.17).
His repertoire of a sinker, changeup, and four-seam fastball kept the opposition off-balanced all year long by inducing 11 double plays and kept his pitch count low with an average of 14.2 pitches per inning.
Otero proved to be the bridge leading to the backend bullpen trio consisting of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen.
3.) Mike Napoli: January 5, 2016 (Free Agent Signing)
A new year brought a new face to the Tribe.
Napoli elected for free agency at the beginning of November before making the decision to sign a one-year deal with the Indians. Nick Swisher was traded months earlier and Chris Johnson was released to pave way to a first base and designated hitter job opening clash alongside Carlos Santana.
Historically, players like Mark Reynolds, Shelley Duncan, Austin Kearns and other bargain free agent signings all struggled and proved not to be the right-handed power hitters the Indians were looking for.
Napoli answered the organization’s prayer and established himself as the everyday cleanup hitter with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs. His 51 games of playoff experience were the most of any player on the club entering the season.
4.) Chris Gimenez: May 4, 2016 (Trade with Texas Rangers in Exchange for Cash)
After serving a two-year stint with the Indians to begin his career in 2009-2010, catcher Chris Gimenez was welcomed back to Cleveland with open arms in an early May trade for cash considerations after Roberto Perez went down with a thumb injury. Yan Gomes suffered a separated right shoulder a month later, and with those two injuries, Gimenez was thrust into a catcher by committee role the rest of the season.
At 29-years-old, Gimenez was willing to do whatever it took to help the team win. He served as Trevor Bauer’s part-time personal catcher, he played solid defense behind the dish, and he even hurled three innings out of the bullpen as an emergency relief pitcher.
Despite an uninspiring .216 batting average, Gimenez set career-highs in games (67), at bats (139), and hits (30), and filled a much needed backup catching role while Gomes and Perez were out with injuries.
5.) Andrew Miller: July 31, 2016 (Trade with New York Yankees in Exchange for Four Prospects)
In a trade deadline where the blockbuster deal to acquire stud Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy was nullified, the Indians were able to regain their footing and make a major move.
By dealing Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen, the Tribe secured the rights to the lanky lefty Andrew Miller. Standing nearly as tall as hometown favorite LeBron James, Miller smashed expectations and rose to an elite level in the bullpen.
The former starter made 26 appearances with the Tribe, 23 of which were in a setup up role, and three of which were in save opportunities. Miller only walked two batters in his 29 innings of work and fit a late-inning trio with Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen.
Francona and Mickey Callaway used Miller in a manner that placed him in high-leverage situations against hitters like David Ortiz, Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado.
By only allowing 17 total earned runs between his time with the Indians and New York Yankees, Miller verified he was a bargain at the annual price tag of nine million dollars.
6.) Brandon Guyer: August 1, 2016 (Trade with Tampa Bay Rays in Exchange for Two Prospects)
One day later and the organization was at it again with their second completed deadline deal.
In an effort to upgrade from Juan Uribe, the Indians traded minor league prospects Nathan Lukes and Jhonleider Salinas for a left-handed pitching hitting specialist in Guyer. Shortly after the move was made official, Cleveland designated Uribe for assignment to shift Jose Ramirez over to an everyday third base role. Guyer assumed an outfield platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall.
Guyer delivered batting .328 with two home runs and eight runs batted in against left-handed pitching. In his 23 at bats vs righties, he hit .348 with six RBIs to boot.
At 30-years-old, Guyer was not afraid to take one for the team, leading the American League for the second season in a row with 31 hit by pitches. The outfielder placed first in 2015 with a tally of 24.
7.) Coco Crisp: September 1, 2016 (Trade with Oakland Athletics in Exchange for a Prospect and Cash)
Another former Indians player reacquainted himself with the Progressive Field clubhouse to begin the month of September. After an 11-year hiatus, Crisp returned to Cleveland as a suitable postseason replacement for the suspended Abraham Almonte.
A switch-hitter with eroding defensive skills, Crisp produced a .208 batting average during the regular season and hit his 12th and 13th homers of the campaign in an Indians uniform.
While his contributions during September proved to be of little value, Crisp hammered two postseason home runs in the ALDS and ALCS and continued to be one of the better hitters in the league with runners in scoring position.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.