On Monday, the Cleveland Indians to the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The loss ensured Cleveland would be headed home for the winter. It also reminded Cleveland that a bullpen makeover is needed and en route. That’s because the Cleveland bullpen permitted 10 runs over four innings of work, turning a one-run lead into an eight-run defeat.
Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, who formed the reliable spine of Cleveland’s recent bullpens, are both set for free agency after disappointing years. Ditto for Oliver Perez, albeit with a different set of circumstances — he was surprisingly good following his midseason addition. Factor in Zach McAllister, who was released earlier in the year, and Cleveland could lose four of its top seven appearance makers to free agency. Heck, even the three leftovers — Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez, and Tyler Olson — may not last the winter, either.
Of course, there stands to be one exception to all that change. Cleveland added Brad Hand at the deadline in part because of his team-friendly contract that will potentially keep him in town through the 2021 season. He’s not going anywhere, except to the back of the bullpen. (Adam Cimber, also acquired in that deal, has a less certain future after his strikeout rate dipped following the trade.)
Obviously there’s a chance Cleveland works out a sweetheart deal with Allen or Miller so they can re-establish their value in a familiar setting. And maybe they can help Cimber and/or Otero resume being productive middle relievers. Heck, it’s possible Danny Salazar gets healthy and turns himself into a relief force, filling one of many, many voids. Since it’s hypothetical season, it’s at least possible Cleveland gets something out of Nicky Goody, James Hoyt or Kyle Dowdy next season, too. But even so, Cleveland is going to have its paws full this winter.
It was always going to be like this, to some extent — remember that Cleveland’s bullpen ranked 25th in regular-season ERA. Game 3 just served as a reminder of that reality — and a reality of how cruel baseball can be, wherein the same forces that helped Cleveland reach the 2016 World Series prevented it from doing the same in 2018.