So far the trade for Ubaldo Jimenez has blown up in their face. The Indians were getting an ace, not the 9-17, 5.40 pitcher they got last season. Though Justin Masterson was not as bad, he took some steps back finishing 11-15, 4.93. I had said before the season started, the Indians needed to add a power bat to play either CF or LF. They put a lot of stock in Grady Sizemore coming back and contributing, but he did not play all season. Johnny Damon, who could have serviced a team as a DH, was not the answer. For the majority of the season, the Indians performed like a second division team.
Francona had eight straight winning seasons in Boston which included the two World Series Championships. He inherits an Indians team that is not as close to winning as Boston was. But, they are not completely rebuilding, and as I said before, had expectations coming into 2012. I still think they need to add that extra power bat. But will the financial constraints keep the Indians from ungrading? It doesn't help that few actually go to see games at Progressive Field. (They finished 13th only to Tampa Bay in attendance.)
Perhaps they can go the trade route. Closer Chris Perez seems to want out, and can net the Indians a bat of some sorts. They have other pieces they can move as well as they look to become competitive again. In my opinion, this could work out two way; either the Indians can fall back to being a bad team for a couple of years, or the core can come together as it was expected this year and the team can win some games.
I do think Francona is taking a risk (as most managers do when they take a job after winning in another location.) If the Indians go on a slide, his image as a MLB manager will take a hit. However, if he can somehow lead the Indians to their first AL Pennant since 1997, or possibly their first World Series Championship since 1948, he will become a legend in Cleveland and potentially become a Hall of Fame manager.