With Terry Francona in fold, Indians can’t be so cheap

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The Indians’ move to hire Terry Francona looks like a coup. Getting a two-time World Series-winning manager to come to Cleveland and take over a team that hasn’t finished over .500 in five years makes for quite the turn of events.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see if it does any good. Francona was a great handler of personalities in Boston and kept a roster loaded with big salaries and big egos pointed in the right direction for the vast majority of his tenure.

This will be an entirely different kind of gig for Francona. He won’t have to worry about handling a Manny Ramirez or a Josh Beckett or a David Ortiz. Of course, he also won’t have any of those kind of talents to rely on.

Here’s a truth about the Indians: even as salaries have continued to increase throughout the game, their franchise-high payroll came back in 2001. They spent $93 million that year. The last three years, they’ve come in at $61 million, $49 million and $65 million.

Now the good news: Travis Hafner’s awful contract is finally off the books. At $13 million, he was the team’s only player to make more than $5 million this year. Also, the guy who made $5 million, Grady Sizemore, likewise contributed nothing and is now a free agent.

That leaves five guys, all of whom will get raises over $5 million if they’re kept in 2013: Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Chris Perez. Many view Choo and Perez as trade candidates. Cabrera and Masterson could be as well. Jimenez has a $5.75 million option that could be declined after his rough year.

Essentially, the Indians have the ability to start over and build around Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis if they want. And that might have been a good idea had they chosen Sandy Alomar Jr. as manager. The Francona hiring suggests that they want to contend in 2013. And they need to after drawing just 1.6 million fans this year.

So, it seems a lot more likely today that the Indians will be keeping Cabrera, Choo and Masterson. They’re not going to be major players in free agency, but they need to bring in at least one first base/DH-type, an outfielder and a starting pitcher. A Perez trade might fill one of those needs.

Fortunately, the Indians won’t need to be a great team to contend for a playoff spot in the AL Central. If Kipnis and Santana can play their best for full years instead of half-seasons and some young arms come along, it’s hardly a hopeless cause.

Cavan Biggio hits for the cycle

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Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio hit for the cycle on Tuesday against the Orioles. Cavan, the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, struck out in the first inning, but bounced back to hit a two-run homer in the third. He followed that up with a single in the sixth, a double in the eighth, and a two-run triple in the ninth.

Biggio is the sixth player to hit for the cycle this season, joining Jorge Polanco (Twins), Shohei Ohtani (Angels), Jake Bauers (Indians), Trea Turner (Nationals), and Jonathan Villar (Orioles). He’s the third member of the Blue Jays to hit for the cycle, joining Jeff Frye and Kelly Gruber. In case you were wondering, yes, Craig Biggio has also hit for the cycle. He did so against the Rockies on April 8, 2002. Craig and Cavan are the second father-son duo to both hit for the cycle, joining Gary and Daryle Ward, Sportsnet notes.

After Tuesday’s 4-for-5 performance, Biggio is batting .230/.361/.425 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI in 379 plate appearances on the season.