CLEVELAND — Amidst low expectations and a wealth of injuries to key players, Indians manager Manny Acta guided his team to 80 wins and second place in the Central Division.
He was rewarded Thursday, with Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti announcing the club would exercise its contract option on Acta for the 2013 season.
“I feel much better where we are organizationally today than where we were a year ago, and a lot of that is due to Manny Acta,” Antonetti said.
With few picking Cleveland to finish any higher than fourth in a suspect division, Acta and the Indians were baseball’s early surprise story.
Injuries, performance issues and a surging Tigers team ended Cleveland’s bid at contention, but expectations were clearly exceeded.
“I’m happy to be a part of this,” Acta said.
The Indians added starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez at the trading deadline, and Acta figures to get more to work with next season, with Antonetti saying Cleveland’s payroll would increase “significantly.”
The GM did not go into specifics, but the Indians are expected to search for a position player or two to improve offensively — a substantial weakness in 2011.
Cleveland’s payroll was at $49.4 million to begin this year. The Indians have a wealth of decisions to make this offseason, including whether to exercise the options on Grady Sizemore ($8.5 million) and Fausto Carmona ($7 million).
Antonetti did not rule out re-signing outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, acquired in a trade deadline deal with the Cubs.
But it appears the Indians are unlikely to bring back Jim Thome, the franchise’s all-time leader with 337 home runs. Thome’s return boosted attendance, but Cleveland already has a designated hitter taking up a large part of its payroll in Travis Hafner, who is owed $13 million next season in the final year of his contract.
Along with Acta’s return in 2013, another certainty is Tim Belcher will not be back as pitching coach. The 49-year-old resigned, citing family responsibilities, but will take a different job in the organization in 2012.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136.