Chris Perez spoke, and the Indians certainly listened.

Whether their surprising recent shopping spree had anything to do with the closer's harsh critique of the organization last summer — in a rant in which he praised spend-happy Tigers owner Mike Ilitch — we'll never know. But the message has been sent.

The Indians aren't to be taken lightly as free-agent players any longer, even if their three big acquisitions this offseason — manager Terry Francona, for starters, followed by veteran Nick Swisher (four years, $56 million) and, this week, speedster Michael Bourn (four years, $48 million) — aren't likely to make them a contender in the American League Central in 2013, or maybe even 2014.

No question, the Indians' offense is impressive, with the additions (they also acquired Drew Stubbs in a trade, and signed all-or-nothing Mark Reynolds), and the bullpen, led by Perez and Co., is uber-tough.

But the starting pitching is severely underwhelming, and that's not the recipe to win this division. In seven of the last nine years, the division champion has been the team whose starters posted, collectively, the best ERA.

The only exceptions: 2009 and 2006, when the Tigers' rotation had the best ERA in the AL, but had to settle for the wild card after squandering the division to the Twins in the final days of the season.

The Indians had the second-worst rotation ERA in the AL (5.25) last season, and didn't upgrade much — outside of signing veteran Brett Myers, who spent all of last season as a reliever, and trading for temperamental prospect Trevor Bauer, who's made just four major league starts.

Back are "ace" Justin Masterson, who took a significant step backward in 2012 after a breakthrough 2011 (ERA and WHIP up to 4.93 and 1.454, respectively); up-and-down Ubaldo Jimenez, who, it's quite clear, won't ever again be the pitcher he was during a magical stretch with the Rockies in 2010; and a back-end trip of Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber.

From The Detroit News: