Indians feeling out other clubs at Nashville Meetings
Antonetti weighing potential for trades to solidify 2013 roster, pitching rotation
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The door to the Indians' suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center was propped slightly open when reporters arrived for a scheduled sit-down with general manager Chris Antonetti on Monday afternoon. That seemed fitting in light of the circumstances at hand at these Winter Meetings.
Given the kind of stumble Cleveland experienced last season, the organization has made it clear that it is open to listening to trade proposals for its stars. Antonetti does not plan on forcing a move for the sake of shedding salary, but he is willing to see how other clubs value his players, and if any of the offers make sense for the Tribe to pursue.
"We've had extensive dialogue with a lot of teams," Antonetti said, "both at the Meetings and leading up to them. I expect that to continue over the course of the next week."
This might be putting the Indians in a tough situation on the free-agent front. While Cleveland weighs the benefit of acquiring younger talent -- preferably top pitching prospects -- the club is also trying to fill some holes via free agency. Getting experienced veterans to sign right now, when the Tribe is considering trading away some of its top players, might take some convincing.
Having Terry Francona in place as the new manager has the potential to help attract some players to Cleveland, but his pull might only go so far if the club is on the cusp of parting with key players such as Asdrubal Cabrera or Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians have been linked to free agent Kevin Youkilis for first base and outfielder Shane Victorino.
The Indians have also been tied to free agent outfielders Scott Hairston and Jason Bay in reports. Cleveland also was rumored to have serious interest in free-agent first baseman James Loney before he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Tampa Bay on Monday.
Surely, Cleveland's plotted course has been a part of the discussions.
"A lot of times," Antonetti said, "free agents will ask questions about what we envision for our team for the next season, and then beyond if we're contemplating multiyear commitments. Sometimes those discussions play into it."
That might explain -- in part -- why Cleveland's additions via free agency to this point have been relatively minor. There have been a slew of Minor League deals and waiver claims, but no Major League free-agent contracts.
So far this winter, the only move that will clearly impact the Major League team was landing infielder Mike Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes from the Blue Jays in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers. Adding Aviles -- Boston's starting shortstop last season -- to the mix also has fueled speculation that the Indians are considering trading Cabrera.
Cabrera, a two-time American League All-Star, is owed $6.5 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014, which is his final season before becoming eligible for free agency. Coming off a 94-loss season -- one in which the rotation took a significant step backward -- Cleveland might try to reel in an impact pitcher or two in a deal for the shortstop.
Cabrera's extension, which was inked at the beginning of last season, includes a limited no-trade clause that reportedly gives him the right to veto a trade to the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Nationals, Giants or Mets.
If the Indians were to trade Cabrera, it might make sense for the club to subsequently look into the asking price for Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon. Multiple reports on Monday indicated that Los Angeles is open to trading Gordon this offseason.
It also makes sense for the Indians to field offers for right fielder Choo, who is in the final year of his contract before becoming eligible for free agency next winter. Choo is a client of agent Scott Boras, making it highly unlikely that Choo would sign an extension with Cleveland.
Acquiring young, controllable players is an approach that can help Cleveland build around its core group, which features other relatively young players such as Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana and Vinnie Pestano, among others.
Spending big in free agency can be dangerous for a club coming off such a down season. The Marlins, who doled out a handful of large contracts last winter and have traded away much of that guaranteed money this offseason, provide a recent example.
"I think most teams, if they had their preference," Antonetti said, "would build their teams internally for the most part, and then supplement through free agency. But, it's not always easy to accomplish that."
The trade market appears to be the most intriguing route for the Tribe right now. Antonetti indicated that teams have asked about the availability of "dozens" of players within Cleveland's system.
"And we've inquired about scores," he quipped. "Generally, I think we'd consider anything if it's the right deal."