Tribe looks to Spring Training after creative offseason
Acquisitions of Francona, Swisher have Indians anticipating beginning of 2013
CLEVELAND -- There were two directions the Indians could have gone this winter. Following a disappointing season, Cleveland could have either entered into a complete rebuilding mode or tried to be creative in addressing the various holes on the roster.
The Tribe's decision makers took the latter approach, hiring a proven manager in Terry Francona, targeting big-ticket free agents and also pursuing young talent via trades. The result was an aggressive offseason that has Cleveland's players excited about the possibilities for 2013.
"No one was happy with the way the season ended last year," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "No one wanted the second half to go the way it did. And the team, the front office, the fans, the whole city of Cleveland, I'm sure, was looking for something to be done.
"I thought they did a great job of making some moves where there is enthusiasm now about this upcoming year. There is some confidence. There is some excitement about the team and what it brings. I thought they did a great job of that."
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, whose friendship and prior working relationship with Francona played a big role in convincing the manager to come to Cleveland, made a series of significant moves to re-organize the roster.
Gone are former Cleveland cornerstones Shin-Soo Choo (traded), Travis Hafner (option declined), Roberto Hernandez (option declined) and Grady Sizemore (free agency). Added to the fold are the likes of Nick Swisher (four-year, $56 million contract), Brett Myers (one-year, $7 million), Mark Reynolds (one-year, $6 million) and highly-touted pitching prospect Trevor Bauer (acquired from Arizona).
That is only a sampling of an offseason that included more than 50 players coming or going.
From the onset of the offseason, Antonetti made his view of the team's situation clear.
"We have a very talented nucleus of young players around which to build," Antonetti said. "I think we feel that if we can complement that group with the right players moving forward, we have a chance to be a very good team."
Cleveland did what it could to complement its young core group this offseason. Now, it is time to see if the club can turn the page on its 68-win showing in 2012 and develop into a contender in the American League Central. That is no easy task, not even for a manager such as Francona.
"Having a challenge isn't bad," Francona said in December. "Trying to find a way to tackle it is actually pretty exciting. And I'm not delusional. We have challenges. We have some things we've got to overcome, but trying to do that, I'm looking forward to it."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Away vs. Reds, Feb. 22 at 3:05 p.m. ET
Away vs. Blue Jays, April 2 at 7:07 p.m. ET
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. How much will change under new manager Terry Francona?
The hiring of Francona, combined with a revamped coaching staff and a wave of roster moves this winter, ensures that there will be a different feel around the clubhouse this year. The Tribe's players have expressed excitement over the hire and an eagerness to get the season rolling. Francona's task will be to convert this enthusiasm and optimism into more wins on the field. His track record indicates that he is up to the challenge.
2. Will Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez rebound in 2013?
Two seasons after Jimenez was a National League Cy Young Award contender, and one season following a breakout campaign for Masterson, the Tribe's rotation leaders combined for 32 losses in an historically poor showing. The law of averages alone should lead to improvement in 2013. One thing is certain: Cleveland needs Masterson and Jimenez to bounce back if it wants to be a surprise contender in the division.
3. Who will occupy the designated hitter role?
With the Travis Hafner era now complete, the Indians appear to be moving in a more flexible direction in terms of how to use the DH slot in the lineup. As of this writing, Cleveland did not have one particular player lined up for the bulk of the at-bats for that role. Instead, the Tribe seems to be leaning toward cycling a handful of players through the DH role in order to provide rest for the lineup regulars.
68-94, fourth in the American League Central
Projected batting order
1. LF Michael Brantley:
.288 BA, .348 OBP, .402 SLG, 6 HR, 60 RBI in 2012
2. 2B Jason Kipnis:
.257 BA, .335 OBP, .379 SLG, 14 HR, 76 RBI in 2012
3. SS Asdrubal Cabrera:
.270 BA, .338 OBP, .423 SLG, 16 HR, 68 RBI in 2012
4. RF Nick Swisher:
.272 BA, .364 OBP, .473 SLG, 24 HR, 93 RBI in 2012
5. C Carlos Santana:
.252 BA, .365 OBP, .420 SLG, 18 HR, 76 RBI in 2012
6. 1B Mark Reynolds:
.221 BA, .335 OBP, .429 SLG, 23 HR, 69 RBI in 2012
7. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall:
.268 BA, .311 OBP, .430 SLG, 5 HR, 16 RBI in 2012
8. DH Mike Aviles:
.250 BA, .282 OBP, .381 SLG, 13 HR, 60 RBI in 2012
9. CF Drew Stubbs:
.213 BA, .277 OBP, .333 SLG, 14 HR, 40 RBI in 2012
1. RHP Justin Masterson, 11-15, 4.93 ERA in 2012
2. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, 9-17, 5.40 ERA in 2012
3. RHP Brett Myers, 3-8, 3.31 ERA in 2012
4. RHP Zach McAllister, 6-8, 4.24 ERA in 2012
5. RHP Carlos Carrasco, Did not pitch in 2012
6. RHP Trevor Bauer, 1-2, 6.06 ERA in 2012
7. RHP Corey Kluber, 2-5, 5.14 ERA in 2012
The new guys
RHP Matt Albers: Acquired from Arizona as part of Cleveland's blockbuster trade that also involved Cincinnati, Albers heads into camp as a leading candidate for one of the available bullpen roles. The right-hander posted a 2.39 ERA last season, was strong against lefty hitters and is out of Minor League options.
Aviles: The Indians landed Aviles in November in a trade with Toronto. The everyday shortstop for the Red Sox last season, Aviles joins the Tribe as a versatile utility player. He will serve as the primary backup to Cabrera at shortstop, but can also bounce around between second base, third base, DH and possibly the outfield.
Bauer: A key piece within the three-team, nine-player trade between the Indians, Reds and D-backs, Bauer gives Cleveland the kind of young impact pitching prospect that has been missing for the past two seasons. After a rocky tour with Arizona last year, Bauer will enter camp as a candidate for the fifth rotation spot with the Tribe.
RHP Matt Capps: Capps has had success as a late-inning reliever throughout his career, but right shoulder woes dogged him down the stretch last season with the Twins. Cleveland signed Capps to a Minor League contract and will bring him into camp as a non-roster invitee for a shot at winning a middle-relief job.
OF Ben Francisco: Francisco's second career stint with the Indians will be as a non-roster outfield candidate (along with Matt Carson and Cedric Hunter). Cleveland's starting outfield picture is set with Brantley, Stubbs and Swisher, but the club will be holding a competition for the fourth outfield role. It is possible that the Indians consider having two extra outfielders on the Opening Day roster.
C Yan Gomes: Cleveland obtained Gomes in the same trade with Toronto that netted Aviles. The young catcher enters camp with a shot at earning a bench job as a third catcher and backup option for the corner infield and outfield spots, as well as DH. That versatility, along with his right-handed power, makes Gomes an intriguing roster candidate.
LHP Scott Kazmir: Kazmir has not pitched in the Majors since 2011, but he showed flashes of his talent in a winter ball stint in Puerto Rico. Cleveland signed Kazmir to a Minor League contract and will bring him into camp as a dark horse candidate for the fifth rotation spot. If Kazmir can rebound, this could be a steal for the Tribe.
1B Chris McGuiness: The Indians grabbed McGuiness from the Rangers in December's Rule 5 Draft. The left-handed-hitting first baseman hasn't played above Double-A, but his power potential (.814 career OPS in the Minors) was attractive for the Tribe. If McGuiness doesn't make the Opening Day roster, Cleveland must offer him back to Texas, or try to work out a trade.
Myers: The right-hander worked as a reliever in tours with the Astros and White Sox last year, but Cleveland is giving him a chance to start again. Signed to a one-year contract worth $7 million (plus a club option for 2014), Myers is a lock for the rotation. In his career as a starter, the righty has offered a consistent ability to throw strikes and pitch deep into games.
INF Ryan Raburn: The Indians signed Raburn -- a veteran of seven big league seasons with Detroit -- to a Minor League contract, throwing him into the spring mix as a utility player off the bench. Cleveland also signed infielders Luis Hernandez and Nate Spears to Minor League deals with spring invites this winter.
Reynolds: Featuring right-handed power has been a problem for the Indians' lineup in recent years, but the club feels it has found a short-term solution in Reynolds. Cleveland signed the first baseman to a one-year deal worth $6 million, and can use him as a part-time DH or part-time third baseman, if needed.
RHP Bryan Shaw: Cleveland acquired Shaw -- along with Albers and Bauer -- from Arizona in December. The right-hander posted a 3.47 ERA with the D-backs last season and gives the Indians another experienced middle-relief option. Shaw joins a long list of spring candidates for the two or three available bullpen jobs.
Stubbs: Stubbs was the lone player reeled in from Cincinnati as part of the nine-player trade with the D-backs and Reds in December. The Indians have not stated where Stubbs will play, but he will likely take over in center field. Stubbs will rack up his share of strikeouts, but he offers speed on the bases, strong defense and decent pop at the plate.
Swisher: The Indians made their biggest splash of the offseason in January by reeling in Swisher with a four-year, $56 million contract, which includes a vesting option for 2014. Swisher takes over in right field and gives the Tribe a switch-hitting run producer in the heart of the lineup. He also brings an infectious energy that could make him a favorite among fans.
Prospects to watch
1B Jesus Aguilar: The Indians are hoping that the 22-year-old Aguilar can continue to develop into a power-hitting first baseman. A right-handed hitter, Aguilar hit .280 with 15 homers, 31 doubles, 71 RBIs and an .813 OPS in 122 games between high Class A Carolina and Double-A Akron last season. He also appeared in the All-Star Futures Game in July.
RHP Trey Haley: Haley worked at three levels last season, topping out at Double-A Akron and posting a 2.33 ERA along the way. In 25 appearances, the hard-throwing right-hander compiled 49 strikeouts against 19 walks in 38 2/3 innings. At the rate he is climbing, Haley could ascend to the big leagues this season.
LHP T.J. House: In 27 starts last season, the 23-year-old House went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA between stops with high Class A Carolina and Double-A Akron. In 149 1/3 innings, the left-hander had 116 strikeouts and 50 walks. House will be in camp with the Indians this spring and is certainly on the club's radar for rotation depth.
SS Francisco Lindor: The 19-year-old shortstop is still likely a couple seasons away from being ready for the big leagues, but he is the kind of top prospect worth monitoring throughout the year. Cleveland's top pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Lindor hit .257 with six homers, 24 doubles, 27 stolen bases, 42 RBIs and 83 runs for low Class A Lake County last season.
RHP Danny Salazar: The 23-year-old Salazar continued his comeback from a right elbow injury with a strong showing with high Class A Carolina and Double-A Akron last season. In 22 starts, the hard-throwing right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA, piling up 76 strikeouts and 27 walks in 87 2/3 innings.
On the rebound
Carrasco: The right-hander was a part of Cleveland's rotation in 2011, but missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Carrasco will face an innings restriction this year, but he is healthy and comes into camp as a realistic contender for one of the Tribe's available starting jobs.
Jimenez: The lanky righty has been unable to live up to the hype that surrounded him when Cleveland acquired him in a blockbuster Trade Deadline deal two seasons ago. Jimenez regained some velocity last season, but he continued to fight his mechanics and location. The Tribe needs a big comeback season from Big U.
Masterson: One of the AL's breakout pitchers in 2011, Masterson suffered a statistical setback last season. The sinkerballer was victimized by big innings and allowed home runs at a higher rate than in the past. In order to have success as a team this year, Cleveland will need a solid bounceback showing from its workhorse.
Aviles: With a spot on Cleveland's Opening Day roster essentially wrapped up, Aviles will step away from camp to suit up for Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican team is part of Pool C, which also includes the Dominican Republic, Spain and Venezuela.
Cabrera: Cleveland's starting shortstop, and two-time AL All-Star, will be playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic this spring. The Pool C participants will play from March 7-10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Santana: The Tribe's regular catcher jumped at the chance to suit up for the Dominican Republic in the third installment of the Classic. It will mark Santana's first time taking part in the tournament.
LHP Giovanni Soto: The left-handed starting prospect will join Aviles on Puerto Rico's Classic squad this spring. Last year, Soto went 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 121 1/3 innings for Double-A Akron.
Perez: Perez -- an AL All-Star in each of the past two seasons -- will join the United States' roster for the Classic. With Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel also on Team USA, Perez may see action as a setup man or closer for the United States.
Pestano: Over the past two seasons, Pestano has emerged as one of the AL's top setup men. Now, he will join Perez in the Team USA bullpen. Pestano and Perez form a strong combination for Cleveland in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
1B Russ Canzler: At one point, it appeared Canzler was the favorite to fill the DH duties in Cleveland. The Indians then designated Canzler for assignment and lost him on waivers to Toronto. Cleveland later re-claimed Canzler -- only to lose him again on waivers to the Yankees.
RF Shin-Soo Choo: Cleveland traded Choo -- its top offensive player last season -- to the Reds as part of the three-team, nine-player deal in December. Choo became expendable given the fact that the right fielder is eligible for free agency next winter.
INF Jason Donald: The versatile infielder was shipped to Cincinnati, along with Choo, in the complicated December deal involving the Reds and D-backs. Originally acquired from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee trade in 2009, Donald never took off for the Tribe.
LF Shelley Duncan: Cleveland's Opening Day left fielder a year ago, Duncan labored at the plate after his playing time became more sporadic following the addition of Johnny Damon last April. Duncan signed a Minor League deal with the Rays this winter.
RHP Jeanmar Gomez: The Indians designated Gomez for assignment in January and eventually worked out a trade with the Pirates, acquiring Minor League outfielder Quincy Latimore for the pitcher. Gomes was in the Tribe's Opening Day rotation a year ago.
DH Travis Hafner: Given Hafner's history of injury and decline over the past few years, the Indians declined the DH's $13 million club option for next season. The Tribe paid a $2.75 million buyout, and Hafner recently signed a one-year pact with the Yankees.
3B Jack Hannahan: Cleveland non-tendered Hannahan in December, opening the door for Chisenhall to take the reins at third base. Hannahan hit the open market and inked a two-year contract with the Reds.
RHP Roberto Hernandez: Formerly known as Fausto Carmona, Hernandez dealt with legal woes and a foot injury last year, limiting him to three subpar starts. Cleveland declined his option for 2013, and he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.
1B Casey Kotchman: Kotchman provided the kind of stellar defense Cleveland expected last season, but he struggled in the batter's box in his lone season with the Tribe. Kotchman was allowed to hit the free-agent market this offseason.
LHP Rafael Perez: Following an injury-marred season, Perez was eligible for arbitration. Cleveland non-tendered the lefty reliever, allowing him to become a free agent. The Indians are hoping youngsters Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes can step up as solid left-handed relief options.
RHP Esmil Rogers: The Indians acquired Rogers from Colorado midway through last season, and he stepped up as a valuable relief option for the team. In November, Cleveland traded the righty to Toronto in exchange for Aviles and Gomes.
LHP Tony Sipp: Sipp was sent to the D-backs, along with Minor League first baseman Lars Anderson, as part of the trade that netted Albers, Bauer, Shaw and Stubbs for Cleveland. Sipp spent the past four years as part of the Indians' bullpen.
CF Grady Sizemore: The Indians signed Sizemore last offseason to a one-year, $5 million contract. Sizemore then spent the entire season rehabbing from back and knee injuries, appearing in zero games. He was allowed to hit free agency this offseason.