Winter Meetings: Day 1
Keep checking back here for updates throughout the day. Cleveland’s big need is a bat, though the club will also be searching for depth on the mound and probably for a utility role. Those last two areas could be addressed with some lower-level signings or Minor League deals.
As for free agents, it’s not clear how much money the Tribe has to spend. The way things stand right now, the payroll projects to be around $60 million before any more additions. It has been estimated that the Indians could operate between $60-$70 million for the 2012 season.
One early report from ESPN pegged the Indians as one of nine teams to call on free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham. I’ve written on Indians.com already that he would be a good fit for Cleveland at the right price. That said, Indians GM Chris Antonetti has said the starting outfield is set with Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo.
Being one of the teams to call on a player is not really huge news. The Indians’ brass wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they weren’t at least calling to learn about acquisition cost, even if it’s one phone call that doesn’t go beyond that. I’m sure Cleveland has inquired on plenty of other free-agents, too. See: Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Pena. That doesn’t mean those players are coming to C-town.
Barring a trade, I see the Indians’ focus being on adding someone to the first-base mix. Otherwise, Cleveland might be looking at another year of pinning its hopes on continued progress from budding stars such as Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brantley and others.
Look for the Indians to also continue to search for right-handed utility options. Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa have been linked to the Tribe. Those are hardly big names, but these wouldn’t be big contracts being handed out, either.
More as I hear…
1:52 p.m. CT — Spoke to a source that indicated that Indians’ interest in Willingham is “mild”. So don’t make too much of that earlier rumor for the time being. The Tribe has also called on free-agent 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, but the interest is very minimal. More checking in than anything else. Indians have also reportedly expressed interest in Casey Kotchman. Truth be told, Indians are checking in with just about any available first baseman not named Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti is scheduled to meet with Cleveland media around 3:30 p.m. CT, so stay tuned for more from that session. Earlier today, he offered a “no comment” when asked by Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer if there was any interest in pursuing Manny Ramirez. I don’t see the Tribe going down that road.
The Marlins are rumored to be in pursuit of Pujols, which would leave Gaby Sanchez as prime trade bait. Heard that Miami would most likely want a Major League starter in return in any potential deal for the right-handed-hitting first baseman. I don’t know if Cleveland has inquired, but he is a player I’d keep in mind. Seems to be a potential fit.
4:55 p.m. CT — My how a few hours can change things around here. Reports now are that Rays are getting close to reeling in Willingham. So, moving on…
Met with Antonetti and discussed the first-base situation, among other topics. Per his policy, Antonetti refrained from addressing specific players that the team might be targeting. He reiterated that Matt LaPorta needs to show the Indians he can be far moe consistent than he’s been up to this point. One thing to note: LaPorta has an option, but Shelley Duncan does not.
Antonetti noted that Ubaldo Jimenez will likely make 4-7 starts in winter ball. Indians also working closely with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on his offseason regimen. It’ll likely include a limited stint in winter ball, too. Cleveland wants to find a way to prepare Asdrubal so he doesn’t fade down the stretch like he did last year. As of right now, no winter ball for Carlos Santana.
Shin-Soo Choo is currently in Korea finishing up his military obligation. He’ll be back in the States in about two weeks. Heard that he’ll be diving into his hitting program come Jan.1. Also heard Indians still interested in an extension for the outfielder. I still think it’s unlikely, given agent Scott Boras’ history of taking his clients into free agency.
Antonetti noted that the Indians will likely announce 40-man move later today or tomorrow. The move will be to officially place re-signed CF Grady Sizemore on the roster. The GM said the holdup has been approval of all the terms from the league office. Seems like Thanksgiving and the CBA deal sort of put the Sizemore signing on the backburner.