December 2012

Winter Meetings: Wednesday

It just wouldn’t be right to have a Winter Meetings without some wild talk of multi-team trade possibilities. This year, it’s the Indians who are reportedly in the mix for a blockbuster.

Cleveland and Arizona have reportedly been trying to work on a four-team deal that would include sending shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the D-backs. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince reported that the Tribe and D-backs have also discussed framework of a traditional trade centered around Cabrera and pitcher Trevor Bauer.

Will this complicated deal come to fruition? They rarely do, due to the many moving parts. I do think Cleveland will trade Cabrera, though not necessarily before these Meetings conclude. There is simply too much smoke not to believe there is a fire burning behind the scenes.

Keep checking back here throughout the day for rumors and reports from Nashville:

  • After missing out on Shane Victorino, the Indians remains very much in the mix for free-agent outfielder Jason Bay. The club has extended him a one-year offer, and Bay is nearing his decision. The Mariners and others remain in play, too.
  • Free-agent infielder Jack Hannahan has garnered interest from seven teams in Nashville, with five showing “genuine” interest. A reunion in Cleveland seems unlikely given that he has an opportunity to start or platoon elsewhere. The White Sox, Reds, Yankees and Twins have all checked in.
  • The Indians handed Cody Allen the Bob Feller Award for Minor League pitcher of the year and outfielder Tim Fedroff the Lou Boudreau Award for Minor League Player of the Year. Well deserved on both fronts.
  • Kevin Youkilis’ camp met with the Indians on Tuesday, and is reportedly mulling multiple offers. With the Tribe, he’d be an everyday first baseman. He has opportunities to play third base (White Sox, Yankees) elsewhere.
  • 11:30 a.m. CT — The four-team trade talks are reportedly ongoing, and involve the Indians, D-backs, Rays and Rangers. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Royals have been involved, too. Sooo… stay tuned.
  • Olney also noted that the Indians are interested in free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher after swinging and missing on Victorino.
  • Reporters have a luncheon with baseball’s managers today, and we also have a scheduled sit-down with Terry Francona this afternoon. Later on, we will have our daily discussion with GM Chris Antonetti. Stay tuned for highlights of both sessions.
  • 3:10 p.m. CT — Indians are out on Bay, who is finalizing a Major League deal with Seattle. Bay’s is a native of Trail, B.C., which is northeast of his new home city.
  • Various reports about the proposed multi-team deal describe it as being dormant for the time being. Nothing seems imminent.
  • Indians have continued to show interest in Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher, and Mark Reynolds is also on their radar for first base.
  • 7:45 p.m. CT — Been busy writing a few stories for Indians.com, but here are a few updates from the past few hours: Indians have inquired about the availability of Dodgers SS Dee Gordon, likely in case they trade Cabrera. … Along those lines, Cleveland has also reportedly shown interest in free-agent SS Stephen Drew. … Indians have met with Mark Reynolds’ reps, and continue to have a high level of interest in Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher. … Mike Pelfrey is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar.
  • Highlights of our sit-downs with Francona and Antonetti will be on Indians.com tonight, along with a story on former player/coach/manager and  long-time Indians employee Johnny Goryl, who will receive the Minor League Mike Coolbaugh Award on Thursday night. The 79-year-old Goryl is currently an advisor to the team’s player development department.

–JB

Winter Meetings: Tuesday

Opryland2It is Day 2 of these Winter Meetings and the Indians are, well, right where they were on Day 1. There has been plenty of talk, lots of meetings, but we’ll see if anything develops into anything of substance before we depart Nashville.

It has been well documented that Cleveland is opening to hearing out trade offers for its top players, including Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez and Justin Masterson.  Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reported last night that the Tribe actually came close to dealing Cabrera.

The potential acquiring club remains a mystery, but Hoynes wrote that the Indians had the framework in place for a deal that could have netted one Major League pitcher and two “high-level” prospects. The Indians insisted on a third prospect added to the mix, and that’s when things fell apart.

What this shows is that the Indians are not going to trade a player just to trade a player. The club wants a lot in return, and is not going to budge this early in the offseason game.

The way I see it, Cabrera’s value can only go down once the season starts. This is the time to deal him: 27 years old, two All-Star games, controllable at an affordable rate for two full seasons. Cleveland should try to get as much as they can, and that is what the team is trying to do.

As for someone like Choo, I think his value could actually go up as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches. If the right fielder — a Scott Boras client, and likely free agent next winter — gets off to a good start, he could be a highly-sought rental player for a contender in the second half.

With a rotation filled with question marks, depth is needed, and so is a strong bullpen. That is why I don’t sense as much urgency to deal the likes of Masterson or Perez. Right now, it makes the most sense for the Indians to find a taker, and the right deal, for Cabrera.

Stay tuned for more rumors and updates throughout the day…

  • A reminder that the Stand Up To Cancer auction ends on Thursday. It’s a cause that hits close to home for many people, including myself. I wrote about that HERE.
  • According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, the Mets have targeted Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano. Why not? He’s young, controllable, cheap and good. And those are all reasons why Cleveland should (and likely will) hang on to him.
  • 1:20 p.m. CT — Negotiations with free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino are heating up, according to multiple reports, and the Indians continue to be in the mix. It could take a four-year contract to sign the Flyin’ Hawaiian, who also has suitors in the Reds Sox, Cubs and Yankees. The Phillies have also been mentioned, with Reds and Braves to a lesser degree.
  • 1:48 p.m. CT — Rubin also checks in with a report that free-agent outfielder Jason Bay is nearing a deal with the Mariners. Bay, a native of British Columbia, would be closer to home in Seattle. The Indians have expressed interest in Bay all winter.
  • 4:39 p.m. CT — Indians are out on Victorino, who has agreed to a three-year deal, per numerous reports. Boston gave him $39 million, according to FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal. No word yet what Cleveland was offering. The Tribe is, however, still in on Bay. The earlier report was deemed “premature” by a source.
  • 5:32 p.m. CT — ESPN’s Buster Olney says the D-backs have laid the groundwork for a four-team trade — currently dormant — that would net them Asdrubal Cabrera. Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com also notes that Indians have checked in with Arizona about outfielder Justin Upton. Reports have indicated that Cleveland has asked for pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs from Arizona in any deal. D-backs also have highly-touted pitcher Trevor Bauer, who would presumably be of interest as well.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer hears that free-agent third baseman Jack Hannahan has a big league offer from an AL Central club. White Sox might be a fit, but so might Hannahan’s hometown Twins. Hoynes also hears that the Tribe met with Kevin Youkilis’ agent on Tuesday.
  • The Indians offered Victorino a four-year contract worth more than $40 million. Ken Rosenthal pegged down the specific total at $44 million, or $11 million per season. Victorino will earn $13 million annually in Boston.

Highlights of our sit-down with Antonetti:

  • Our daily chat with Antonetti took place shortly before Victorino reached his agreement with the Red Sox, so much of the session included questions related to possibly adding him to the Indians’ outfield. Other topics were addressed as well.
  • On Monday, Antonetti said free agents will often ask for his vision for the team in 2013, and beyond in the case of possible multi-year signings. Asked what he tells them, Antonetti said, “Same thing that we shared with you guys at the end of the season. We have a very talented nucleus of young players around which to build. 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.”
  • Asked if Indians could benefit from having another player with leadoff experience, Antonetti said, “It could. The thing we concern ourselves with is adding the best players. With some of the players we have, they have some versatility with where they can hit in the lineup. So I think we could add guys that can hit towards the top of the lineup or add guys that hit in the middle of the lineup, and adjust with our other personnel around the player that we acquire.”
  • Similar to Monday, Antonetti was asked if the team’s preference would still be to keep Michael Brantley in center field if the club signed another outfielder with exeperience as both a center and left fielder. The GM said, “As we’ve said, we’re very comfortable with Michael as our center fielder. If we were to acquire a player that we felt improved our team by playing center field, then we have the ability to shift Michael over to left. But we have all the confidence in Michael playing center field and look at him as our center fielder.”
  • Antonetti praised Terry Francona’s work behind the scenes in recruiting free agents: “With the information we have so far, it’s made a huge impact. As we talked yesterday, every agent who we’ve talked to, where Terry has talked to their client, has come back and said how impressed their clients were not only with the conversation, and how fired up they’d be to play for Terry, but his reputation in the game and the reputation about the environment he creates for players to play. That is certainly been a very positive dynamic in our conversations with agents.”
  • Antonetti said offering three- or four-year deals was in no way related to a perceived window for contention: “I wouldn’t want to put any timeframes on it and say how many years. We have a very talented group of players. Now, again, we need to build around that and complement them and then go to Spring Training and get our work done and play games.  Ultimately, that will determine how competitive we are.”

–JB

Winter Meetings: Monday

OprylandGreetings from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Above is the view from our perch outside the MLB.com workroom. Below, that’s only a fraction of this hotel’s floorplan. It’s a maze. I’ve already found myself lost a couple of times, and I’ve been here before.

Over the next four days, all kinds of baseball types will be on hand for scheduled meetings in ballrooms and behind closed doors. The MLB meetings are not what make this event interesting, though. It’s the fact that this annual fest becomes a hive for offseason roster activity.

The Indians are in the market for help for the rotation, first base, left field and designated hitter. Certainly, other areas could stand to be upgraded, too. This week, Cleveland media on hand will have daily sit-downs with GM Chris Antonetti to discuss the current plan, and some of the possible moves coming.

Indians president Mark Shapiro will be here as well, along with new manager Terry Francona. On Wednesday, Francona will have a sit-down in the afternoon with reporters to field questions and give his thoughts on hat lies ahead for this Indians club.

Keep checking back here and on Indians.com/MLB.com for all the latest rumors and reports from these Winter Meetings. Make sure you are following me on Twitter (@MLBastian) as well. I will keep updating the blog as often as I can to keep you informed of the daily rumors or interviews:

  • 7:45 a.m. CT — Discovered a Starbucks self-serve machine outside the main media work room. You just grab a cup, swipe a credit card and pick your blend. Boom, coffee! Welcome to the future. The machines are slowly taking over.
  • 8:30 a.m. CT — MLB.com has confirmed the Plain Dealer’s report that the Indians are in the process of selling the SportsTime Ohio TV Network to Fox. The P-D estimated that the deal could be worth between $200-250 million. I was unable to confirm how accuracy of that suggested price tag.
  • Word is that the Indians are asking a lot for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. It goes wthout saying that acquiring young pitching is a priority in any deal. There are mixed opinions on whether Cleveland is set on “blowing it up” (i.e. trading the likes of Cabrera, Choo and/or Chris Perez) or if the team plans on standing pat.
  • I feel that recently non-tendered lefty John Lannan would be a great fit for the Indians. That said, I think this winter’s pitching market will play in his favor. If teams get into an over-paying range for Lannan, I don’t think Cleveland will be in the mix.
  • 11:30 a.m. CT — According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Indians had serious interest in James Loney before he signed with the Rays.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera reportedly has a limited no-trade clause in his contract — can block trades to Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Nationals, Giants and Mets.
  • 6 p.m. CT — We met with Antonetti in his suite a little while ago. I will follow with some highlights in a bit.
  • MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince has learned that free-agent OF Grady Sizemore underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in September. He will be sidelined until at least mid-season. The guy just can’t catch a break.
  • Indians have been linked to free-agent outfielder Scott Hairston.

Highlights from sit-down with Antonetti:

  • The GM said the recent knee surgery for righty Corey Kluber did make starting pitching more of a priority than it already was this winter. Kluber should be ready to compete for a job in the spring. Antonetti said, “It remains a goal of ours to add alternatives to our starting rotation.”
  • Asked if the team absolutely needs to add a new first baseman, Antonetti replied: “We feel we have some internal options with the guys currently on our roster and in the organization, but we’re not going to limit ourselves in the way we can potentially improve. So if there’s the right first baseman that makes sense, that we think can improve the team, we’ll look to do it.”
  • Matt LaPorta isn’t on the 40-man roster, but he will be in spring trying to earn a job. Antonetti said, “It’s an important offseason for Matt to make sure he first accomplishes his [hip] rehabilitation goals and comes into Spring Training ready to earn a spot. And we’ll continue to commit the resources necessary to help him along the way.”
  • Antonetti said Russ Canzler’s “most comfortable” position is first base. As for Canzler’s up-and-down showing in September, Antonetti said, “It was his first opportunity at the Major League level to get more extensive playing time. He showed some promise in the at-bats that he did get, but it’s hard for any player in their first Major League exposure to have a lot of consistency.”
  • It sounds as though Antonetti is leaning toward keeping Michael Brantley in center field: “Right now, I’d expect Michael to be our center fielder. Michael has versatility to go to left if we decide that’s the best thing for our team, but we’re confident with Michael being our center fielder. We will not limit ourselves. We’ve been pretty exhaustive in our search with both trades and free agents with outfielders.”
  • The Indians have allowed lefties Chris Seddon and Raffy Perez to hit free agency this winter, but Antonetti is not making acquiring left-handed relief a top priority: “[Scott] Barnes, [Nick] Hagadone, [Tony]Sipp give us three pretty good options. But, again, if there’s that right guy out there that makes sense, we’ll pursue it.”
  • Antonetti also noted that he has made it clear to the agents for Raffy Perez, Jack Hannahan and Seddon that the Indians have interest in re-signing them for 2013.
  • Antonetti isn’t cornering himself in terms of filling the DH role. He likes flexibility in the role, but is open to a full-time DH if it makes sense. He also would not rule out re-signing DH Travis Hafner: “
    Potentially. We haven’t lost sight of that.”
  • As for Sizemore, who has such familiarity with Cleveland’s training staff, Antonetti also wouldn’t rule out bringing the outfielder back. “We wouldn’t close any doors,” said the GM. “We’ve talked about it with Grady. If there’s the right fit that made sense, we’d be open-minded to it.” Of course, if Sizemore isn’t an option until at least mid-season, it seems unlikely that any club would sign him before the season.

–JB

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