Tribe Winter Meetings round-up

photoGreetings from the Winter Meetings at the Swan & Dolphin resort. Keep checking back here for a round-up of reports and rumors involving the Indians. Cleveland’s primary need heading into these Meetings was pitching, both for the starting rotation and for the bullpen. Here are the rumblings from around the hotel:

Wednesday:

  • There are still rumblings about teams inquiring about Justin Masterson (Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Yankees would love to have him), but it just doesn’t make sense for the Tribe to deal the big sinkerballer right now. Indians GM Chris Antonetti addressed such discussions — while being careful not to specifically talk about negotiations with or about Masterson — on Tuesday. In short: the Indians listen on any players. Click the link for more.
  • The Indians have yet to talk about an extension with Masterson, but his camp is not alarmed. The pitcher’s agent, Randy Rowley, is currently preparing case for one-year arbitration talks, but would welcome long-term discussions, too. Such talks can often be included in arbitration negotiations, and often are initiated after Jan. 1. Masterson’s camp is simply interested in a fair deal with respect to the current market for starting pitchers.
  • The Indians have a surplus of outfielders (Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, David Murphy, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Raburn) and are willing to listen on any of them, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Stubbs still remains the likely odd-man out given his role and arbitration status.
  • Indians are rumored to have interest in veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, according to John Heyman of CBS Sports. He named the Rays and Rangers as other suitors.
  • Indians first-base prospect Jesus Aguilar launched two more home runs in the Venezuelan Winter League on Tuesday. He’s now hitting .318/.378/.619 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs in 176 at-bats in the VWL. In 2013, between MLB Spring Training, Double-A and winter ball, all Aguilar has done is post a .287/.357/.476 slash line with 32 home runs, 34 doubles, 152 RBIs, 75 walks, 99 runs and 145 strikeouts in 687 at-bats. Expect him to be at Triple-A this season.
  • Rather than a pile of bullet points with updates on Masterson and much more, here’s a one-stop shopping link to a roundup of items from manager Terry Francona and Antonetti. Click here for today’s Winter Meetings notebook.

Tuesday:

  • Word is the Indians are willing to listen to trade proposals for Masterson. There is no reason to overreact to this right now. Cleveland is doing its due diligence, gauging value for a pitcher in the final year of his contract. Consider that the White Sox are open to listening on Chris Sale and the Rays are doing the same with David Price. The starting pitching market is getting extremely expensive and, if the Indians are considering signing Masterson to an extension, it makes sense to first see what return might be available in a trade.
  • The same applies to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, though the situation is a little different. Masterson is leading a staff that stands to lose 350-plus innings with Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir hitting free agency. Cabrera is coming off a down year, and another subpar second half, and is due to earn $10 million this season. With shortstop Mike Aviles in the fold, and Cleveland needing arms, it makes sense to listen to offers for the shortstop.
  • Masterson and Cabrera are a part of Cleveland’s Opening Day plans right now — Masterson, especially — but having such talks now can also lay groundwork for future discussions. In theory, if the Indians endure a terrible first half and 2014 goes off the rails, it would make sense for the Tribe to then resume talks with teams around the Trade Deadline.
  • The Indians have interest in free-agent reliever John Axford, who has also been linked to the Cubs, Mariners and Orioles. Axford has closing experience, but might come a little cheaper than free-agents such as Balfour and Fernando Rodney.
  • Pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Francona and bullpen coach Kevin Cash met with Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco at the Meetings on Tuesday. Carrasco (out of options) has first crack at the fifth spot in the rotation, as the roster currently stands. If he doesn’t wind up in the rotation, Carrasco could also transition to the bullpen. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are also in the fifth-starter mix right now. The rotation landscape would obviously change if the Indians sign a free agent or add an arm via trade.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reported that the Indians are trying to re-sign righty Tyler Cloyd to a Minor League deal after designating him for assignment to clear room for OF David Murphy. Hoynes also reported that the Indians were impressed by Cuban shortstop prospect Erisbel Arrubarrena in a workout, but noted that the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees are also involved.
  • Former Indians prospect Drew Pomeranz, and Minor League righty Chris Jensen, were traded to the A’s in exchange for lefty Brett Anderson.
  • Tribe fans hoping to land Mark Trumbo will also be disappointed to learn he was dealt to the D-backs in a three-team trade involving the White Sox and Angels. L.A reeled in pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, Arizona netted Trumbo (plus two PTBNL’s) and the ChiSox landed outfielder Adam Eaton.
  • Was able to confirm a report by Rosenthal that the Indians have expressed interest in reliever Joba Chamberlain. Rosenthal named the Tigers, D-backs, Rockies and Cubs as other clubs showing varying levels of interest in the pitcher.

Monday:

  • We already knew Carlos Santana was going to try his hand soon at third base, but on Day 1 of the Meetings, Antonetti noted that the team is still evaluating how much time the catcher will spend behind the plate. Cleveland is definitely in the market for a third-string catcher with big league experience, but the club might also consider backup options if it is determined it is best served with Santana in a 1B/DH/3B-exclusive role.
  • The Indians made two announcements on Monday: they signed first baseman David Cooper to a Major League contract and infielder Jose Ramirez might need surgery after injuring his left thumb in winter ball. Cooper will continue an incredible comeback story with a shot at earning a bench job for the Indians this spring.
  • The Indians recently lost out on signing reliever Edward Mujica (two-year deal with Red Sox) in their search for bullpen help. On the first day of the Meetings, Cleveland was reported to have interest in Grant Balfour. If an available arm has late-inning experience, the Tribe is looking into it.
  • Cleveland expressed interest in free-agent right-hander Jason Hammel (to the point that Callaway spoke with the pitcher). Hammel is reportedly seeking a three- or four-year deal, though, which likely takes the Indians out of the running.
  • Former Indians closer Chris Perez — a free agent — was on hand at the Swan and Dolphin on Monday to meet with interested teams. Former Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore is also expected to be at the Meetings this week to do the same thing.
  • Indians outfield prospect Tyler Naquin (selected by the Indians with the 15th pick in the 2012 Draft) was named to the Arizona Fall League’s 2013 Top Prospects Team. In 27 games, Naquin posted a .339/.400/.417 slash line with six extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and 22 runs scored.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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