Indians' Antonetti preps for winter meetingsAP , Associated Press
Dec. 6, 2013 4:57 PM ET
CLEVELAND (AP) — Indians general manager Chris Antonetti has a clear list of priorities going into next week's winter meetings.
Cleveland was one of baseball's most surprising teams last season, winning 92 games and wrapping up a wild-card spot on the final day. Several key members from last season's playoff team won't return, however, and Antonetti has some work to do if the Indians are going to repeat.
Finding help for the pitching staff, both in the rotation and bullpen, tops Antonetti's shopping list. The Indians have already lost starter Scott Kazmir and setup man Joe Smith to free agency while right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, the team's best pitcher down the stretch, is also expected to sign elsewhere. Closer Chris Perez was released in October.
The Indians' biggest move has been signing outfielder David Murphy to a $12 million, two-year contract last month.
"We went into the offseason with a defined set of needs and in a much better position than the last few offseasons," Antonetti said Friday. "We're still focused on trying to improve our pitching options. We want to make sure we find the right guys at the right (financial) values."
Cleveland ended the regular season with a 10-game winning streak and went 21-6 in September. Terry Francona, who directed a 24-game improvement from 2012, was chosen as the AL Manager of the Year in his first season with the team.
The Indians have already been hit hard by hard by free agency. Kazmir, who went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA, signed with Oakland while Jimenez will be one of the most coveted pitchers on the market. Jimenez, who was 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts, was one of the best starters in the AL in the second half and has likely pitched himself out of the Indians' price range.
"Both guys made very meaningful contributions to our team last year and were a big part of our success, but we feel like we have quality in-house alternatives," Antonetti said.
The Indians hope a full season from 23-year-old right-hander Danny Salazar will help fill one of the holes. He made the jump from Double-A Akron to the majors last season and showed a dominating fastball that often pushed 100 mph on the radar gun. Salazar started the wild-card playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
The Indians hope right-hander Trevor Bauer, the key acquisition in a three-team trade with Cincinnati and Arizona last offseason, will win a spot in the rotation. Bauer, the third pick in the 2011 draft by the Diamondbacks, made only four starts with the Indians last season as he revamped his delivery.
Cleveland has at least two open spots in the bullpen. Smith, perhaps the team's most valuable reliever, agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Perez led the team with 25 saves despite pitching with a sore shoulder, struggled down the stretch and lost his closer's job in the final weekend when the Indians were fighting for a playoff spot. He was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession in September.
Antonetti said right-hander Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw are candidates for the closer's spot, but he didn't rule out acquiring someone to pitch the ninth inning.
"There are a numbers of alternatives out there externally that have experience at the end of games," he said. "Whether or not we'll align them as values, it's still too early in the offseason to say, but there are a number of guys out there with that experience."
Murphy will add outfield depth and give Francona more options with the lineup. The left-handed hitter had a down season in 2013, batting a career-low .220 with 13 homers and 45 RBIs in 142 games.
"We addressed what we felt was one of our primary offseason objectives in improving against right-handed pitching," Antonetti said. "We'll continue to look at options to try to improve."
Antonetti said catcher Carlos Santana has been taking ground balls at third base at the team's spring training complex and will play there in winter ball. It's possible Santana could see time at third next season.