After three-way deal, Tribe not done with upgrades
Starting pitching, right field, designated hitter on GM Antonetti's list
CLEVELAND -- In the wake of the Indians' loudest transaction of the winter, general manager Chris Antonetti made one thing abundantly clear.
"We still have work to do," Antonetti said at Progressive Field on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after his club's involvement in a three-team, nine-player blockbuster that dispersed pieces to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Arizona. "We feel like [Tuesday's trade] was another step forward for us in our offseason, but our hope and our preference would be to be able to do some more this offseason."
The trade landed the Tribe center fielder Drew Stubbs and right-handers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw, but cost the club Shin-Soo Choo, who patrolled right field for the club for the majority of the last seven years. That creates a vacancy at the position, one Antonetti surmised would be addressed before Spring Training, likely in the way of an external acquisition.
"We traded a very good player in Choo, so that will be a difficult guy to replace," Antonetti said, "but we'll look for opportunities out there on both the trade and free-agent markets. We have already been exploring those alternatives."
The Indians have reportedly expressed interest in signing Nick Swisher. He and Cody Ross are widely regarded as the best right-field options remaining in the market.
Cleveland also has an opening at designated hitter, a role Travis Hafner occupied for the last 10 years. The Indians may opt to shuffle players in and out of that spot as an opportunity to give their starters some rest, though Antonetti said it does provide the front office motive to bring in another bat.
First baseman Mark Reynolds agreed to terms with the club on Sunday. He is expected to take a physical later this week, at which point the transaction would become official. The club will need to make a move to add Reynolds to the 40-man roster. The Indians also had interest in and reportedly offered a two-year contract to Kevin Youkilis. The veteran infielder, however, opted to latch on with the Yankees for one year and $12 million rather than venture to Cleveland for a reunion with manager Terry Francona, for whom he played in Boston.
On the pitching side, the club expects Bauer, the No. 5 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, to contribute to the rotation at some point in 2013, whether it's at the outset of the regular season or during the year. Antonetti said Bauer "has some development left to do." Don't color Antonetti satisfied with the addition of only one starter, either. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco will head to Goodyear, Ariz., in February eyeing a spot in the rotation, but the Tribe GM hopes to bolster that group.
"We would still like to improve our starting pitching alternatives," Antonetti said. "We felt we accomplished a portion of that [in adding Bauer], especially for our future, and we think Trevor does have the ability to impact our team, but we would still like to try to fortify our rotation if we can."
Now that Zack Greinke has joined the Dodgers, more dominoes could fall with regard to the pitching market. Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse could price themselves out of Cleveland's range, but Edwin Jackson or Shaun Marcum could fit the bill of what the club is seeking.
Above all, Antonetti said, the Indians hope to see development from the nucleus of players already in place. The athleticism of Stubbs and Michael Brantley in the outfield could boost the club's defense and, in turn, aid the pitching staff. Progression by players such as Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall could also set the club's course for 2013.
"The way we look at it," Antonetti said, "the opportunity to really improve next year, the bulk of that improvement is going to come from guys getting better and continuing to develop."