Indians GM Chris Antonetti talked to MLBTradeRumors.com’s Ben Nicholson-Smith today at the GM meetings in Milwaukee, and while he didn’t tip his hand regarding any specific moves Cleveland will make this winter, he did drop some intriguing hints about how he’ll approach the rest of the offseason:
The Indians are looking for bats. With Grady Sizemore, Jim Thome, and Kosuke Fukudome gone and Matt LaPorta likely headed for the bench, this shouldn’t come as a shock. Still, Antonetti’s open-minded approach to the subject—“We can either go left field, center field or first base,” he told Nicholson-Smith—is intriguing, as is his declaration that the team has “some creative ideas” for filling out the rest of the lineup.
They’re also still looking for pitchers. The Tribe’s rotation looks pretty solid. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Derek Lowe, and Fausto Carmona are pencilled in as the starting five with David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez, and Zach McAllister waiting in the wings. But Antonetti isn’t standing pat:
“I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied with our pitching,” he said. “We’ll always look for opportunities to improve.”
Obviously the pitching staff won’t be Cleveland’s top offseason priority, but another move to get a pitcher isn’t out of the question.
The Indians are “very comfortable” with Michael Brantley in center field. There was no question that Brantley had earned a spot in the 2012 lineup, but where he would fit wasn’t as clear. He has experience playing center and the raw speed necessary to be effective there, but every major defensive metric has him as a below-average fielder there—most dramatically UZR, which likes his defense in left (2.5 UZR in 81 games) but has him at -19.6 runs (or, roughly two wins) in 137 games in center. But the Indians have confidence in his ability to hold up in center should he need to make the permanent shift. This also probably means that Asdrubal Cabrera will not move to center field.
Jason Kipnis will be the 2012 starting second baseman. This is the exact opposite of surprising. If you have a highly touted 24-year-old middle infielder who just posted an .840 OPS as a rookie and he isn’t assured of getting a starting job next year, you’ve got a problem.
The starting third baseman won’t be determined until spring training. This isn’t a huge surprise either, but it’s a more difficult situation. Jack Hannahan‘s superior plate discipline made him a more valuable hitter than Lonnie Chisenhall last year, and with another über-wormburner (Lowe) joining the rotation, his phenomenal glove will be of particular importance to the Indians. Still, you don’t want to have to send a top prospect back down to the minors once he’s seen significant time in the majors—or worse, see him become a benchwarmer instead of getting the experience he needs to further develop.