Cleveland knows its situation necessitates being creative in trying to remain competitive.
"That's the nature of the game," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on Thursday before departing Dallas, where he did not complete any deals. "It's our job to figure out a way to stay competitive and to figure out a way to win. It doesn't make it any easier, but that's what we need to do.
"We need to challenge ourselves and make the best decisions we can, and just focus on what we can do to improve our team and put ourselves in a position to win as many games as possible. We just have to build a team a different way."
That means relying on its farm system and keeping an open mind when it comes to trade discussions. Antonetti hinted all week that he has a handful of trade proposals in the works right now, but nothing appeared imminent as the Meetings came to a close.
Miami spent a combined $191 million in free agency to reel in shorstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell. On Thursday, the Angels spent a reported $327.5 million combined to land slugger Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson.
Antonetti hesitated at first when asked his thoughts about Pujols now being in the American League.
"I would've preferred that he stayed in the National League," replied the GM.
The Tribe is exploring some of the second-tier options in free agency.
Cleveland continues to check in on free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, who hit .246 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs for the A's last season. The Indians are one of a handful of teams in the running for the 32-year-old Willingham, who would likely command at least a two-year contact. The Twins and Rockies are also reportedly in the mix.
Willingham would help solve the Indians' need for some right-handed power in a lineup that has six lefty hitters and two switch-hitters as things stack up right now. The Indians have also reportedly expressed some level of interest in the likes of free agents Derrek Lee, Andruw Jones, Mike Cameron, Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa.
The Astros approached the Indians about slugger Carlos Lee, who is set to earn $18.5 million next year with Houston. The issue in those talks is that the Tribe would need the Astros to assume more than half of Lee's salary. To take on a contract in the range of $7-9 million for 2012, the Indians would have to move salary in another trade.
All avenues were discussed behind closed doors in Dallas and -- despite nothing officially coming to fruition -- Antonetti left the Meetings with some progress made.
"We were able to further some of the discussions and dialogue that we had on both trades and free agents," Antonetti said. "Hopefully that's led us closer to a deal that will allow us to improve the team."
Deals done: Cleveland did not complete any deals at this year's Winter Meetings. The Indians' lone transaction while in Dallas was designating injured right-hander Hector Rondon (throwing elbow) for assignment to officially add recently re-signed center fielder Grady Sizemore to the roster.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Indians did not select any players in any phase of the Draft. Cleveland had 37 players eligible for selection in the Major League portion, but did not lose any to other teams. In the Triple-A phase, the Tribe lost right-hander Marty Popham to the Twins and outfielder Donnie Webb to the Marlins.
"In Marty Popham, he's a strike thrower that will have a strong professional career," said Ross Atkins, the Indians' vice president of player development. "Donnie Webb's a very hard-nosed player with some energy to his game. Both of those guys will end up complementing those organizations well. We're sorry to have lost them."
Goals accomplished: The Indians continued to hold talks behind the scenes on both the free-agent and trade fronts. Beyond that, Cleveland accomplished little at the Hilton Anatole this week. A few more dominos need to fall for the Indians before their targets can potentially be reeled in.
Unfinished business: The Indians still want to add a bat -- preferably right-handed -- to its offense before Opening Day. Cleveland is also in the market for more outfield depth. Adding more pitching -- rotation or bullpen -- through some Minor League contracts could be in play, too.
GM's bottom line: "There's some things we could be relatively close on. But then again, as we've talked a bunch of times, that timing can change very quickly. It may take weeks for it to happen." --Antonetti