It is hard to describe the madness that is baseball's Winter Meetings. Especially in this era of instantaneous news, the four days spent wandering the lobby and halls of the hosting hotel can be chaotic, even for teams considered inactive.
As a reporter, you spend your time trying to find a good location to possibly spot sources as they walk by. You constantly are shooting off e-mails and texts, trying to chase down rumors and reports, while also attempting to identify people you rarely deal with face to face. I saw one reporter walking around with a pile of print-outs that included photos of agents. Not the worst idea.
It has always been a hectic event for scribes, but Twitter has taken things to another level. In a span of 30 seconds, a team can seemingly go from having serious interest in a player to having no interest at all. I received one tweet this year from someone claiming to have heard of a three-team trade involving the Indians. Surely just a rumor run rampant, but I still had to do my due dilligence to make sure it wasn't true.
You're up in the wee early hours of the morning and you're not in bed until it's far too late to get a solid night of sleep. That's OK, because it's all in the name of getting to the bottom of what teams are up to while you have the minds behind all 30 clubs under one roof. At the end of the day, no transactions may have occurred, but that doesn't mean no work was done.
This year, the Indians did not make any moves at the Winter Meetings, but they were plenty busy behind the scenes. Behind every "no comment" from the general manager to the media were plenty of discussions with agents and other teams. With two-plus months before Spring Training opens, Cleveland still has ample time to add to its roster.
Here's this week's Inbox...
Free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham has proven power. What are the odds of the Tribe grabbing him and giving left fielder Michael Brantley a share of time at first base?
--Chris K., Perth, Western Australia
Starting with Brantley, let's not convert him into a first baseman just yet. The Indians have indicated that they will probably take a look at him at first during Spring Training, but the thought process seems more along the lines of creating roster flexibility than anything else.
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Brantley played some first in the Minors, but Cleveland still views him as an outfielder. Knowing that he could play first base in a pinch, however, would give the Tribe one more option on the depth chart. Honestly, though, I don't envision Brantley seeing much time at first base during the upcoming season.
If the Indians were to bring in a starting left fielder such as Willingham, obviously Brantley would be the odd-man out. Maybe he'd be pitted against Grady Sizemore for the starting nod in center field, but it's more likely that Brantley would be viewed as a fourth outfielder (or perhaps depth at Triple-A) under that scenario.
Let's not put the cart before the ol' horse here, though.
Willingham offers power from the right side -- Cleveland's main need -- but it's not a given that the Indians will reel him in. Right now, Willingham's situation appears to hinge on the market for free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer. If Cuddyer re-signs with the Twins, Willingham (Plan B for Minnesota) and Cleveland might pick up steam in their talks.
Besides the Twins and Indians, who have yet to field an official offer, the Rockies have also been linked to Willingham.
It is believed that Willingham is seeking a three-year contract and the annual salary might be a touch above the Indians' comfort zone. The Tribe might have to shed some payroll in order to bring him on board, and you can bet general manager Chris Antonetti is working all the angles to see what possible solutions might exist.
Wasn't Felix Pie once a well-regarded prospect? Obviously he'd be backup/insurance for our outfielders, but is he still regarded as a prospect, or has he definitely reached his ceiling?
Also, were the Indians dangling Josh Tomlin in order to get a big bat?
--Evan S., Akron, Ohio
Pie is no longer considered a prospect. He is 26 years old and has spent parts of five seasons in the Majors between tours with the Cubs and Orioles. Has he reached his ceiling? That's not something I can answer definitively. Pie certainly hasn't met the expectations placed on him early in his career, which is why he is an affordable option right now.
The Indians haven't officially announced the addition of Pie, but he reportedly has been signed to a Minor League contract that includes an invite to Spring Training. It's a low-risk move that would give the Tribe some much-needed depth behind its starting outfield.
As for Tomlin, there has been nothing to suggest that the Indians are offering him up as trade bait in their search for offense. That said, Tomlin is young, in his pre-arbitration years and coming off a solid season. The righty is the type of player teams often show interest in, and the Indians are always open-minded in trade talks.
Now that the Winter Meetings in Dallas have come to an end, what does that mean for the "surprising" trade proposal that you wrote about last week? Did those talks come to an end as well, or can we still expect something big?
--Kevin W., Lexington, Ohio
Believe me, if I knew what Antonetti was alluding to, I would've shared it with Indians fans. For those who may have missed it, the Indians GM said last week that he had a trade proposal out there that would be surprising if it got done. Antonetti added that us scribes were not likely to guess what it was in 50 tries.
What fans need to remember is that saying there is a unique trade being discussed is not a promise that said trade will get done. There are countless deals that are talked about behind the scenes that never come to fruition or are never made public. All Antonetti's comments showed were that he is trying to be as creative as possible to upgrade the roster.
If you don't believe Antonetti, look no further than the Ubaldo Jimenez trade for proof that he is willing to swing unexpected deals.
Doesn't it make sense to move (or at least experiment) Jason Kipnis in left field and Jason Donald at second base? Kipnis has natural outfield ability and Donald infield ability, so why all the buzz about a right-handed power bat when we have a pretty good left-handed power bat?
--Larry L., Cleveland
Kipnis is considered a core player and is viewed as a long-term solution for second base. He's staying put. Cleveland loves Donald's versatility and he will actually see time in the outfield this spring, and possibly in the 2012 season. All the buzz about needing a right-handed bat stems from having six lefties (Kipnis included) and two switch-hitters in the projected Opening Day lineup. Moving Kipnis wouldn't solve that issue.
Do you think that Cleveland can trade for Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales from the Angels, seeing how they just signed Albert Pujols?
--William H., Cleveland
I received a no comment from within the Indians' front office when I asked the same question. Truth be told, if there's a first baseman who is deemed available, chances are that the Indians are inquiring. Trumbo and Morales are interesting options. I'm not sure the Tribe has the type of prospects to swing a deal for Trumbo, barring a subtraction from the Major League roster. Morales might be a more realistic target, but at this point I'm not sure where the Indians' interest level stands.
Do you think the Indians would consider moving Sizemore to left field to keep him from as many injuries as possible, and put Brantley in center?
--Jack W., Findlay, Ohio
I might have answered this before -- I definitely answered it last offseason -- but it's worth revisiting again. Right now, the plan is for Sizemore to remain in center field. Giving Sizemore more room to decelerate might actually be better for his legs than having him deal with the more involved starting and stopping in left. Things could change, but Cleveland has no current plans of moving Sizemore out of center.
Baring unforeseeable circumstances, the Indians' rotation is set. But is there any chance the Tribe could make a run at Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish?
--Jose T., Utuado, Puerto Rico
I know the Indians' fan base is tired of this type of answer, but Darvish's asking price is going to be out of Cleveland's realistic range. As of right now, the rotation is indeed set with Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Fausto Carmona, Derek Lowe and Tomlin.
For the outfield, just sign Kosuke Fukudome for a one-year deal!
--Daniel Z., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
I love your passion, Daniel. But you might want to try breathing into a paper bag.
Feel better? Yes? Good.
In that case, you might want to sit down. Fukudome isn't going to be back.