Productive winter has Tribe ready for spring

Productive winter has Tribe ready for spring

CLEVELAND -- The Indians headed into this past offseason with three main objectives. Cleveland wanted to strengthen its rotation, improve its offense and add as much depth behind the big league team as possible.

"I think we've been able to accomplish all three of those things," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "I feel good about the group of guys we have coming into camp right now. I'm looking forward to the competition in spring."

The Tribe added to its rotation depth by acquiring Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey -- a pair of arms hoping for solid comeback campaigns. The lineup was addressed by re-signing center fielder Grady Sizemore and adding first baseman Casey Kotchman to the mix through free agency.

In tackling the depth issue, Cleveland pulled off a couple of small trades to add Aaron Cunningham and Russ Canzler to the fold. Beyond that, the Indians reeled in a laundry list of experienced players on Minor League contracts, which will make for a considerable crowd on the practice fields in Goodyear, Ariz., this spring.

The Indians are confident that the young core that is already in place can help the team contend for the American League Central title. With the wave of complementary additions over the winter, Cleveland also feels it has better contingency plans in place as the 2012 season approaches.

"We feel like, right now we're in a better position than we were last year at this time in terms of the alternatives that we have," Antonetti said. "Now, it's a continuing process. It's not something that's static that ends now. It's a process we'll continue to be mindful of as we go through Spring Training and the regular season."

Here is a glance at the Indians' situation as Spring Training nears:

Pitchers and catchers report

February 20

Full squad reports

February 23

First Spring Training game

Away vs. Reds, March 3 at 3:05 p.m. ET

Opening Day

Home vs. Blue Jays, April 5 at 3:05 p.m. ET

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. When will the Fausto Carmona situation be resolved?
That is the $7 million question as the 2012 season approaches. Carmona's legal and visa issues (he is believed to actually be named Roberto Hernandez Heredia and was arrested on charges of using a false identity) in the Dominican Republic are ongoing and the Indians do not know when or if the pitcher might be available this season. For now, he will remain on the restricted list and won't see any of his 2012 salary until he returns and is activated.

2. Who will win the available pitching jobs?
The Carmona situation has created a Spring Training competition for the lone vacancy on the starting staff. Slowey, David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez are the three leading candidates at the moment. The bullpen could have one or two jobs up for grabs, with a long list of arms in the running. Frank Herrmann and Nick Hagadone are top options on the 40-man roster. Some non-roster candidates include Dan Wheeler and Chris Ray, among others.

3. Who will be the Indians' starting third baseman?
The Indians need to decide whether to hand the keys to the hot corner to youngster Lonnie Chisenhall or to the slick-fielding Jack Hannahan. Chisenhall is viewed as the third baseman of the future for the Tribe, but he needs to show improved strike-zone discipline during Spring Training. Hannahan can undoubtedly help the team's pitching staff, but Cleveland will need to monitor his offensive output this spring.

2011 record
80-82, second in the AL Central

Projected batting order
1. CF Grady Sizemore:
  .224 BA, .285 OBP, .422 SLG, 10 HR, 32 RBI in 2011
2. 2B Jason Kipnis:
  .272 BA, .333 OBP, .507 SLG, 7 HR, 19 RBI in 2011
3. SS Asdrubal Cabrera:
  .273 BA, .332 OBP, .460 SLG, 25 HR, 92 RBI in 2011
4. C Carlos Santana:
  .239 BA, .351 OBP, .457 SLG, 27 HR, 79 RBI in 2011
5. RF Shin-Soo Choo:
  .259 BA, .344 OBP, .390 SLG, 8 HR, 36 RBI in 2011
6. DH Travis Hafner:
  .280 BA, .361 OBP, .449 SLG, 13 HR, 57 RBI in 2011
7. 1B Casey Kotchman:
  .306 BA, .378 OBP, .422 SLG, 10 HR, 48 RBI in 2011
8. 3B Jack Hannahan:
  .250 BA, .331 OBP, .388 SLG, 8 HR, 40 RBI in 2011
9. LF Michael Brantley:
  .266 BA, .318 OBP, .384 SLG, 7 HR, 46 RBI in 2011

Projected rotation
1. Justin Masterson, 12-10, 3.21 ERA in 2011
2. Ubaldo Jimenez, 10-13, 4.68 ERA in 2011
3. Josh Tomlin, 12-7, 4.25 ERA in 2011
4. Derek Lowe, 9-17, 5.05 ERA in 2011
5. Kevin Slowey, 0-8, 6.67 ERA in 2011

Projected bullpen
Closer: Chris Perez, 36/40 saves, 3.32 ERA in 2011
RH setup man: Vinnie Pestano, 2.32 ERA in 2011
LH setup man: Tony Sipp, 3.03 ERA in 2011

The new guys
RHP Jeremy Accardo: The Indians added Accardo on a Minor League contract this offseason, throwing an experienced arm into the mix for a bullpen job. The righty is coming off a couple of down years with the Blue Jays and Orioles, but he has late-inning experience on his career resume.

INF/OF Russ Canzler: The Indians acquired Canzler in a trade with Tampa Bay and will throw him into the mix as a backup corner infielder and outfielder this spring. Canzler -- the International League's Most Valuable Player in 2011 -- has three options remaining, so he could offer solid depth at the Triple-A level, too.

OF Aaron Cunningham: The Indians will have a lefty-heavy lineup this season, so having right-handed options off the bench will be important. Cleveland believes Cunningham -- who was landed in a trade with the Padres -- has the potential to fill that need. He is out of options and will compete for a reserve role this spring.

1B Casey Kotchman: The Indians signed Kotchman to a one-year, $3 million contract (plus incentives) to be their regular first baseman in 2012. He offers solid on-base ability and provides the Tribe with stellar defense. Kotchman will likely see most of his playing time against right-handed pitching.

INF Andy LaRoche: Signed to a Minor League contract this winter, LaRoche has experience at all four infield spots. He offers a right-handed possibility for Cleveland's bench. LaRoche has had an inconsistent career, but he provides the Indians with experience and depth.

OF Fred Lewis: All three of Cleveland's starting outfielders are coming off injury-marred seasons, so adding depth was important this winter. In Lewis, the Indians found one possibility along those lines. Signed to a Minor League deal, Lewis has played all three outfield spots and has been a dynamic offensive player at times in the past.

INF Jose Lopez: The Indians signed Lopez to a Minor League contract and are offering him a chance to compete for a bench job this spring. The right-handed hitter has played all four infield positions and is a few years removed from a 25-homer showing with Seattle.

RHP Derek Lowe: One of the Indians' first objectives this offseason was to shore up their starting rotation. The Tribe acquired the veteran Lowe in a trade with the Braves, adding another sinkerballer to the staff. Lowe's history of durability and success have the Indians hoping he can turn in a strong bounce-back season.

C Matt Pagnozzi: Right now, the Indians' 40-man roster includes only two catchers: Santana and backup Lou Marson. Pagnozzi (signed to a Minor League contract) adds a needed layer of depth behind the big league duo. He has appeared in 33 Major League games over the past three years.

INF Gregorio Petit: Petit missed all of last season due to a knee injury, but he's healthy and coming off a stint in winter ball. He can play multiple infield spots and hits from the right side. The Indians signed Petit as a non-roster invitee, but the infielder will likely provide depth at the Triple-A level.

OF Felix Pie: Like Lewis, Pie will come into camp on a Minor League contract as a candidate for a backup role. More likely, Pie will serve as insurance in the event of an injury to one of the big league regulars. Pie hits left-handed and has had varying degrees of success in his five big league seasons.

RHP Chris Ray: The Indians signed Ray to a Minor League contract and will throw him into the fray for one of the available bullpen jobs. Like Accardo, Ray has closing experience in the Major Leagues. The righty is coming off a down season with the Mariners, but his past success convinced the Indians to roll the dice.

LHP Chris Seddon: Cleveland might enter the season with an all-righty rotation, and the top lefties on the depth chart are Huff and prospect Scott Barnes. Seddon's big league resume is thin, but he will likely offer left-handed depth at Triple-A. The Indians signed him to a Minor League contract this offseason.

RHP Kevin Slowey: Shortly after the news broke about Carmona's arrest in the Dominican Republic, the Indians completed a trade with the Rockies to acquire Slowey. He is not a lock to make the rotation, but his past success with the Twins makes him a prime candidate for the fifth job.

OF Ryan Spilborghs: The right-handed-hitting Spilborghs (also signed on a Minor League deal) is coming off a down year in Colorado, but he has a solid big league track record over the past seven years. He has experience at all three outfield spots, making him a strong candidate to compete for a bench job.

RHP Robinson Tejeda: Tejeda is coming off a disappointing 2011 season, but he was a solid reliever in previous years. Signed to a Minor League contract, the righty will compete for a bullpen job with the Tribe. He spent parts of seven season in the Majors, making the move from starting to relieving in 2008.

RHP Dan Wheeler: Hindered by a couple of injury issues last year, Wheeler still managed to turn in a decent showing with the Red Sox. He has been a consistent performer on the mound for the past four years and seems like a strong candidate to make the Tribe's bullpen as a non-roster invitee this spring.

Prospects to watch
RHP Austin Adams: Slowey, Huff and Gomez are the top options for the Tribe's fifth rotation job. Zach McAllister and Barnes are likely next on the depth chart. Behind that group, the hard-throwing Adams is an emerging starter in Cleveland's system.

LHP Scott Barnes: Had it not been for a knee injury last season, it is possible that Barnes could have made his Major League debut in 2011. He projects to begin this year at Triple-A and could climb to the big leagues at some point this summer.

RHP Chen Lee: Lee took home the Indians' Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in 2011 and will be in camp as a non-roster invitee this spring. It is quite possible that he'll also be in the Indians' bullpen at some point in 2012.

INF Cord Phelps: Phelps had a disappointing debut with the Indians last season, but the infielder remains a possible backup option for the big league team. He will likely open at Triple-A, but a strong showing could put him back on the radar.

RHP Tyler Sturdevant: One of the Indians' strengths is the depth in and behind the big league bullpen. Sturdevant will be in camp as a non-roster invitee, and a strong start to 2012 could have him on the fast track to a Major League relief job.

On the rebound
LF Michael Brantley: Brantley's season ended prematurely due to a right hand injury (hamate bone) in late August. He is healthy and on track to open this year as the Indians' starting left fielder.

RHP Carlos Carrasco: The right-hander's season ended with Tommy John surgery, which will likely cost him all of 2012. Carrasco will be back in the rotation picture for the 2013 season.

RF Shin-Soo Choo: Choo had a forgettable season on the field (oblique injury and broken left thumb) and off the field (DUI arrest in May) in 2011. The Indians believe his mind and body are in a better state heading into this season.

DH Travis Hafner: Hafner was relatively productive when he was in the lineup last year, but foot and oblique injuries shelved him at various points. Hafner is expected to be healthy and ready to go for the upcoming season.

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez: The pitcher insisted that early-season health problems led to flaws in his pitch mechanics. That is how Jimenez explained a drop in velocity and performance. The Indians are hoping for big things from him this year.

CF Grady Sizemore: Sizemore returned to the lineup in mid-April last season after a 10-month recovery from left knee surgery. Then, he hurt his right knee and also needed hernia surgery. Sizemore is heading into camp healthy this time around.

Long gone
OF Travis Buck: Buck opened the season with the Indians last year, but will not be back for 2012. He signed a Minor League contract with the Astros.

RHP Chad Durbin: Durbin provided veteran experience in 2011, but endured a rough season on the mound. He signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals.

OF Kosuke Fukudome: The Indians landed Fukudome in a trade with the Cubs last year to help an injury-riddled roster. He was not re-signed for 2012.

OF Jerad Head: Head debuted with the Indians in 2011, but the outfielder became a free agent and signed a Minor League contract with Detroit this winter.

RHP Josh Judy: Judy debuted as a rookie reliever for the Indians last season, but was claimed off waivers by the Reds during the offseason.

RHP Zach Putnam: Putnam was on pace to compete for a bullpen job with the Indians before being dealt to the Rockies in the deal that brought Slowey to Cleveland.

RHP Mitch Talbot: After a rough season with the Tribe, Talbot was designated for assignment this winter. He signed a deal to pitch in Korea in 2012.

DH Jim Thome: The Indians brought Thome back into the fold via trade last summer. This winter, he signed a one-year contract with the Phillies.

INF Luis Valbuena: After a pair of subpar seasons with the Indians, Valbuena was traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations over the winter.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.