Indians look to fortify depth at Winter Meetings

Indians look to fortify depth at Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Indians shook things up in a big way earlier this offseason when they hired Terry Francona to be the club's new manager. As the old baseball adage goes, however, a manager is only as good as his players.

Cleveland clearly has more work to do, and the Winter Meetings provide a boiling pot for baseball's minds to gather and exchange ideas. The annual offseason event gets under way on Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel -- which will play host to meetings, discussions and plenty of rumors over the next four days.

There are a slew of scheduled events, including the Rule 5 Draft, and the halls of the Opryland will be filled with front-office personnel, player agents and reporters. Indians.com will have you covered for all the latest developments concerning the Tribe.

Francona will be on hand and will meet with reporters at 2:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday, putting this new era for the Indians on display. Coming off a down year, Cleveland has shown a willingness to move on from its recent past -- Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Roberto Hernandez were all allowed to hit free agency -- and is looking for ways to upgrade its roster for 2013 and beyond.

So far this winter, the Tribe's roster decisions have dealt more with subtraction than addition. The club declined the 2013 options for Hafner and Hernandez, and recently cut ties with Jack Hannahan and Rafael Perez, as well. Esmil Rogers, who showed promise out of the bullpen last year, was dealt to Toronto in a three-player trade.

The deal for Rogers netted infielder Mike Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes, marking the Indians' biggest move to this point this winter. Cleveland has also added outfielders Cedric Hunter and Matt Carson, infielders Nate Spears and Luis Hernandez, first baseman Mike McDade, and pitchers Blake Wood, Fernando Nieve and Jose Flores.

Those have been small moves aimed at strengthening the roster's depth. Before Opening Day, the Indians still need to identify solutions for first base, left field, designated hitter and the rotation. General manager Chris Antonetti will spend these Winter Meetings continuing his search for possible additions for each of those areas.

It is not clear whether the Indians will have interest in selecting a player in the Rule 5 Draft, which is set to take place on Thursday. As things currently stand, though, Cleveland's 40-man roster has 39 players, so there is room for an addition -- whether via the Draft or another avenue.

Beyond the daily coverage on indians.com, the team's official site will also feature multimedia content to provide a closer look at the happenings in Nashville. Fans are also encouraged to join the discussion in the comments section below to address the various issues facing the ballclub.

Following a promising 2011 campaign, the Indians lost 94 games a season ago, throwing a wrench into their plans of contending. Now, Cleveland is hoping to see solid development from its core of young players, including Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley.

Given the circumstances, the Indians have also made it no secret that they are open-minded to entertaining trade offers for any of their players. Some names that have been rumored to be available this winter include Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Perez.

The rumors and reports flying throughout the Winter Meetings will undoubtedly throw more fuel on the speculatory fire. Over the next four days, general managers will be meeting behind closed doors, and fans can meet on MLB.com to debate what moves need to be made before Opening Day arrives.

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.