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Indians seeking bat while pitching market unfolds

Indians seeking bat while pitching market unfolds

Indians seeking bat while pitching market unfolds
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The bats continue to fly off the board, forcing the Indians to continue making a push toward nabbing one for their own lineup. That has been the focus to this point at these Winter Meetings, but Cleveland has another problem still unsolved.

The Tribe needs to address its glaringly thin rotation.

"We haven't lost sight of it," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "We continue to stay engaged in starting-pitching alternatives, too."

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It is likely that Cleveland's search for pitching help is put on hold until some of the bigger free-agent names -- arms such as Zack Greinke, Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson -- pick a team and set the market. That will begin the domino effect setting up contract talks for the many mid-tier starters currently available.

In the meantime, the Indians have been involved in discussions on numerous fronts to fill their holes at first base and in the outfield. The Indians have met with the representatives for free-agents Mark Reynolds, Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher. Tribe manager Terry Francona has been talking to targeted free agents to try to help with the pitch process.

The Indians swung and missed on free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino on Tuesday, when he agreed to a three-year contract with the Red Sox instead of taking the four-year, $44 million offer tabled by the Tribe. On Wednesday, Cleveland extended a one-year offer to outfielder Jason Bay, but he agreed to a one-year pact with Seattle.

"You just move on to the next guy," Antonetti said.

In Bay's case, it was not money or opportunity that convinced him to join the Mariners. There were other factors, including the fact that Seattle is closer to his home in Trail, British Columbia. Victorino had his reasons for taking Boston's $39-million package, too. Francona spoke with the outfielder about the decision and is not about to hold any kind of grudge.

"You know what?" Francona said. "It's kind of hard to fault a guy like Shane Victorino for going to Boston. When guys get to be a free agent, they earn that right to go wherever they want, and it's a great baseball town. Again, I have a lot of respect for him and the way he went about his decision. So it's kind of hard to fault somebody for that."

Cleveland has plenty of competition for both Youkilis and Reynolds, who present right-handed options for first base for the Tribe. The Yankees have shown interest in both players. Swisher's market also includes a handful of clubs -- the Phillies, Mariners, Giants and Red Sox all have been linked to the outfielder in various reports.

The Indians also are working on contingency plans in the event they trade shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Cleveland has talked to the Dodgers about the availability of Dee Gordon and also has shown interest in free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew.

Dealing Cabrera -- a two-time All-Star owed $16.5 million over the next two years -- remains a realistic possibility. As MLB.com reported early Wednesday morning, Arizona and Cleveland have discussed the framework of a trade centering around Cabrera and pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. The Indians also have reportedly expressed interest in young D-backs pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Rumors of a four-team trade involving the D-backs and Indians -- plus the Rays, Rangers and Royals in various scenarios -- swirled through the halls of the Gaylord Opryland Resort on Tuesday as well. According to reports, it seems unlikely that this complicated deal would come to fruition in Nashville, if at all.

"Trades just between two teams are difficult to make," Antonetti said. "Involving multiple teams adds significant complexity to it."

On the pitching front, the Indians are interested in re-signing Roberto Hernandez, and have reportedly shown interest in Edwin Jackson and Mike Pelfrey. Arms such as John Lannan, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Liriano or Brandon McCarthy, among others, also might be on Cleveland's radar. That market is still in the early stages of development, rendering the Indians' involvement to mostly speculation at the moment.

What is known is that Cleveland needs to add an arm or two before this season begins. Last year, the starting staff went a combined 48-76 with a 5.25 ERA. The rotation posted the most losses in the American League and ranked 28th in the Majors in ERA. It also ranked 27th in innings (913 2/3), 28th in strikeouts (621), 29th in walks (351) and WHIP (1.51) and 30th in hits allowed (1,026).

The current rotation projects to include Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Zack McAllister, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Jimenez and Masterson are coming off disappointing seasons, McAllister and Kluber were rookies last year and Carrasco is returning from a serious elbow injury and likely facing an innings limit.

"You have to be deeper than that or you get exposed," Francona said. "So we're trying to figure out how to add depth, where our young guys are exactly in their development, and go from there."

It looks like that process will take time.

For now, the Indians have focused their efforts on acquiring more offense.

"If it's a bat," Antonetti said, "I can say we're interested."

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.

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