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Hot Stove to kick off quietly for Tribe

Hot Stove to kick off quietly for Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Free agency officially begins at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday.

Don't expect any alarm clocks to go off in the Indians' front office at that time.

This figures to be a quiet Hot Stove season for a Tribe team that made plenty of noise at the Trade Deadline in July. If the Indians do become players in the free-agent market, they'll likely be late players, looking to scoop up some discounts on lower-profile guys.

That's not to say the Indians don't have needs and won't investigate opportunities. Coming off an '09 season in which it finished in a tie for last place in the AL Central, the Tribe would certainly benefit from the addition of some veteran leadership and proven starting pitching.

Count newly installed manager Manny Acta among those who hope the Indians are active. When asked about the free-agent picture Wednesday, Acta noted the importance of adding a veteran starter and utility infielder and possibly a right-handed bat and reliever to the mix.

Of course, when the subject of money came up, Acta smiled.

"You asked me what I want, man," Acta said with a laugh. "I'll give you a list Santa Claus couldn't [fulfill]."

But 2010 will be mostly about development for the Tribe. That much became evident when staff ace Cliff Lee and star catcher Victor Martinez were shipped off to the Phillies and Red Sox, respectively, at the Trade Deadline. The Indians held a $9 million option on Lee and a $7 million option on Martinez for 2010 but opted to trade them away for prospects, with an eye on building a larger window of contention for 2011 and beyond.

With that concept in mind, spending a significant amount of money to augment a 2010 club not expected to be a playoff contender would fly in the face of the development plan the Indians prescribed for themselves.

That idea especially holds true in the rotation, where the Indians hope to have a healthy Jake Westbrook at the forefront following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Carlos Carrasco, Jeremy Sowers and Hector Rondon all vying for opportunities.

While signing a veteran starter would certainly offset some of the growing pains that are expected in the rotation next season, said starter could also block the development path for one of those young arms.

Still, Acta noted there is strength in numbers.

"You have to cover yourself," he said. "You can't go into Spring Training short on pitching."

And if Westbrook, who begins a stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League later this month, has another setback, the Indians' need for another veteran to carry some of the load in the rotation would be exacerbated.

When it comes to the free-agent eligibles who might be in the Tribe's price range, Carl Pavano's name has already been tossed into the Hot Stove rumor mill. But Pavano only made sense for the Indians last year because of the low-cost guarantee of his incentive-laden contract and the fact that he was hungry to prove himself after four miserable and injury plagued years with the Yankees.

Pavano doesn't make quite as much sense now that he went a combined 14-12 with a 5.10 ERA in 33 starts with the Tribe and Twins in '09. No, the numbers weren't always pretty, but Pavano proved to be durable, and he ate up innings. He's in line for much more than the $1.5 million guarantee he commanded with the Indians a year ago. He could, in fact, be looking for a multiyear deal, in which case there is no chance the Indians would bite.

On the whole, it's a shaky market for starting pitchers this winter. If the Indians do get involved, as Acta hopes, they'd likely be looking at a list that includes the likes of Paul Byrd, Jose Contreras, Doug Davis, Justin Duchscherer, Kelvim Escobar, Josh Fogg, Mike Hampton, Livan Hernandez, Eric Milton, Brett Myers, Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt, Ben Sheets, John Smoltz, Brett Tomko, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, Todd Wellemeyer and Kip Wells.

In the bullpen, the Indians are less likely to make an addition.

"We're very happy with what we have," Acta said. "That being said, there's going to be about 200 players out there."

It's a definite that the Indians will be looking for a utility infielder to complement Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena up the middle. For that role, Omar Vizquel's name will be a popular one among Tribe fans who still have fond memories of Vizquel's magic at shortstop during his Jacobs Field hey day.

Reportedly, however, Vizquel is looking for work with a "high-profile" team after spending his first season in a utility role with the Rangers. The rebuilding Indians certainly aren't "high-profile," so if they are, indeed, interested in wooing Vizquel, they'd have to hope his love and affection for this town and these fans runs deep enough for him to be motivated to finish his career here.

Hey, the Tribe already hired Sandy Alomar Jr. as first-base coach, so anything's possible.

Acta said it's important that the Indians look for a right-handed bat to add to the mix to offset the left-handed leanings of the lineup and potentially fill in at first base, if Matt LaPorta doesn't completely recover from hip surgery by Opening Day.

Again, though, that's a wish list in a winter in which the Indians appear more likely to be looking to shed payroll (Kerry Wood for $10.5 million, anybody?) than add it.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["hot_stove" ] }