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Winter Meetings Recap: All quiet on the western front

Winter Meetings Recap: All quiet on the western front
December 9, 2014
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Day two of the 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego is almost in the books. The news and rumors will surely continue into the night, and if anything of substance regarding the Indians has legs I will provide the update on Twitter @TonyIBI and in the newswire to the right. If anything more significant gains legs I will surely post it to the front page as well.

The news was much quieter on the free agent and trade front on Tuesday as it seems like a lot of the industry is in a holding pattern waiting for Jon Lester to make a decision. Once he signs, the flood gates could open as so many held up free agent deals and trades could be unleashed.

The Indians were not involved in any news or rumors on Tuesday, but they are hardly done with constructing their roster for the 2015 season by any means so a trade or free agent signing could still happen during the meetings and in the coming weeks.

Notes and Rumors:

- Indians GM Chris Antonetti said the obvious on Monday when after acquiring Brandon Moss he said that they could open the season with the roster they currently have – implying that he does not need to trade anyone. He’s simply posturing here because everyone knows there is no way they can go into the season with Brandon Moss, Nick SwisherDavid Murphy and Ryan Raburn on the roster and only two spots available in the lineup. One has to go. Over the past two seasons Terry Francona has opted to have an eight-man bullpen which means only three players have been on the bench. With two of those players Mike Aviles and Roberto Perez, that leaves one spot for Raburn or Murphy if Swisher and Moss are sharing the right field and DH duties. I still say that at some point they will flip Murphy for a minor league prospect or pen arm.

- The Braves are now offering up third baseman Chris Johnson as part of a package with outfielder Justin Upton. New Braves GM John Hart wants starting pitching in exchange for Upton but at this point teams do not appear to be interested in doing that for a one year rental. Perhaps the inclusion of Johnson is a sign that Hart might take less for Upton if he can rid the team of Johnson’s contract (3 years, $23.5 million left). Johnson had a rough year offensively and is a below average defender at third, so this may just be a desperation attempt by Hart. The Indians were reported to have some interest in Upton on Monday and he would obviously be a great fit for a team starved for right-handed power and balance to their lineup, but the cost to acquire a player that the organization has no chance to keep beyond 2015 is a bit steep.

- The Pirates are reportedly looking for left-handed relief. If true, then the Pirates no doubt have contacted the Indians about all three of Nick HagadoneKyle Crockett and Marc Rzepczynski - all three of which project to be in the Indians opening day bullpen. All three established themselves as good left-handed relief options last season and are all inexpensive and until control for multiple years. The Indians would likely not part with Crockett, but Hagadone is an arm they might trade in the right deal because he is out of options and offers little roster flexibility. He has value though as a power-armed lefty in the pen so the Indians won't give him away. Looking at the Pirates roster I am not sure there is a fit with the Indians and Pirates to complete a deal for Hagadone unless the deal was expanded or the indians were fine with getting a prospect or two back in a deal.

- This is no rumor, but I still say if the Indians go after a one year rental it will not come in a trade where they have to lose a player, but in free agency. I think Alex Rios could still be a long shot possibility even after the Brandon Moss pickup. This is still something that is far from happening as the Indians would obviously first have to trade Nick Swisher and one of David Murphy. They could also go after a lesser free agent like Chris Denorfia, but again, it would require two players to first be dealt. That said, an outfield of Michael BrantleyMichael Bourn and Rios with Moss as the DH and filling in at left field, right field and first base is intriguing.

- There are several reports that Justin Masterson has a one year offer in hand from both the Red Sox and Rangers. The Indians have checked in on him this offseason but the interest was more due diligence than anything.

- Some may wonder why there are so few rumors with the Indians, be it now or at any time during the season. Well, this is just a byproduct of GM Chris Antonetti’s strictly enforced policy that there are to be no leaks. If a trade or free agent signing for the Indians hits the news, chances are it is coming from the agent of the player(s) involved or the other team involved in the trade.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

December 10, 2014 - 12:41 PM EST
The Braves kept Uggla around for 2 years with his declining stats before they jettisoned him. I think it would take 2 years for the Indians to give up on Swisher. I also expect Swish to bounce back (I don't expect him to bounce back to his pre-Tribe numbers but maybe back to 2013 numbers).
December 10, 2014 - 10:14 AM EST
FWIW, the Tribe had interest in Gordon a few yrs ago. I believe they liked him as a potential CF. That would be an interesting move pickup Gordon and slide him CF, making Bourn available and likely dumping most or all of his salary (not happening). Wouldn't mind seeing them bring Gordon in for his speed, maybe he could be some sort of UTL type SS, 2b, CF, PH, PR maybe a little LF too. I've convinced myself I wouldn't mind seeing them get him....I've also mentioned Emilio Bonifacio, he could play that kind of role (although a bit more limited).
December 10, 2014 - 10:04 AM EST
Talks that Dee Gordon is available....I don't think he's under team control much longer and doens't fit our needs, but man I love watching him play.
December 10, 2014 - 9:58 AM EST

Id sign Pete Rose to a minor league if I thought he had a chance to help the team. As always, I would sign anyone on a minor league deal, but, I wouldn't bank on them making it either.

As I suggested, I deal Murphy for Matusz and deal a LH (excluding Crockett) for Heredia and Garcia.
December 10, 2014 - 9:43 AM EST

-If it's a RH bat.. that can play good outfielddefense, then offer Franklin Gutierrez a minor league deal and see if he can stay at least as healthy as a guy with a nagging thumb, wrist, head, leg, etc etc etc..injury.. Gutierrez, if healthy, can play all three OF spots and wouldn't cost much at all..

-A prospect from the Pirates that I'd love to steal would be Glasnow, but, that would take more than a LHRP/Loogy..and it would be worth it... Luis Heredia wouldn't be a bad guy to get either..
December 10, 2014 - 8:20 AM EST

Id hardly call it a fascination, but, whatever. First, Rios is hardly Murphy, Rios has more pop and speed and will hit for a higher average. Rios hr numbers lagged last yr, I believe in part because of a wrist injury and later a thumb injury that nagged him. Rios has higher upside and has continued to perform at a higher level than Murphy. It's simple Rios fits what the Tribe needs, a RH bat, positional flexibility (he can play all three spots), has some power and speed, good defender, but most importantly - he will likely sign a short term deal - so they maintain financial flexibility.
December 9, 2014 - 10:56 PM EST
Jerry I don't see that happening with Swisher. Indians at this point need to see how he responds to his knee surgeries. They will give him every opportunity to come back and at worst he will be the DH the next two years if he can't be traded. They won't release him. Sort of the same thing they did in keeping Hafner on board all those years.
December 9, 2014 - 9:13 PM EST
Don't get the fascination with Rios. He's basically the RH version of Murphy by now and can't hit RHP. For a platoon guy he costs too much because of past hype. No, thanks
December 9, 2014 - 9:04 PM EST
Jerry that's possible but not likely.

As for the Indians and Pirates matching up for LHP. A cpl "lesser" prospects that intrigue are Willy Garcia - RF, and Luis Heredia -RHSP.
December 9, 2014 - 8:48 PM EST

You may have already addressed this, but the Braves literally could not give away Dan Uggla and ended up cutting him and eating his salary. Are the Indians in the same boat with Swisher, or is there a team take might take on his salary if nothing was demanded in return?
December 9, 2014 - 8:32 PM EST
There's some rumors that the Orioles and Phillies have discussed Marlon Byrd.

Also, there's some speculation the Orioles are willing to move Brian Matusz.

I would consider Murphy for Matusz. Matusz is arb. eligible and projected to make $2.7M. That would allow the Tribe to get rid of Murphy shedding $3.8M in the process. Then, the Tribe could deal Scrabble, Matusz, or Hagadone in a seperate deal.

I would love to see the Tribe sign Alex Rios or Chase Headley. I'm not convinved if they add Rios they have to move two of Swisher, Bourn, or Murphy. I would suggest they could move Murphy and look to deal one later or simply DFA Raburn.

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