Cleveland Indians Quietly Depart Winter Meetings With A Roster Full Of Questions And Moving Parts

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Cleveland Indians quietly depart winter meetings with a roster full of questions and moving parts

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The New York Yankees started the winter meetings Sunday by announcing the signing of slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Indians, meanwhile, stayed quiet during the meetings, content to play the waiting game.
The New York Yankees started the winter meetings Sunday by announcing the signing of slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Indians, meanwhile, stayed quiet during the meetings, content to play the waiting game.(Willie J. Allen Jr., Associated Press)

By Paul Hoynes, cleveland.com

[email protected]

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The winter meetings are over and the Indians didn't do much. They seldom do at these December gatherings, which are more for eye-to-eye contact than actual deal making.

This is the age when a deal can be done with by texts and emojis. There is no need to bring all 30 teams, including minor-league affiliates, under the same roof to get something done. Trades or free agent signings can be completed at any time and any place.

Last year Chris Antonetti put the finishing touches on the Edwin Encarnacion signing between acts of the Little Mermaid. And that was after the winter meetings.

That being said, there are a lot of moving parts to the roster of the AL Central champion. Moving parts, holes and questions.

Manager Terry Francona said Wednesday that the Indians are going to need some guys to fill some spots in the bullpen. That was after Bryan Shaw signed a three-year deal with the Rockies and before Joe Smith signed for two years with the Astros.

Besides the cost-cutting Marlins - goodbye Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna - it has been an excellent winter for free agent relievers. Two or three seem to sign every five minutes. The problem is that none are signing with the Indians.

Terry Francona on Carlos Santana

The herd has been thinned to the likes of Matt Albers, coming off a great year with the Nationals, and some high-priced closers in Greg Holland and Wade Davis. Albers has already pitched for Francona twice -- once in Boston, once in Cleveland -- but Holland and Davis are beyond the Tribe's reach.

Name a position and see if a Tribe starter immediately comes to mind? There's Francisco Lindor at shortstop. Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez at catcher. Encarnacion at DH. Jose Ramirez at second or third base.

But what about first base, left field and right field? And what if Bradley Zimmer doesn't hit in center field? And who plays the position that Ramirez doesn't play?

When a pitcher has a sore elbow, it's often because of "loose bodies' floating around in the joint. The Tribe has two loose bodies of its own in Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. Where are they going to play?

Could we really see Kipnis, the All-Star second baseman, in left field and Brantley, the All-Star left fielder, at first base?

Terry Francona on Jason Kipnis and conversations

There is a long time to opening day. The Indians are good at playing the waiting game. And they did win 102 games last season.

But if you hate the fog of the offseason that sometimes descends upon a team, if you want to get your ducks in a row on Dec. 14 and keep them quacking in harmony until the first real pitch of the year, this is an organization that is going to challenge your perspective of time and space.

Perhaps Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff and Francona are so calm because their starting pitching is so good. It beats the alternative.

It means they can keep circling back to their departed free agent hitters Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce and Austin Jackson to see if they might consider returning. While the reliever market went down in a hurry, not many free agent hitters have moved. J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer have a lot to do with that.

But starting pitching is only one phase of the game. Francona is going to need a full and talented bullpen to do what he does best. The Indians are going to need a power hitter or two. If it's Santana or Bruce, fine. If not, the hunt for their replacements must yield results.

The Indians are a good team. Once again they should be one of the elite teams in the big leagues. But some parts need to be replaced. An eye has to be kept on the future with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Zach McAllister, Lonnie Chisenhall and Josh Tomlin eligible for free agency after 2018. And the clock never stops.

Source : http://www.cleveland.com/tribe/index.ssf/2017/12/cleveland_indians_quietly_depa.html

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