The 2015 Winter Meetings have come and gone but that, of course, does not mean the end of the baseball offseason. Our own Cleveland Indians, in particular, were tied to endless rumors over the past four days in Nashville, but will anything come of them?
Let's look back at a few things we learned from the Indians moves (or lack of moves) at the Winter Meetings and what they could mean for their plans going forward.
You can look at the Indians pitchers all you want, but don't touch
Going into the Winter Meetings, Indians President Chris Antonetti made it clear that the team’s intention was to keep all of their starting pitchers. They would listen to offers, but they were in no hurry to part with Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, or anyone else who they could to form a stellar staff in 2016. And boy did they ever listen to offers.
If you threw a dart and a board filled with the other 29 MLB clubs, chances are you would land on one that the Indians talked to over this past week. The San Francisco Giants (twice), the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Texas Rangers, and the Florida Marlins all talked to the Indians about starting pitching--and those are only the teams we received clear confirmations on. Who knows how many more teams Chris Antonetti texted or casually talked it over with. Either way, everyone wanted someone on this staff, but the Indians held firm.
At this point, it is probably safe to assume the Indians will stay true to their word and not trade a pitcher before the 2016 season begins. No matter how many people come knocking for Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco, it looks like the Indians may have the same rotation in 2016 as they did in 2015. That is certainly not a bad thing.
Outfield help will rely on small additions or internal options
A depleted outfield was undoubtedly the Indians biggest weakness heading into this offseason. It was made worse by Michael Brantley going under the knife and being declared out until at least May, and heading into the Winter Meetings, the Indians looked primed to fix the issue. Depending on your definition of "fix," they may or may not have done so.
None of the players the Indians added in the offseason are instant fixes on their own. Collin Cowgill looks like a platoon option with Lonnie Chisenhall at best, and Joey Butler (who they claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday) could be a temporary solution when Michael Brantley starts the year on the disabled list.
The Indians also revealed that Jose Ramirez and Chris Johnson will be available as potential outfield options in 2016. Again, neither are perfect or long-term solutions in the outfield, but they will be part of the rotating door that we are likely to see next season.
If a more permanent player is coming from outside the team, it probably will not be through trades. So what about free agency?
Indians have no intention of making a splash in free agency
No, probably not through free agency either. The Indians have been most recently linked to veterans Shane Victorino, Steve Pearce, and Rajai Davis. None of those are solutions on their own either, but each could be a complimentary piece to the outfield already in place. Davis is the most intriguing because he could be in the mix as a competent center fielder, although not an everyday option.
The outfield is not the only need for the Indians, however. They have also been interested in first base/designated hitter types Pedro Alvarez and Chris Carter, both of whom were non-tendered by their former teams and became free agents shortly before the Winter Meetings. Either of them would be an instant upgrade over whatever the Indians want to throw out at DH in 2016, but they lack the flexibility of the outfield targets.
The Indians should still have a little bit of money to play with, but nothing to sign a huge free agent. I would not be surprised to see them choose to sign a few more smaller options instead of going all-in on one big free agent.
Michael Brantley's return is still on track
On Sunday night, right before the Winter Meetings began, Peter Gammons casually dropped a bomb on Indians fans when he said Michael Brantley probably would not return from shoulder surgery until next August, a full four months later than initially reported. The Indians instantly rebutted the comments, saying they had not heard of any setback in Brantley’s surgery or recovery window. The outfielder underwent a scheduled examination Wednesday and everything appears to be normal, as the Indians suggested.
Gammons also said he had heard that Carrasco or Salazar would be moved before the Winter Meetings ended, and that Jason Kipnis could be moved to the outfield. Someone is feeding Gammons colossally incorrect information, it would seem.
At this point, it is safe to remain optimistic about Brantley returning sometime between May and June, which is still pretty depressing on its own.
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None of this is to say that something out of nowhere could not happen between now and April--this is baseball, after all. But everything we have seen from the Indians so far suggests they are not likely to trade a pitcher or go out and sign a Jason Heyward anytime soon. We'll see how it all works out in a few short months.