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Cleveland Indians trade rumors: Chris Antonetti would prefer not to trade a starting pitcher

...but he would if the right deal came along (obviously?).

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians front office has danced around the idea of trading one of their starting pitchers all offseason, and now President Chris Antonetti has brought the tap dancing crusade to the Winter Meetings.

In a recent media event the former general manager (but still basically general manager) had this to say regarding the idea of trading a starting pitcher to improve the Tribe’s offense, via Jordan Bastian:

"Our rotation’s been a strength of the team, so we would be very judicious in considering trading away one of those guys. It’s certainly not our intent. It’s not our motivation. We’re not looking to do it. But, what we have to be open-minded [about is], if there’s a way for us to really impact our team and make a deal that we think makes us a better, more complete, more competitive team in 2016, we’ll be open to it. But, that’s a pretty high bar."

Essentially what Antonetti is saying, in some form of interpretive corporate dance speak, is that the Indians are not shopping their starters, but if the right move comes along they will make it. Which is where we have been with the Indians and their starting pitcher situation all offseason long anyway.

It is interesting that Antonetti is now including all starting pitching in the "we do not want to trade them" list, and not just the top tier pitchers (Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco) that he previously stated would most likely not be available for trade. Instead, this also includes the second-tier guys such as Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and Cody Anderson, who Antonetti previously seemed fairly open to trading.

If the Indians front office's plan to improve the team's offense does not involve trading a starting pitcher, their biggest asset in the trade market, that means they will be turning to the free agent market. We already know they want to come away this offseason with an improved lineup, based on Antonetti’s own words before, but we still do not know for sure who that could be. The most obvious signs point to recently non-tendered free agents Pedro Alvarez and Chris Carter--both of whom are very strictly designated hitter types. Other teams seem to be getting away from one-tool players that can hit the ball hard and nothing else this offseason, so the Indians could find themselves getting a cheaper bargain than usual for a power-hitting bat.

Other options could include a free agent such as Juan Uribe or Justin Morneau who the Indians were linked to earlier in the offseason, but have mostly quieted down now. They have also reportedly shown interest in free agent outfielder Shane Victorino, with some sources even saying the Tribe are showing the "most intense interest," according to Chris Cotillo.