12/04/08 3:08 PM EST
Indians prepare for Winter Meetings
Closer among club's primary offseason needs
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLOSER: Yes, Jensen Lewis did save 13 games in as many chances down the stretch in '08, but the Indians would be much more comfortable if they had a more veteran option for the ninth inning next year. Finding veteran setup men and keeping Lewis in the ninth is an option, but with the market saturated with closing candidates, the Indians should be able to fill this hole through free agency or trade.
INFIELDER: We'll use a generic term, because the Indians have multiple options here. Their first choice is to find a third baseman to fill their opening at the hot corner, but they could also seek out a second baseman who would allow Asdrubal Cabrera to move to shortstop and Jhonny Peralta to move to third. They are not ruling out finding a shortstop to push Peralta to third, but that scenario appears unlikely. Power and run-production would be nice assets for the third baseman, but defensive range must be taken into consideration, given Peralta's limitations.
Who they can or need to trade:
C Kelly Shoppach: Taking over for an injured Victor Martinez this past season, Shoppach proved his worth as an everyday backstop. And with catching talent hard to find in the big leagues, the Indians will no doubt hear offers for Shoppach's services. But Martinez's ability to DH, should Travis Hafner continue to struggle, or play first base leaves the Indians somewhat inclined to hold onto Shoppach.
2B Josh Barfield: Once considered the everyday second baseman of the present and future, Barfield has slipped down the totem pole with two unimpressive seasons in the organization. He might benefit from a change of scenery, though the Indians still have a Minor League option they can exercise.
OF Ben Francisco: The Indians have outfield depth with Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Franklin Gutierrez, David Dellucci and Francisco in the big leagues and Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe down on the farm, so a guy like Francisco might be deemed expendable in the right deal.
OF Franklin Gutierrez: Same as above with Francisco, although the Indians place a high value on Gutierrez's defensive aplomb.
OF David Dellucci: The Indians would probably love to move him and his $4 million contract, but it's highly, highly doubtful they'd be able to.
OF Matt LaPorta, C Carlos Santana, OF Michael Brantley, RHP Adam Miller, LHP David Huff, 3B Wes Hodges, 1B Beau Mills, OF Nick Weglarz: The Indians are always reluctant to deal away their prospects, and that will hold true for this solid group. A guy like OF Trevor Crowe, however, could be moved, given the outfield depth.
Big contracts they might unload:
The Indians have about $57 million tied up in guaranteed contracts for 11 players for next season. The rest of their contracts, plus any free-agent or trade acquisitions, will probably have the payroll somewhere in the $80-million range, which is where it was last season.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.