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12/07/08 9:00 PM EST
As Meetings open, Tribe ready
Talks should heat up; deals should get made in Las Vegas
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- This is where it could -- and probably should -- get interesting. While the Indians have joined the ranks of the quiet thus far this winter, the annual schmooze-fest known as the Winter Meetings figures to pick up the pace of the free-agent and trading markets. And with general manager Mark Shapiro and company kicking off the Meetings here Monday at the Bellagio, the Indians hope to get a better feel for those markets, and, perhaps, swing a deal or two. "Whenever you get the teams and agents all in one place," Shapiro said last week, "that eases contact and some of those competitive emotions start flowing. Things tend to happen."
It's not breaking news to report that few major deals have happened in baseball thus far this offseason, particularly with the Indians, whose efforts to find a closer and either a second or third baseman have resulted in plenty of used cell phone minutes but little more. The Indians, who are no doubt cash-strapped in this brutal economic climate, need the market to become more established before they'll be able to make significant headway. But headway figures to be made in Sin City. Of course, the rumors and the transactions that make this time of year so interesting won't be all that's taking place in Vegas. On Monday, results of the pre-1943 and post-1942 Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballots will be announced at 1 p.m. ET. Former Indians right-hander Wes Ferrell, second baseman Joe Gordon, right-hander Allie Reynolds and first baseman Mickey Vernon are among the 10 finalists on the pre-1943 ballot. The 10 finalists on the post-1942 ballot include former Tribe center fielder Vada Pinson and right-hander Luis Tiant. The winner of the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award, given annually to a broadcaster who is deemed to have made a major impact on the sport, will be announced at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Former Tribe broadcaster Ken Coleman is among the 10 finalists for that honor. On Wednesday, an announcement will be made by Major League Baseball regarding the 2009 World Baseball Classic. It is not yet known which Indians players will be taking part in that event, though Shin-Soo Choo has expressed an interest in playing for Korea, and some have speculated that Grady Sizemore might be a candidate for the star-studded U.S. squad, if he's interested. Last but not least, the Rule 5 Draft will take place at noon ET on Thursday. First baseman Jordan Brown and left-hander Chuck Lofgren are the most notable names that the Indians left unprotected for that Draft. The Indians left one spot open on their 40-man roster should they wish to make a selection in the Rule 5, but they obviously hope to fill that spot -- and others -- with some free-agent or trade acquisitions that will improve the ballclub. Chief among their areas of interest in these Meetings will be the closer spot. It's a flooded market in that area, as Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Kerry Wood, Jason Isringhausen and Brandon Lyon are all available in free agency, and the Mariners' J.J. Putz, the Pirates' Matt Capps and the Orioles' George Sherrill have all been rumored to be available by trade. As far as the search for an infielder is concerned, the Indians hope to find a plug for their hole at third base, though they might instead find a second baseman, allowing Asdrubal Cabrera to move to shortstop and Jhonny Peralta to third. With Casey Blake and Joe Crede the only everyday third basemen available in free agency, look for the Indians to explore the trade market to see what other alternatives are out there.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.