Unfinished Business


The Indians had three main goals this offseason, at least as far as acquisitions were concerned:

1. Stabilize the starting rotation

This was taken care of almost immediately. The Indians made the first trade of the offseason, acquiring Derek Lowe from the Braves in a salary dump, and they also picked up Fausto Carmona's 2012 team option. As far as I know, that ended their interest in starting pitching for the winter.

2. Find a starting center fielder

After allowing Grady Sizemore to test the market, they re-signed him to a one-year deal with $4M less in guaranteed money, although he'll get to $9M if he makes 650 plate appearances. This was also completed fairly quickly, and before many of the other free agents signed.

3. Add offensive production in either left field or first base, preferably a right-handed power hitter

This one hasn't been addressed, and might not be addressed at all. They were one of the finalists for Josh Willingham, but balked at giving the 32-year-old a three-year contract. The other outfielder that fit what they were looking at, Michael Cuddyer, ended up signing for more money than Willingham.

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There's still opportunities on the trade market, whether it be for one of the Angels' redundant first basemen or even San Diego's Anthony Rizzo, but the Indians aren't going to grab that offensive bat via free agency. As of today Michael Brantley is your starting left fielder, and the first baseman will be an amalgam of Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan, and Matt LaPorta. Santana, of course, is also the starting catcher, so whenever he's playing first, Lou Marson will be in the lineup; that just shifts the offensive problem to catcher.

The Indians meanwhile have concentrated on depth, signing Felix Pie and Jose Lopez to minor-league contracts, and trading for Aaron Cunningham. Cunningham has the inside track on the fourth outfielder spot, as he's not only right-handed, but also out of options.

If this was a rebuilding season, these wouldn't be a bad series of moves, but 2012 looks like the first of two seasons in which the Indians should be able to compete with the present cast of characters. Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore will likely be gone after this season, and more importantly, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Shin-Soo Choo will likely be free agents after the 2013 season. It seems like the window of opportunity is 2012-2013, and that means in my opinion that the Indians just can't go into the 2012 season with both Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley as starters.

So there's still some unfinished business for the Indians this offseason, and it almost has to be a trade.

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