The Winter Meetings begin tonight (Sunday), and there are going to be many transactions over the new three days, as free agents are signed, trades are worked out, and the Rule 5 draft is held. Let's take a look at the Indians roster and depth heading into the meetings.
(* = not on 40-man roster,
---- indicates no MLB experience)
As pretty much everyone has acknowledged, the problems with our rotation heading into 2014 is not a lack of bodies, it is a lack of certainty about the bodies. None of the seven guys we have with major league experience constitutes a safe bet. Four or five of them have potentially top-half of the rotation stuff, but only Masterson has demonstrated that ability for any sustained time. I think the bigger problem is what happens if two or three of these guys don't work out. TJ House is the only starting pitcher on the 40-man with no MLBexperience, and he does not profile as a high-ceiling "breakout" kind of pitcher. If the Indians don't sign an established starter (and it seems as if they won't), they pretty much need to sign one or two guys who can pitch in Columbus and potentially surprise (like Kazmir, last year). Those kind of signings don't typically come until late January, though.
Marc Rzepczynski (L)
Nick Hagadone (L)
Colt Hynes (L)
Scott Barnes (L)
Kyle Crockett* (L)
If there is a completely unsettled part of the team, the bullpen is it. If there is one place that I think the Indians would really benefit from adding a reliable veteran right now, it is here. The loss of Perez, Albers, and Joe Smith doesn't mean we lost our three best relievers (though Smith has obviously been a rock), but it does mean we lost 180 innings out of the bullpen. That is basically a starter, though who a starter who pitched primarily high-leverage innings. I actually like the bodies the Tribe has available, but the lack of clear roles and experience is unsettling. First, you can see why the team went out and got Colt Hynes. The experienced left-handers are few and far between. Although we are flush with interesting arms in the minors, only Kyle Crockett (who is really interesting) is a lefty. Scrabble filled in admirably last year, and hopefully the Indians can continue his success this year. I've got Allen penciled in at the top, but it would be huge for the Tribe to get a return of the old Vinnie Pestano. Bryan Shaw was, for the most part, great last year and I expect similar returns this year. After that it is a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. Lee, Hagadone, Adams, Haley, all have high-leverage potential...but the Indians need to get it out of them. If spring training started today, I think the most interesting innings to watch would be those featuring our relievers.
The one position on the team that seems to be over-stocked at the moment. Though it is pretty easy to imagine how these five guys could fit on the 25-man roster, with Raburn acting as a true super-utility guy, Stubbs actually being platooned and filling in LF and CF, and Murphy being the platoon partner with Stubbs. Moncrief seems a capable emergency call-up from the minors if someone goes down, with an ability to play all three OF positions. The high price of free agents this offseason does make me moderately interested in the Tribe's trade possibilities here, with the three guys capable of playing CF (Bourn, Brantley, Stubbs) the most intriguing.
I would be fine with this group on opening day. The Indians need to ride Lonnie out and see if he can stick at third. He had a phenomenal spring training last year, but then seemed lost once the season began. Maybe this year will be different. Either way, Aviles is a solid backup option at multiple positions. Swisher is hopefully recovered from his shoulder problems and ready to regain a little more power. Cabrera is....Cabrera. If the Indians do find themselves needing to be creative in the season the looming prospect of Lindor gives them some potential flexibility on the left side.
To recap, I think the Indians are pretty correct that they don't "have" to do much between now and spring training. I think there is a 7th inning hole in the bullpen. I think there is a 7th/8th starter problem in the rotation. I think the Indians have some flexibility on the left side of the infield and CF to potentially make a significant trade, though no significant pressure to do so. I will be interested to see if Antonetti can once again come up with a surprising trade or two (and don't forget that the one involving Esmil Rogers last offseason was more significant than the one involving Shin-Soo Choo).