CLEVELAND -- Twice in the past three seasons, the Indians have watched one of their American League Central rivals reach the World Series. Cleveland's task this offseason is to continue to bridge the gap to baseball's biggest stage.
"We're all a little bit disappointed," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said at the end of the season. "Our goal is to win the World Series. To do that, you need to get to the postseason. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."
Coming off a second consecutive winning season, including reaching the AL Wild Card Game in 2013, the Tribe is not content. The Tigers reached the Series in 2012 and the Royals followed suit this year. The Indians want a taste of their own and, while the club enters the winter with optimism over its young core (Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis, among others), it has plans of building on last summer's showing.
Here is a glance at Cleveland's roster situation as baseball's offseason officially begins:
The Indians' lone free agent this offseason is 20-year veteran Jason Giambi, who has served as a part-time designated hitter and pinch-hitter for the team over the past two years. The 43-year-old Giambi has not announced whether he will attempt to return for a 21st season in the big leagues or call it a career.
On Friday, the Indians exercised a $3.5 million club option to retain veteran utility man Mike Aviles, who can play multiple infield and outfield positions, while providing a strong clubhouse presence. Aviles will remain in the fold with Cleveland for a third season. He has helped shore up the backup-shortstop role in his time with the Tribe.
The foundation of Cleveland's rotation is in good shape with Kluber (an AL Cy Young Award candidate) and Carrasco at the top, and Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and T.J. House on the depth chart. Still, the Indians could use more depth for the starting staff, which has two more options in Tomlin and right-hander Zach McAllister (out of options). The Indians will also be in the market for bullpen depth and an impact bat. The trade market might be more realistic for the latter need. With so many contracts in place for 2015, two positions that are most realistic for an upgrade appear to be third base and right field.
Both Antonetti and manager Terry Francona emphasized the desire to acquire more pitching over the winter. Along those lines, some mid-level free-agent targets for the rotation could include experienced arms such as Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy or Jake Peavy. Also available is Justin Masterson, who was traded by Cleveland this past season. The Indians looked into Hammel last winter. It is too early to tell which players might be trade targets for Cleveland, especially on the offensive side. Third baseman Chase Headley and right fielder Nelson Cruz are intriguing options on the open market. The Indians have some financial wiggle room, but will likely operate around the same $80-85 million range.
The Indians have a wealth of outfield and middle-infield prospects, giving the club some strong chips for possible trade talks. On the Major League roster, lefty Nick Hagadone (out of options), David Murphy (owed $6 million in 2015) and Chisenhall (coming off his best offensive season) are three potential trade pieces to help other areas of the roster. Other teams will likely ask on shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor, as well as young starters such as Bauer, Salazar and House.
With a young, talented core of players under contractual control, and key veterans locked into long-term deals, this could be a relatively quiet winter for Cleveland.