MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

After standing pat, Indians ready to contend

After standing pat, Indians ready to contend

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The White Sox were among the biggest players in the offseason, looking to rebuild with the idea of making an instant return to contention in the American League Central this season.

The Tigers, coming off four consecutive division titles, and the Royals, who ended a 29-year postseason drought by advancing to the World Series, were busy patching holes created by offseason departures.

And the Indians? Well, there was no need to make dramatic changes.

The Indians have spent the past few years nurturing their home-grown prospects, who have reached a point where they are now established big leaguers.

"It's just building off last year," third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall said of the Tribe's focus this spring. "We have the majority of our guys back. We added [Brandon Moss], and we added a lot of veteran guys to put into the mix for the 'pen. We know what we're capable of and what we've done in the past, so I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do."

Chisenhall on consistency in '15

The Indians, after all, have 23 players back from last season, and it's not as though this is a roster filled with guys looking for a last hurrah. Six of the projected members of the starting lineup will be younger than 30 on Opening Day, as will four of the five members of the expected rotation, plus closer Cody Allen and setup man Bryan Shaw.

Cleveland has supplemented that group with the acquisition of Moss from the A's, filled a rotation void with the signing of Gavin Floyd, and brought in a handful of veteran pitchers on Minor League contracts in the never-ending search for bullpen depth.

The Indians were impressed -- but not intimidated -- by the White Sox signing free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, closer David Robertson, left-handed reliever Zach Duke, first baseman/DH Adam LaRoche, and infielders Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio.

They understood that the Tigers needed to acquire right-handers Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene to fill rotation openings created by the trade of Rick Porcello -- to add the bat of Yoenis Cespedes -- and counter the free-agency loss of Max Scherzer.

Ditto with the Royals, who signed free agents to offset the loss of other free agents -- starter Edinson Volquez for James Shields, DH Kendrys Morales for Billy Butler, and outfielder Alex Rios for outfielder Nori Aoki.

But there was no feeling among the Tribe's leadership to overreact to the actions of their division rivals.

"We believe we have the players here," said general manager Chris Antonetti, "not only in production and talent, but in the way they came together as a team. They are not only strong performers, but good teammates who care about each other."

There were some struggles early last season. By the end of June, the Indians were only 39-43. In the final three months, however, they were 46-34, finishing with an 85-77 record, three games behind the Athletics for the final AL Wild Card spot.

The Tribe had a winning record against three AL Central members -- 10-9 vs. the White Sox, 19-9 vs. the Royals and 11-8 vs. the Twins. And they go into the 2015 season coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2000-01.

No wonder manager Terry Francona is confident about the roster he will have in place on Opening Day. And he wanted to make sure during the offseason that the members of his roster share his confidence. Francona made calls to many of the players to make sure they didn't overreact to seeing other teams so active while Cleveland did not make an offseason splash.

"I called players like [catcher Yan] Gomes and Chisenhall. I didn't want them to see what other teams were doing and wondering, 'Why not us?'" said Francona. "We are in a unique position with the guys we have back."

The roster includes eight position players who have appeared in more than 220 games with the Indians over the past two years.

The Tribe created openings when the club dealt right-hander Justin Masterson to the Cardinals and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals in late July.

Floyd, signed to fill Masterson's spot in the rotation, has been given a clean bill of health after undergoing Tommy John surgery with the White Sox in 2013 and dealing with a broken olecranon (the bony tip of the elbow) with the Braves last season.

Floyd on offseason rehab

The Indians were more than pleased with Jose Ramirez's performance at shortstop after Cabrera was dealt. Called up from Triple-A in late July, Ramirez hit .262 the remainder of the season, easing concerns after a 2-for-25 audition in May.

That's why, Antonetti said, Cleveland resisted the temptation to react to the activity among the other teams in the division.

"We are all extremely competitive individuals or we would not do what we do for a living," Antonetti said. "Our focus is on building not only the best team in the American League Central but the best in Major League Baseball."

The Indians feel that they have the basis for reaching that goal in place.

It's why they able to avoid the offseason temptations to tinker.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.