NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Indians have spent the early portion of the offseason monitoring the marketplace. Now that the team's decision-makers are descending on the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center for baseball's annual Winter Meetings, there is an opportunity to gain ground in discussions.
Cleveland arrives to the Meetings as the reigning American League champions and will examine possibilities for enhancing what is already a strong returning roster. The Indians are in the market for outfield help, an impact bat and pitching depth. Over the next four days, Chris Antonetti, the Tribe's president of baseball operations, and his front-office team will meet with agents and other teams behind the scenes.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the convention center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft at 9 a.m. ET. on Thursday.
Indians.com will have daily coverage of any happenings involving the Indians. Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff will meet with local reporters each day to provide updates, and pitching coach Mickey Callaway is scheduled to sit down with the media from 10:30-11 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Callaway will be filling in for manager Terry Francona, who will miss the Meetings while recovering from right hip surgery.
The bulk of Cleveland's roster is expected to return for next season, though veteran first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Rajai Davis are free agents. The Indians have maintained an interest in bringing both players back, but on short-term contracts. Cleveland's preference would be to re-sign Napoli to a one-year contract, but he is seeking a multi-year deal on the heels of a career year.
The Indians are hoping that left fielder Michael Brantley is going to be back to full strength for Spring Training and Opening Day. That would greatly help the potential loss of Napoli and/or Davis and shape how the Tribe approaches this winter. Cleveland could use another outfielder as insurance, and there is flexibility with the first base and designated hitter roles to add another offensive weapon.
As things currently stand, Cleveland's payroll projects to climb north of $100 million, even before any external additions, leaving little wiggle room. That means that the Indians' best path for adding any impact players would probably be via trade, though the team will keep looking at the free-agent alternatives as the offseason progresses. The Winter Meetings provide a great venue for expediting that process.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.