No urgency for Tribe as Winter Meetings wrap

No urgency for Tribe as Winter Meetings wrap

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Indians are not the kind of team that can overreact on the open market and throw huge contract offers around. Cleveland's approach involves being patient and finding the kind of cost-effective deals that can complement what is already a strong roster.

Indians general manager Mike Chernoff still feels the temptation to strike fast to get something done.

"Every minute of my life," Chernoff said with a laugh.

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At these Winter Meetings, the American League-champion Indians held their ground, with the team's lone addition coming via the Rule 5 Draft selection of left-hander Hoby Milner. Cleveland's contingent departed the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on Thursday with any headline-grabbing deals reserved for a later date.

The biggest rumor to come out of the Meetings for the Indians was that they are a surprising potential suitor for free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Cleveland has been in contact with the representatives of Encarnacion, Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo, Chris Carter and others as it looks to add power to the lineup. The Indians are confident that they can get a good deal if they remain patient and let the first-base market continue to develop.

The Indians also know that -- given the strength of a roster that will return mostly intact for 2017 -- they can afford to wait until the right fit arises.

"We have a really good team in place," Chernoff said. "So, you don't have to have some extreme urgency to completely change the dynamic of the team. We're looking to complement the team."

Deals done
The lone transaction for the Indians at these Meetings was the Rule 5 Draft selection of Milner from the Phillies. He will head to Spring Training with the Tribe with a chance to win a spot in the team's bullpen. Cleveland also continued to monitor the free-agent and trade markets in search of upgrades, especially for the lineup.

Goals accomplished
The Indians rarely strike this early in the offseason when it comes to free agency. At this juncture, Cleveland is usually waiting for the big-money names to come off the board, and seeing what kind of steals may become available. Behind the scenes, the Indians kept in touch with the representatives for a variety of sluggers. Chris Antonetti, the team's president of baseball operations, said the week was more focused on free agency than trades.

Unfinished business
There is still a need for an impact hitter. A player capable of serving as a first baseman and designated hitter -- like Napoli last season -- would be the most ideal fit. That said, Cleveland has also been targeting outfielders. The flexibility with the DH role can allow the Indians to take that approach. Adding power to the lineup remains the priority. Cleveland has interest in re-signing Napoli, but the sides are hung up over the length of the contract right now. Replacing some of the speed potentially lost with Rajai Davis returning to the free-agent market would help, too. Beyond that, the Indians are hoping to shore up the depth of arms behind the main rotation and bullpen weapons.

Rule 5 Draft
Milner addressed a need for the Indians and became the team's first Rule 5 selection since 2012 (Chris McGuiness). Cleveland also lost a handful of players in the Draft this time around, too. Outfielder Anthony Santander was taken by Baltimore in the Major League phase, while pitchers Trevor Frank (Padres), Nick Maronde (Marlins), Jon Fitzsimmons (D-backs) and Grant Sides (D-backs) were picked in the Minor League portion.

GM's bottom line
"Especially coming off the year that we came off of, and not having a ton of players leave through free agency, it's definitely a good feeling going into the offseason feeling like we have a really good core in place. A lot of that core is here even beyond this year, for 2017 and going forward. So, it feels like there's a lot to build around. We know we have a championship-caliber team that hopefully can compete not just for one year, but for multiple years." --Chernoff

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for 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.