Tribe has many needs but no priority as Deadline nears

Tribe has many needs but no priority as Deadline nears

Tribe has many needs but no priority as Deadline nears
CLEVELAND -- The Indians appear to be caught in a holding pattern. With two months to play, they can realistically claim to still be within striking distance of the postseason discussion, but their needs are such that one move is unlikely to propel them past the competition.

That leaves the Indians' front office pondering how to approach the final days, hours and minutes leading up to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. There is a debate about whether the club should be aggressive, stand pat and hope the pieces it has in place improve, or flip the switch from buyer to seller.

Cleveland does not necessarily see things so black and white.

"We don't look at it quite that way. We don't look at just 'buy' or 'sell,'" general manager Chris Antonetti said. "Our focus, and where we spend the majority of our energy, is to try to figure out ways to improve our team."

That includes balancing the team's performance -- below expectations to this point -- with the belief that the current core can still help form a contender in 2013. Antonetti believes his roster has what it takes to be a factor in the American League Central next year, and the organization is certainly not ready to throw in the towel on this season.

Cleveland has clear needs in the rotation and the offense, but the team could also benefit from strengthening its middle relief as well. The Indians have some intriguing trading chips on the Major League roster, and their best prospects (those most likely coveted by other clubs) mostly occupy the lower levels of the farm system.

Antonetti has discussed a wealth of scenarios with other clubs.

"We've probably talked about 50 guys within our organization with different teams," he said. "That's just a ballpark figure. This time of year, a lot of different players, a lot of different combinations, get talked about. We've been asked a lot about Major League players, Minor League players, prospects, advanced prospects, young prospects. It really runs the gamut."

For all the talk, though, it is certainly possible that the Tribe will be quiet through the Deadline.

"Absolutely, that's possible," Antonetti said. "It's difficult for all of the ingredients of a trade to align. There's a possibility that [nothing] happens over the next five days, but I wouldn't say that's a certainty."

To this point, the only moves the Indians have made have been minor.

The club acquired reliever Esmil Rogers from the Rockies for cash on June 12, and he has helped solidify the bullpen. On Tuesday, Cleveland swung a deal with Boston to acquire utility man Brent Lillibridge, who offers a right-handed bat and versatility (he can play seven positions) off the bench.

Meanwhile, the Tigers and White Sox -- the two clubs ahead of the Indians in the AL Central -- have made larger moves. Detroit addressed two needs in a recent swap with Miami that brought in infielder Omar Infante and starter Anibal Sanchez. The White Sox reeled in third baseman Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox and nabbed reliever Brett Myers from the Astros.

A year ago, the Indians swung a blockbuster deal with the Rockies, acquiring pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Among the players shipped to Colorado were highly touted pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White.

That was a stunning deal by Antonetti, who has been careful not to tip his hand in terms of his thinking as this year's Deadline approaches.

Entering Friday, the Indians sat 3 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox in the division, with the Tigers a half-game off the lead. All three are in the thick of the AL Wild Card chase, among eight teams that are within five games of the two available berths.

That is quite the pack with two months to go.

Antonetti believes the current roster is more important than any potential addition.

"We'll continue to look for ways to add to it, and to supplement that group," said Antonetti, "but no one or two players that come in externally -- whether that's now or whether that's in the offseason -- is going to dictate our success. It's going to be about the guys that are here."

As for the search, Antonetti said the Indians are focused on targets who are contractually controllable beyond this season.

"I think it's fair to say that," he said. "That's probably our focus, but we're not limiting ourselves. If there's the right opportunity for a player that's on a shorter term of control, that we feel can improve the team and the acquisition cost is right, we wouldn't rule out that type of acquisition."

The Indians have been mentioned in various reports as a possible suitor for Padres third baseman Chase Headley. On the pitching front, they have reportedly checked in with the Rays on the availability of right-hander James Shields.

Though Cleveland needs help in multiple areas, Antonetti is unwilling to label any one of them as a priority.

"There are a number of ways we could potentially improve our situation," he said. "We'll be flexible in how we go about it. With the exception of the back of the bullpen, I don't think there's one area that's continued to excel consistently throughout the course of the season."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.