Antonetti: Indians aim to build for '19, beyond

Tribe fielding offers, eyeing trade scenarios during Meetings

December 12th, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- There was no doubt the Indians would draw attention at the Winter Meetings, regarding potential trades involving and . Although there are plenty of conversations happening behind closed doors, all has been silent on the Cleveland front so far at Mandalay Bay.
That is, for now.
Outside of a report by The Athletic's Corey Brock on Tuesday that the Indians have expressed interest in and rumors regarding a potential Kluber trade on Monday, the Tribe has kept itself out of the headlines. Although the club hasn't made a splash just yet, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti mentioned on Tuesday afternoon that it had been a "long" and "eventful" day. Antonetti also said that he, general manager Mike Chernoff and their decision-making team have been using anything from a whiteboard to computers, to pens and paper, to break down every offer and potential trade scenario.
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"We have to be cognizant of [which team a player may be traded to], but I think the thing we're most concerned about is how we put ourselves in a better position in 2019 and beyond," Antonetti said. "And that will always be the driving factor. If there's a great deal for us that happens to be with one of our competitors, we'll still pursue it."
Some may wonder why the Indians would trade two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Kluber, or Bauer, who is coming off a career season. But trading either pitcher would require a nice return of talent, which could help fill multiple needs by adding outfield depth and landing some arms for the bullpen after the club lost multiple relievers, including and , to free agency.
"[Adding to the bullpen is] definitely on the list of things we'd like to do," Antonetti said. "At the same time, we do feel that we have a number of alternatives that are coming back that we expect will either be better than what they were in 2018 or, in some cases, guys returning from injuries that weren't available to us in 2018. We've run through that list of guys. Everybody from to , , there's a variety of different guys that could fill that role."
Antonetti said on Monday that Salazar is "progressing with his rehab in Arizona" and he is expected to start throwing this week after having season-ending shoulder surgery in July. Despite his confidence, a potential Kluber or Bauer trade would still leave a solid rotation with the starter who is not dealt and , while adding more strength to the bullpen and outfield, which may be the answer the Indians are looking for.
A potential trade to create for a reunion with Santana could've been a factor in Antonetti's hectic day. Santana was recently dealt to the Mariners in a trade with the Phillies, but he is back on the market. Other teams reportedly interested in the first baseman are the Rays, Rockies and Marlins.
With Santana owed $40 million the next two seasons, and the Indians looking to trim their payroll, this may result in Cleveland acquiring Santana simply to flip him to another team. If not, the deal could include a trade of (who is owed $8 million in 2019) to free up first base for Santana. With the Mariners entering a rebuilding year, taking on 's $21.67 million contract for '19 would be a stretch. If the Tribe would be able to dump that contract elsewhere, keeping Santana would be much more reasonable.
No matter what deal, if any, is currently being cooked up, Antonetti made one thing clear: the team is not rebuilding.
"If we were rebuilding, we'd take a dramatically different approach," he said.
Through each step of the process, Antonetti has been sure to keep his players updated with his expectations for 2019. As of now, the plan is for Kipnis to spend the majority of his time in the outfield while would man third base.
"Kip was awesome in how he approached it," Antonetti said. "He said, 'Hey, I'll do whatever, I'll prepare, I just want a head start, and give me your best guess.' So at the time, we gave him what we thought was our best estimate and told him if that changes, we'll let you know."
Antonetti said he believes his decision-making team's responsibility is to put the Indians in the best position for 2019 and beyond.
"I'm hopeful our behaviors over the last handful of seasons demonstrates that winning is a priority for us," Antonetti said. "It's a priority for our front office, it's a priority for our ownership. There are some things and some realities we have to face in how we build winning teams, and maybe do it a little bit differently, but that doesn't change the end goal, which is to try to win a World Series. Yes, we have to take different approaches in how we do that, but it doesn't change the objective."