Inbox: Will the Indians trade a starting pitcher?
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian fields questions from Tribe Nation
If the Indians trade one or two starting pitchers for outfield help, do they have enough starters in the Minors ready to help the big league team?
-- Frank L., Montreal
First of all, know that such a trade would require a clear-cut, impact player coming back to the Indians. Cleveland is open to listening to offers that include its young, talented starting pitchers, but the club isn't going to weaken an area of strength unless it is the kind of deal a team can't walk away from.
As for your question, the Indians do have some depth to their rotation, making it easier to entertain such proposals. Behind the front four of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer are youngster Cody Anderson and the more veteran Josh Tomlin, both of whom could be sound options at the back of the starting staff.
From the 40-man roster, Cleveland currently has righty Michael Clevinger, along with lefties Shawn Morimando and TJ House.
The 24-year-old Clevinger (2.73 ERA, 145 strikeouts, 158 innings at Double-A Akron last year) and the 23-year-old Morimando (3.18 ERA, 128 strikeouts, 158 2/3 innings at Double-A in '15) were added to the roster on Friday. House, 26, had a 3.35 ERA in 19 games for the Tribe in '14, but he was limited to 37 innings in '15 between the Majors and Minors due to a shoulder issue.
Outside of the 40-man roster, one prospect that stands out would be righty Adam Plutko, who had a 2.39 ERA with 137 strikeouts and 28 walks in 166 innings between Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Akron last year. Anderson began the season at Double-A on his way to a 15-start stint with Cleveland, so it's not out of the realm of possibility to see one of Clevinger, Morimando or Plutko rising fast.
If the Indians were to pull the trigger on a trade that shipped one of their top Major League starters to another team, though, I'd also expect Cleveland to look for more depth options outside of the organization. The Tribe would likely be looking at the trade market, or potential non-tender candidates, to potentially add to its rotation depth.
Will Giovanny Urshela be the Tribe's third baseman? Or are the Indians seriously pursuing someone to step in and take it over? If so, then what happens with Gio?
-- Shawn B., Malvern, Ohio
Highest on Cleveland's priority list right now is solving the outfield situation. Michael Brantley (right shoulder surgery) is out until at least late April, and the Major League depth is thin for left and center field. Beyond the outfield, the Indians could explore upgrading their offense via the corner-infield and designated-hitter spots.
At the moment, the Indians have a first baseman and DH option in Carlos Santana, who isn't likely going anywhere. Chris Johnson is also in the fold (and under contract for $7.5 million) to help with those roles, too. Given Urshela's rough year at the plate, it would make sense for the Indians to at least look into what alternatives might exist for third base.
What the Indians know for certain is that Urshela can provide strong defense at the hot corner, which is important. What is less certain is what kind of hitter the young player will become. It is hard to get a read on his showing last year, because Urshela dealt with knee, back and shoulder issues at various points from last winter through the season's final month.
In 2014, Urshela hit .280 with 18 homers, 60 extra-base hits, 84 RBIs and an .825 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A Columbus, so Cleveland knows there is potential in his bat. In 81 games for Cleveland in '15, though, Urshela hit just .225 with a .608 OPS and faded down the stretch (.559 OPS across August and September) while dealing with discomfort.
If the Indians were to find an alternative for third base, Urshela has options and can be sent to Triple-A.
How likely is a trade for Reds third baseman Todd Frazier?
-- Dave L., Cleveland
Frazier is an intriguing player, but there are some things to be wary about, too. He'll be 30 in February and, while his overall showing last season was solid, the third baseman had a .220/.274/.390 slash line after the All-Star break. Recent reports indicated that the Reds, while not aggressively shopping the third baseman, would seek young, Major League-ready talent for Frazier, who is under contract for $7.5 million in 2016, arbitration-eligible in '17 and then eligible for free agency in '18. The plus defense and right-handed pop is attractive, but this could also be a sell-high situation for Cincinnati.
Were the team to trade one of its starting pitchers for outfield help (Yasiel Puig, please!), would there be any interest in signing Tim Lincecum to a cheap, one-year deal as a reclamation project/starting-pitching depth, or even bullpen help?
-- Dane M., Richfield, Ohio
Hey, the Indians are no strangers to reclamation projects (see: Scott Kazmir) and the club actually selected Lincecum in the Draft back in 2005. At the very least, I'd expect Cleveland to monitor the pitcher's progress from hip surgery and have someone on hand when the right-hander holds his reported showcase in January.
It seems early on that Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti is still making the decisions at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. How long until the proverbial training wheels are taken off and general manager Mike Chernoff is free to be creative on his own with trades, promotions, etc.?
-- Levi M., Charlotte, N.C.
Antonetti might have the final say on baseball moves, but Chernoff and Derek Falvey (assistant GM) have taken the lead on various decisions. Even before his promotion to GM this winter, Chernoff handled a lot of Cleveland's arbitration cases. Both Chernoff and Falvey have played key roles in contract negotiations, trade talks and player-development moves, too. So, yes, Antonetti is the face of the decision making in Cleveland, but it's a collaborative effort behind the scenes.
Yankees pitcher (and former Indians lefty) CC Sabathia recently opened up about his struggles with alcoholism and checked in to rehab. What do teams like the Indians do to support players in proactively addressing issues like addiction and mental health?
-- Steve G., Wadsworth, Ohio
The Indians have an extensive employee-assistance program, which helps players, field staff, scouts and front-office members deal with any personal issues, including any type of addiction or substance abuse. Cleveland's staff also includes Dr. Charles Maher, who is the team's sports psychologist and director of psychological services. The Indians also have a trio of performance coaches (Ceci Clark, Brian Miles and Oscar Gutierrez Ramirez) on staff to help with the mental side of the game.