TORONTO -- The Indians are growing increasingly optimistic about adding a bat before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Cleveland does not feel help necessarily needs to come from outside the organization.On Thursday, both Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona expressed confidence in outfielder Michael Brantley's ability to
TORONTO -- The Indians are growing increasingly optimistic about adding a bat before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Cleveland does not feel help necessarily needs to come from outside the organization.
On Thursday, both Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona expressed confidence in outfielder Michael Brantley's ability to impact the lineup in the second half. So, even though Reds slugger Jay Bruce indicated he is willing to waive his no-trade clause for his eight specified teams -- a group that includes Cleveland -- the Indians are focused on an in-house solution right now.
"The highest-impact 'acquisition' we could make is getting Michael Brantley back on the field and healthy," Chernoff told MLB.com. "And, I think we're optimistic based on how that progression has started, and hopefully he can be that guy for us, rather than an external acquisition. At the same time, we're going to explore every avenue."
Brantley, who continues to work his way back from a right shoulder issue, is in Cleveland and has progressed to a soft-toss stage of a hitting program. The left fielder opened the season on the disabled list, following offseason surgery on his shoulder, and played in 11 games between late April and early May before going back on the 15-day DL on May 14.
A recent bout with discomfort led to a June 21 trip to Dallas, where he sought a second opinion on his shoulder. Brantley was diagnosed with right biceps tendinitis and received a cortisone shot to help alleviate the issue.
Francona called the diagnosis good news and said he "definitely" feels Brantley will impact the Indians in the second half.
"I'm so much more relieved," Francona said. "When a guy has surgery, and you feel some discomfort, you start to think, 'Oh no.' And when we got to the bottom of it -- I don't doubt that it hurt -- but in the grand scheme of things, it's something that can get knocked out. He's worked so hard, that I think he'll [come back] fast."
If Brantley does make a swift return during this latest hitting progression, that could impact how Cleveland approaches the July 31 Trade Deadline. The Indians are also on the cusp of making a decision on outfielder Abraham Almonte, who will be eligible for activation on Sunday, following an 81-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
Cleveland can either add Almonte to the Major League roster or option him to a Minor League affiliate.
"At different times, we have looked to fill holes in our outfield," Chernoff said, "like when Brantley got hurt and when Almonte got suspended. And, even in the offseason, we were looking for that, so we signed [Rajai] Davis. The way Tyler Naquin has played, he has filled a lot of that gap and that hole that we had at the start of the season, especially of late. And the other guys have been playing really well."
While Bruce would inject power to the lineup, Cleveland might not have a spot for him.
As Chernoff noted, Naquin (.328 average with a .992 OPS) has performed well for the Tribe, along with Jose Ramirez (.784 OPS), Lonnie Chisenhall (.834 OPS) and Davis (.766 OPS). There are few at-bats available in the designated hitter role, as well, considering first basemen Mike Napoli or Carlos Santana occupy that spot when not in the field.
Francona was not willing to say Cleveland needed outside help in that area.
"I don't think that I ever feel comfortable saying, 'We need this or that,'" Francona said. "If I say something like that, it's directly telling somebody out there [in the clubhouse]. I think my job is to try to have our team play as good as we can, knowing that [president of baseball Chris Antonetti] and those guys are always doing their homework and, if they think they can make us better, they will."
For what it's worth, Bruce told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon on Thursday that he is open to any deal, including to any of the eight clubs that are listed in his contract's limited no-trade clause. That list includes the Yankees, Red Sox, A's, Rays, Marlins, Twins, D-backs and Indians.
"I would consider waiving the no-trade clause for all types of reasons," said Bruce, who has 17 homers and a career-high .894 OPS. "There's no blanket reason I wouldn't. I'm open to all possibilities, but it would be situation to situation."
Bruce is earning $12.5 million this season and has a $13 million team option (or a $1 million buyout) for next year. As far as the Indians are concerned, the acquisition cost in terms of players would be a larger obstacle than salary.
That said, the Indians do like the depth they have in the Minors, as the Trade Deadline approaches.
"We feel really strongly about our system," Chernoff said. "We have seen a whole lot of progress in the past couple of years. ... The currency at the trade deadline is players, not dollars, and we feel like, as much as we like those guys, we also feel like we have a lot of depth in our system, which puts us in a good position."
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.