SAN DIEGO -- It is a matter of fact and finances that the Cleveland Indians aren't going to snag their stars on the open market. The last time the Tribe was represented on the All-Star stage by a player the club had previously signed as a free agent was 2004,
SAN DIEGO -- It is a matter of fact and finances that the Cleveland Indians aren't going to snag their stars on the open market. The last time the Tribe was represented on the All-Star stage by a player the club had previously signed as a free agent was 2004, when second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who made a measly $1.1 million that season, was selected.
No, for the Indians to do what they've done this year -- putting together a clear contender on a budget and, along the way, sending three deserving representatives to tonight's 87th All-Star Game presented by MasterCard (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX) -- there are only three realistic avenues to acquire star-level talent: The MLB Draft, the international market and trades.
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And that is how Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber, respectively, came into the fold.
"In our situation," said general manager Mike Chernoff, "we have to build our team through scouting and development, and look to complement the team opportunistically in free agency. This year, we have seen those scouting and development efforts from each area of our organization pay off."
This is a special week for the Tribe trio, no doubt.
Lindor's rising profile was evident in the steady stream of reporters who crowded his table at Monday's All-Star media session, and his contagious smile was an especially wide one on this day.
Salazar was smiling, too, telling the tale of how he went from a relatively low-profile prospect with a Tommy John scar to the rookie entrusted with a Wild Card round start in 2013 to the more polished, more complete elite American League arm he is today. Because of a mild elbow condition, he won't get to participate in tonight's game, but he's certainly soaking in all the activity surrounding it.
Heck, even Kluber, known as "The Klubot" for his seemingly pre-programmed visage, could be seen granting the occasional grin.
But while the individual stories are all impressive in their own way, let's not lose sight of the organizational victory represented by these players.
"I think that's probably the best way to sustain success for an organization," said Kluber, "is to hopefully grow the players."
Just look at how much Kluber, who is expected to be AL manager Ned Yost's first "reliever" tonight, has grown. The Indians acquired him on the day of the 2010 non-waiver Trade Deadline in a three-way swap that sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis. To say Kluber was a low-profile pickup from the Padres is to imply he had any profile at all. It was an acquisition largely ignored from the national perspective, and it wasn't until Kluber drastically revamped his repertoire, with the help of then-Triple-A pitching coach and now Minor League pitching coordinator Ruben Niebla, in the upper reaches of the Indians' system, that he untapped his AL Cy Young Award -- and, belatedly All-Star -- potential.
Then there's Salazar, whose name never appeared near the top of national prospect lists. The Indians signed him out of his native Dominican Republic when he was just 16 years old. A decade later, he's developed one of the more effective changeups in the game to offset his fiery fastball, and he's become the statistical leader (10-3, 2.75 ERA, AL-best 171 adjusted ERA+) of one of the game's great rotations.
"I had a lot of coaches, different coaches in every league," Salazar said. "But the one that I spent the most time with was Tony Arnold, our pitching coach in Triple-A. Every pitching coach or manager I've been with has something to do with my career and the way I'm playing now, and I really appreciate that. But he's the guy I thank a lot. I think he knows me really well. And Mickey Callaway was my pitching coach in [Class A] and then again in the big leagues."
That consistency in personnel is a part of Lindor's narrative. His story is naturally distinct from those of Kluber and Salazar in that, as the eighth overall pick in the 2011 Draft, he had a high profile from Day 1 of his professional career. So Lindor faced the challenge of having to tune out inevitable distractions -- consistent speculation about when he'd reach the highest level -- while trying to make the necessary developmental strides.
In that process, Lindor was especially aided by two men who worked with him at multiple levels: Dave Wallace, who is currently the skipper at Double-A Akron, and Rouglas Odor, who is the hitting coach at Triple-A Columbus.
"Those two guys right there," Lindor said, "I can't thank them enough for what they did, Wally for letting me be myself and Odor for always being there and telling me how you should do it."
There's not enough room on the first- and third-base lines for each All-Star introduced tonight night to be joined by those who helped pave the path. But for the Indians, a team that doesn't have deep enough pockets to pluck established, prime performers off the shelf, having three essentially homegrown players (Kluber was so far from his current concoction when acquired that the label fits even him) on the heels of a first-place first half is meaningful.
"It's a real credit," Chernoff said, "to our scouting staff and analysts that saw potential in players to our development and Major League staff for their tireless effort in helping players fulfill their potential, and, of course, to the players themselves for their progress."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.