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Tribe still has eyes on the prize for 2019

Roster turnover, trade rumors have defined offseason, but strong core and young reinforcements could lead to deep run
MLB.com @MandyBell02

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have had more turnover heading into the 2019 season than in the past few years. Despite all of the discussions and speculation regarding the Tribe's offseason, the team has been clear that its goal has not changed: win the World Series.

The Tribe had a couple of objectives heading into the offseason, repeated countless times by president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff. One was positioning the team for success in 2019 and beyond by bringing in young players. Another was getting the finances in order.

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have had more turnover heading into the 2019 season than in the past few years. Despite all of the discussions and speculation regarding the Tribe's offseason, the team has been clear that its goal has not changed: win the World Series.

The Tribe had a couple of objectives heading into the offseason, repeated countless times by president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff. One was positioning the team for success in 2019 and beyond by bringing in young players. Another was getting the finances in order.

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"Those were the objectives at the beginning of the offseason, and we feel we've made progress on both of those," Antonetti said. "I'm not sure that work is ever done in that space, and we'll continue to look for opportunities to improve on our 2019 team, as well as position our team for success beyond that. But we feel the moves that we've been able to make to date have progressed us closer towards those goals."

The Indians had record-high payrolls the last couple of seasons and Antonetti said that the path they had been on was unsustainable. So, by dealing Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz, Yonder Alonso, Erik Gonzalez and Yan Gomes, the Indians were able to give themselves some needed financial flexibility, according to Antonetti.

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On top of the trades, Cleveland lost a handful of names to free agency including, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Josh Tomlin, Brandon Guyer and Josh Donaldson. New faces like Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow, Kevin Plawecki, Jefry Rodriguez, Max Moroff, Nick Wittgren, and a familiar face in Carlos Santana, will compete to fill those vacancies.

Video: Bauers on joining Tribe and team's winning culture

With all the talk of who has departed, it's easy to forget who has not: ace Corey Kluber and his fellow starters, who make up perhaps the best rotation in baseball. Carlos Carrasco is back and signed to an extension, Trevor Bauer is coming off a breakout ace-level season, Mike Clevinger took a huge step forward and the Tribe feels Shane Bieber is poised to do the same this season. So the team's hopes -- as has been the case for the past four seasons -- rest on its rotation.

The Indians' clubhouse will have a much different look in 2019. Of the nine position players who started in Game 1 of the ALDS for Cleveland in '18, only three are returning for the upcoming season: Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez (started at second base) and Jason Kipnis (started in center field). And now, one of those three has become a big question mark for Opening Day.

Lindor sustained a moderate right calf strain while preparing for Spring Training in Orlando, Fla., and is expected to return to Major League game activity between March 27 and April 10, which throws another wrench into the Indians' preseason preparations. Ramirez will likely move back to third and Kipnis will get the start at second, but, if Lindor is not cleared, the Indians will have a new face at each position to open season.

Video: Lindor to miss 7-9 weeks with right calf strain

Although there has been plenty of focus on how much the Tribe has lost over the offseason, on Wednesday at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards banquet, first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. noted that it is important to embrace change.

"I think what the Indians are trying to do is sell high at times and give you an opportunity to have a bigger window," Alomar said. "We don't have the same kind of money that other organizations have, but when you're able to plan right and open that window for a longer period of time, it's better for the organization and for the city. You've got to welcome change at times. We have superstar players, but we haven't won a World Series."

Antonetti recently mentioned that it's important to give young players a chance to contribute at the Major League level. He also stated that he feels good about the team's current roster and that it's unlikely that there will be any more Major League free-agent signings after the team brought back Oliver Perez on Jan. 25.

Now that the Indians have nearly completed their offseason prep, the focus will soon switch to putting together a 25-man roster that can lead a fourth consecutive postseason appearance. Although Antonetti has said he feels good about the current roster, that does not mean that future moves are not in store. If the team is a contender around the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Antonetti said he expects it will look for opportunities to fine-tune and adjust the roster, like it has done in the past, to put itself in the best position to make the postseason.

"I think [the World Series] will always be our goal," Antonetti said. "The first thing we want to make sure we do is find a way to gain entry into the postseason, and the best way to do that is winning the American League Central. We feel we are positioned to do that."

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.

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