Indians won't force moves before Trade Deadline
Abundance of teams still in contention making things complicated for Tribe
CLEVELAND -- Chris Antonetti has scoured the trade market, and the Indians' general manager will continue to do so until Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Cleveland's roster certainly has its flaws, and he is looking for ways to upgrade one of the American League's surprise contenders.
What Antonetti is not going to do, however, is force the issue.
"Working through the realities of the market," Antonetti said, "if there's the right deal that makes sense, that we feel will improve us, we'll make the deal. But if there's not the right deal, we're not going to make a trade just to say we made a trade."
The Indians are coming off a 94-loss showing last season, but Antonetti's aggressive offseason -- filled with a long list of trades and free-agent acquisitions -- has the retooled roster currently sitting within striking distance of the Tigers in the AL Central. That has put Cleveland in a buyer's position as Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline nears.
The problem at the moment is that last season's addition of a second Wild Card team in each league has once again created a crowded field of buyers. The asking price on available players by the few sellers -- two such teams being the division-rival White Sox and Twins -- has also been steep, complicating the issue further for clubs like the Tribe.
That is the reality of the marketplace at the moment.
"You can make the argument," Antonetti said, "that there are 24, or maybe even 25, teams that are either buying or at least holding on to players, and only a select handful of teams that are willing to trade off Major League players."
Still, the Indians have their needs.
Topping Cleveland's wish list right now is an upgrade or two for its bullpen. Within that area, the most pressing issue has been left-handed relief. Antonetti, who rarely singles out a specific area as a problem, indicated that the bullpen is an aspect of the roster in need of attention.
"I think in the bullpen we could be a little bit more consistent," Antonetti said. "I think that's one area where we haven't been as consistent maybe as we would like, especially our ability to get left-handed hitters out. That's an area that we'll try to improve, whether it's internal alternatives or external alternatives."
The Indians' offense -- while not without its flaws -- was among the Major League's top five in runs scored and OPS entering this past weekend. Cleveland's rotation, which includes a mix of young arms and a handful of comeback cases, has been one of the AL's top groups over the course of the past six weeks.
That is why those areas are unlikely to be considered a high priority for upgrades via the trade market before the Deadline.
"I feel good about the group of guys that we have," Antonetti said. "I've been really encouraged by the way our starting pitching has pitched over the last month. I feel really good about the group of position players we have: offensively, defensively, on the bases, the ability to score runs and prevent runs."
Indians manager Terry Francona feels the same.
"I enjoy our team, and that's a good feeling," Francona said recently. "The one thing I never really want to do is, I don't ever want to press [Antonetti] to do something. I know he cares, but I also know that we have some prospects in our Minor Leagues that we don't want to lose, and I feel really strongly about that. I know he does, too.
"This is a good group to see how good we can get. When we play the game right, we can win."
Antonetti said the removal of Draft-pick compensation for upcoming free agents who are traded -- an element of the Collective Bargaining Agreement -- has created a hesitance among buying clubs to part with highly touted prospects.
"In the past, if you were to trade for a player who's approaching the end of his contract," Antonetti said, "you knew there was an opportunity at the end of that year to offer arbitration and potentially get a Draft pick to help back-fill some of the talent you may have traded.
"Obviously, that's no longer in place, so as a team that's buying, it affects maybe your tolerance for the caliber of young players you might be willing to give up."
Antonetti was also quick to remind that Wednesday's Deadline is not the end of the line in terms of trade transactions.
In August, teams can still pull off trades involving players who have successfully cleared waivers or been claimed via waivers. As the postseason picture becomes clearer throughout August, there are more opportunities to acquire players from non-contending clubs.
"August represents another opportunity," Antonetti said, "and maybe even a better opportunity for teams to acquire players. At that point, teams begin to separate themselves a little bit more and more teams may be willing to part with some players once their competitive position becomes more clear. So I do think there will be additional opportunities in August to find ways to improve."