The Indians and Mariners are believed to be among a narrowing group of teams in the hunt for free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham. A source shot down one report claiming Cleveland and Seattle were the front-runners, though.
The Indians, who are in the market for a right-handed hitter with power, have yet to make an official offer to Willingham’s camp. He will likely command at least a two-year deal, though seeking three years is a likely scenario.
The Twins and Rockies have also been linked to the 32-year-old Willingham, who hit .246/.332/.477 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 136 games with the A’s last season.
The Indians are in “serious discussions” with free-agent center fielder Grady Sizemore, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. A one-year pact between the familiar parties could come to fruition as soon as this weekend.
It has been reported that at least eight teams have shown interest in Sizemore this offseason, during which he had a $9 million club option declined by Cleveland. Other teams rumored to have interest include the Cubs, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Phillies, Rockies and Red Sox.
One stumbling block for interested teams is the fact that Sizemore is currently rehabbing from surgery on his right knee and is not currently able to run through a full baseball workout. The Indians, on the other hand, are more familiar with the center fielder and his recent medical history.
If Sizemore does indeed re-sign with the Tribe, that would open the door for outfielder Michael Brantley to remain in left field, with Shin-Soo Choo in right. Brantley can also man center. The Indians might still look to add outfield depth, but the focus for additional power might center around an upgrade at first base.
The Indians have considered acquiring a left fielder and playing Brantley in center. The thin free-agent crop in the outfield might make some of the current options too costly for Cleveland’s liking. Some names floated as possibilities for the Tribe have been Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham, among others.
The general thought with the Indians is that top prospects Drew Pomeranz, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Alex White are untouchable in trade talks. General manager Chris Antonetti would not go that far when asked about his top prospects earlier this week.
“People have asked me that question a lot,” Antonetti said. “Any GM, I think, would be hard-pressed to say that anybody is untouchable, because for the right combination of players in return, you have to be open minded to trade anybody.”
Cleveland’s Big Four are untouchable when it comes to two-month rental-type acquisitions. For players who are under contractual control for a few more seasons, though, the Tribe is keeping an open mind.
The Indians are reportedly one of a handful of teams talking to the Rockies about star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who is signed through 2012 with club options through 2014. According to FOX Sports, Colorado has asked for Pomeranz as a starting point for a potential deal. The Tribe is extremely reluctant to move the big lefty.
Beyond starting pitching, the Indians are still in the hunt for offensive help. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter), Cleveland is “making a strong push” for Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The outfielder is hitting .238/.302/.373 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs this year for San Diego.
Ludwick suited up for the Tribe for parts of the 2003-2005 seasons and Cleveland was actually involved in the three-team deal that sent Ludwick from the Cardinals to the Padres on July 31 last year.
On Thursday, the Indians acquired outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs in exchange for two Minor Leaguers (outfielder Abner Abreu and pitcher Carlton Smith). The Tribe is in need of outfield help with both Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore out due to injury.
The Indians and Cubs finalized a deal on Thursday that sent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to Cleveland. The Tribe sent Minor League outfielder Abner Abreu and Minor League pitcher Carlton Smith to Chicago.
Fukudome, 34, is batting .273 with the Cubs. He’s owed about $4.7 million for the rest of the season. A source close to the situation said that Chicago was going to pay “a vast majority” of the money still owed to the outfielder.
The Indians are in need of offensive assistance, especially with Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore sidelined with injuries.
Indians manager Manny Acta said recently that fans of the Tribe would be “shocked and surprised” at the effort the front office is putting forth in an effort to pull off a trade or two before Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trad Deadline.
On Tuesday, Cleveland was named as an interested party for two of the top players presumed to be available.
In a piece for MLB.com, columnist Peter Gammons wrote that the Indians were willing to give up a good player and take on salary in order to acquire Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately, Cleveland “did not fit” for Beltran, who has a right to veto any trade. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that the Indians have shown interest in Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
Prior to Tuesday’s game in Cleveland, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti held court with reporters to discuss the upcoming Deadline. Antonetti indicated that acquiring offense is the Tribe’s top priority, but he noted that the Indians have also had plenty of conversations about pitching help.
While Antonetti would not deem any of the club’s top prospects as “untouchable,” he did say that it would take a “compelling” deal to pry them away. Antonetti added that the Tribe was not likely to part with any of its top core prospects in a trade for a player who would only be around for this season’s final two months.
All of that said, the Indians are definitely in buying mode.
“We want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have to get to the postseason and advance in the postseason,” Antonetti said. “That said, you have to be mindful of the cost of doing that. I think we are prepared, and have talked about it, to do what we can, what’s reasonable, to improve the team.”
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via Twitter), the “three hottest teams” going after Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda are the Indians, Tigers and Rangers.
Cleveland is known to be searching high and low for outfield help, especially with both Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo out with injuries, but the club is also in the market for rotation assistance. After Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the White Sox, Tribe manager Manny Acta made it clear that his club is working hard in trade talks.
“The truth will come out,” Acta said. “A lot of people will be shocked, surprised and be quiet for a long time after they find out every effort that the team put into it.”
Does that mean the Indians are on the verge of pulling off something big?
Given the number of rumors that are including Cleveland as a suitor right now, it certainly seems like the Tribe is trying to pull the trigger on one or two deals. The Indians have also been linked to outfielders B.J. Upton, Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and Ryan Ludwick in various reports.
Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran are unlikely to land in Cleveland.
As for Kuroda, he is 36 years old and is owed roughly $4 million over the final two months. Over his past nine starts, the right-hander has posted a 2.78 ERA with a .221 opponents’ batting average. His 3.19 ERA on the year indicates that Kuroda is having a better season than his 6-12 record would indicate.
Cleveland has reportedly shown interest in Aaron Harang.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Indians are one of a growing number of teams talking to Tampa Bay about outfielder B.J. Upton. Cleveland is hunting for outfield help and Upton fits the mold.
Upton would not likely cost as much in prospects as Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence, and the Rays outfielder is under contractual control through 2012. Upton isn’t having a stellar year — he’s hitting .232/.312/.400 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs — but he still provides speed and power potential.
Upton is under contract for $4.825 million this season and is eligible for arbitration for the 2012 campaign.
As things currently stand, the Indians are without center fielder Grady Sizemore (right knee injury and sports hernia surgery) and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (broken left thumb) Both could be back in late August or early September.
The Tribe has also been linked to Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and Ryan Ludwick, among others, in various reports and rumors.
Cleveland — also possibly in the market for rotation help — has also reportedly shown interest in pitcher Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers.
Cleveland’s need for outfield assistance is clear. On Thursday, center fielder Grady Sizemore underwent surgery to correct a sports hernia — an operation initially planned for the offseason — meaning he will be sidelined for four to six weeks.
Sizemore injured his right knee on Sunday (the same knee he hurt in May) and was going to probably need at least a month to recover. Under the circumstances, the Indians felt it made sense to tackle both issues — rest for the knee and surgery for the hernia — right now.
Unfortunately for the Tribe, that leaves the outfield short Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo (broken left thumb) until late August or early September, if their respective rehabs go well. Over the past two games, Cleveland was also missing Michael Brantley and Travis Buck due to health issues, exposing the club’s depth (or lack thereof).
Naturally, the Indians are being mentioned in a variety of trade rumors and reports for outfielders. Cleveland has been tied to outfielders such as Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick and Coco Crisp. Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera also would make sense as targets. Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence seem unrealistic.
The Indians are open minded about pursuing a right-handed or left-handed bat, but the organization does not plan on parting with top core prospects for a perceived “rental” player. Such prospects that appear to be off limits include lefty Drew Pomeranz, righty Alex White, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and second baseman Jason Kipnis.
The outfield is the most glaring area of need, but the Indians have also explored available options to boost their rotation as well.