(CLEVELAND) -- Spring training is less than three weeks away for the Indians and one thing that certainly cannot be debated is how busy this offseason has been for the Tribe. Unlike previous seasons, the Indians have clearly made themselves better by taking an active role this winter.
Heading into spring camp, here are 10 things I'm pondering as I begin to pack my bags for Total Tribe Coverage in Goodyear, Arizona:
1. DH spot still needs to be filled: Indians general manager Chris Antonetti has maintained that the Tribe is still looking at options to fill their DH role. Whether the Indians will fill that crucial role internally, externally or bring back free agent Travis Hafner is still unclear. While it probably is best to have a DH that can also play the field, filling that role simply by committee may not be the best solution. At this point Mike Aviles, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana and even Nick Swisher could fill the gap at DH, but it might serve the Indians better to actually go out and get one more final piece to the puzzle that fills this role. As of Jan. 22, Hafner still has not made a decision on where he will play next season. There is interest in "Pronk" from a couple of different American League teams.
2. One more starter: Don't be surprised if you see one more starting pitcher picked up before the Indians open camp on Feb. 10. That starting pitcher, whoever it may be, will likely compete for a spot in the Indians starting rotation. Right now Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Myers are locked into the Tribe's starting five, with Zach McAllister having a "leg-up" on the fourth spot. That means guys like Corey Kluber, David Huff, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and others will battle for the final spot or two in the rotation. Bringing in another starting pitcher would help the competition in spring training and add depth to a staff that desperately needs it.
Brett Myers (above) will have a spot in the Indians starting rotation. (AP Photo).
3. Bye bye Choo: There seems to be a little bit of confusion with many fans I have spoken to be it in-person or on the radio. Shin-Soo Choo had to be traded. Well, it wasn't a must, but this was the right move for the Indians...trust me. Numerous times the Indians attempted to re-sign Choo to a longer contract but he, along with maverick agent Scott Boras decided it was not the move for them. Realistically the Indians were never going to re-sign Choo so they at least got something for him. Not only did the Tribe acquire stud pitcher Trevor Bauer, they also brought in Drew Stubbs who has been the everyday center fielder for the Reds the past couple of years and picked up two Major League ready bullpen arms in Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Will Choo be missed? Sure, but let's not get carried away. The Indians should be commended for this brilliant three-team trade. With that said, Choo will certainly help the Reds this upcoming season.
4. Muscle man: Over the weekend I had a chance to catch up with a couple of Indians players and really came away impressed with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. Not only does he seem upbeat about the upcoming 2013 MLB season, but his physical appearance has certainly changed. Chisenhall admitted he put on 15 pounds of muscle this offseason and that will be paramount in not only helping his body endure a 162-game season, but also maybe becoming a power hitter. There are no guarantees, but let's not forget about a lanky third baseman who first appeard with the Tribe in 1991. No, I'm not saying that Chisenhall will be the next Jim Thome, but power is sometimes the last thing to come for a player...hopefully that's the case with Chisenhall.
5. Francona already influencing club: New Indians manager Terry Francona is anxious to get the 2013 season underway and it is definitely rubbing off on his new players. I have spoken with countless pitchers/players on the club this offseason that have mentioned Francona has reached out to them via text or phone and all of them talk about how "pumped up" he is getting them for the upcoming year. It was important for Francona to do this. With all due respect to Manny Acta, it sounds like these players need a hands-on manager who does not distance himself from the club. Some guys have gone so far as to say, "he has our backs." That is a direct shot at Acta and whether it is fair or not, Francona has built a perception that he will fight for his players and having two World Series rings to back up his positive attitude does not hurt.
Indians new manager Terry Francona is excited about the upcoming season. (AP photo).
6. Center field debate: Over the past three weeks I have had a chance to talk with both Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs. Both outfielders admitted to me in radio interviews on WTAM 1100 that they want to play center field. Brantley spent a majority of his time in center field last season, while Stubbs has been the everyday center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds the past few seasons. Both Terry Francona and team general manager Chris Antonetti said they will go into spring training and let this debate "sort itself out", but if I had to guess, they have already made up their minds. I have certainly been wrong before, but don't be shocked if it is Brantley who gets the bump into left field. Stubbs is really only familiar with center field and Brantley understands how to play the high wall in left field as he played their two years ago next to Grady Sizemore. Being a player who has the glove in the right hand to get to balls down the left field line also makes Brantley a candidate for that position. Some people may think this is not an important debate, but when you have professional players with money at stake, it is definitely something that will have to be figured out carefully.
The Indians still need to decide where Drew Stubbs will be playing in the outfield. (AP Photo).
7. Follow me on Twitter: Throughout spring training and the 2013 season I will have the latest news on the Indians here at WTAM.com, but also via my Twitter account. Follow me on there @CaminoTribe. We have fun conversations on there and I bring you the latest information on the club in a fun way.
8. World Baseball Classic: Pumped for the WBC? If you are, that makes one of us. The annual international baseball tournament is being forced down the throat of Major League Baseball teams who not only have to report to spring training earlier but also run the risk of injuries to key players. In talks I have had with sources, most GM's hate the World Baseball Classic. Yes, if you were going to have this tournament, spring training is probably the right time to do it. But this tournament is important for every team except the United States. MLB is making an effort to make Team USA great, but Americans cannot get excited for this tournament especially when they get to see the best players everyday throughout the summer. As a soccer fan, who enjoys the World Cup, this annual tournament pales in comparison. It's my job, so I will be paying attention to Team USA and even Team Italia, but for baseball fans I can understand why this is of no true interest. This tournament is designed to bring global outreach to baseball. I think MLB should be focused on its own country for a lack of interest in baseball before it reaches out internationally.
9. Report date: Pitchers and catchers for the Cleveland Indians report to Goodyear, Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 10. A couple of days later position players report and at that point spring training will be off and running. Teams throughout the Cactus League and Grapefruit League in Arizona should be reporting around the same time. Check back here at WTAM.com for the latest news on the Indians, blogs, photo galleries, videos and more!
10. Central Division: By the time spring training rolls around I will have more in-depth analysis in how I see the Central Division shaping out; but for now, here is an early look at how things could finish up come the end of September.
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
- Nick Camino