Some teams operate on parallel tracks. The Indians seem to be operating on divergent paths.
On one hand, they’re talking about trading players such as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and right-hander Justin Masterson.
On the other hand, they made a $44 million offer for free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino, and are now bidding competitively for infielder Kevin Youkilis and outfielder Nick Swisher, according to major-league sources.
Are they tearing down? Building up? Which is it?
Sort of a combination.
Cabrera, Masterson and closer Chris Perez are two years away from free agency, Choo one. The Indians, a low-revenue club, are trying to thread the needle, and improve the team both short- and long-term.
The way the Indians see it, they have a strong core of pre-arbitration players, including second baseman Jason Kipnis, catcher Carlos Santana and outfielder Michael Brantley; third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and reliever Vinnie Pestano.
The Indians’ primary goal in any trade is to young starting pitching that can A) add to their 0-to-3 core and B) make their 2013 rotation more presentable. Thus, they have talked to Arizona about pitchers such as lefty Patrick Corbin and righty Trevor Bauer in deals for Cabrera.
Where do the free agents fit? Well, Youkilis would be a two-year stopgap at a position of need, first base. Swisher, in the view of the Indians, would remain good enough for long enough to contribute when the team got good again.
Victorino is the one pursuit that made little sense. He is the same age as Swisher, 32, but showed signs of decline last season. Swisher, on the other hand, has been a remarkably consistent offensive performer throughout his career.
Rival executives believe Indians ownership is pressuring the front office to make a splash, and that may have explained the team’s run at Victorino. The Indians offered Victorino a higher guarantee than the Boston Red Sox, who signed him to a three-year, $39 million deal.
One way or another, the Indians remain a fascinating work in progress – a team to watch in the weeks ahead.
— Ken Rosenthal