The Indians have hole all throughout the roster, as they were near the bottom of the league last season in both offense and pitching. With that in mind, any area that the team looks set at could also potentially be a trade candidate.
Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis are the only locks around the diamond. Both are young cost-controlled players who have already started to produce at the major league level. Lonnie Chisenhall hasn't hit that well in the majors, but also hasn't had much of an opportunity. The team could decide to give him a shot to run with the job, or they could bring in a stopgap and let him work out his kinks in the minors. The big issue across the board with the Indians is they lack impact prospects to either rely on or trade. Building your team through free agency can get expensive, but the Indians may need to depend on mercenaries to build the team. The Indians are very far from being competitive, but a couple of good signings can go a long way towards building a winning core. If the team doesn't trust Chisenhall, it could make sense to bring in kevin Youkilis as a backup. Youk has a rapport with new manager Terry Francona. Youkilis could also help fill their first base hole since the Indians current options, Yan Gomes, Lars Anderson, and Matt LaPorta, are all unreliable due to questions about their big league hitting ability. The team could also look to bring in Adam LaRoche to fill their first base hole.
The team has shortstop locked up right now with Asdrubal Cabrera, but Cabrera is also their best trade chip. The former Silver Slugger could bring in decent prospects and the team has Mike Aviles to slide over to shortstop in the meantime. Aviles is a major step down from Asdrubal, but the Indians aren't contending for the division in 2013.
The team also has another valuable trade chip in outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Choo is the team's best outfielder, but, like Cabrera, could bring in a good prospect haul from a competing team looking for a right fielder. The team probably won't be able to bring in top outfield free agents like Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, or Josh Hamilton due to their recent results, but cheaper alternatives like Ryan Ludwick and Reed Johnson exist. The team is also in a great position to take advantage of a post-hype sleeper like Ryan Raburn. Raburn was non-tendered by the Tigers, but had a lot of unreached potential that could be realized with a change of venue.
The team's rotation is in a state of disarray. They had a bottom five rotation last season and could use some fresh faces. Justin Masterson performed fairly well in the past and Zach McAllister, David Huff, and Carlos Carrasco have the potential, but run the risk of being overexposed too early in their development. The team could use free agent acquisitions like Shaun Marcum, Ryan Dempster, or Brandon McCarthy to help build a rotation that can eat up innings. The team already made a curious move exercising Ubaldo Jimenez's option after a disappointing season and a half. Ubaldo arguably wouldn't have received $6 million on the open market and that money could have been used for other acquisitions. In general, the team probably needs at least two pitchers that can give them innings so they aren't leaning on their youngsters for a full season.
The team had an average bullpen last season, but relied on younger pitchers that could potentially take a step forward this season. Chris Perez is a solid big league closer and the setup duo of Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp could both be relied upon in save situations. The team could look to move Perez if a good package presents itself and replace his production on the free agent market.
The Indians are a few seasons away from having a true contender, but 2013 could be a transitional year for a team with a new manager and the freedom from Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore's large contracts.
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