"You mean stakeout the lobby?"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
http://www.twitter.com/castrovince

waldorflobby.jpgOrlando is lovely this time of year. Or so I hear. All I can vouch for at this juncture is the loveliness of the Waldorf-Astoria lobby, where many a ball scribe has spent many a minute this week at the GM Meetings, in precious pursuit of a scoop… or at least a tidbit.

Here, then, are some tidbits pertaining to your beloved Tribe, courtesy of the Waldorf.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • Chris Antonetti would be the first to acknowledge that, from a reporting standpoint, he’s one of the least interesting guys here. His team has no money to spend and few holes to fill (partly because of that whole no-money-to-spend thing). Of course, that won’t prevent him from investigating trade opportunities to address third base and the rotation. And as I wrote on the main site tonight, the Indians might be looking for some bullpen depth later this winter. Obviously, nothing too consequential, though.
  • The bigger issue with the Indians this week is Friday’s 40-man deadline. The Indians have five spots to fill with guys who are Rule 5 eligible. Those left unprotected will be eligible to be taken by the other clubs. Among the eligibles, hard-throwing lefty reliever Nick Hagadone is an obvious choice for roster protection, and you’d have to imagine the need for starting depth will lead to recent trade acquisitions Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber getting added. Beyond that, and as noted in this week’s Inbox, infielders Jared Goedert and Josh Rodriguez and right-handers Josh Judy and Adam Miller are the most obvious names to consider.
  • Antonetti wouldn’t say if the Indians will use all five spots or if they’ll leave one open to potentially nab somebody in the Rule 5, as they did a year ago with Hector Ambriz. He did say the Indians aren’t planning on removing anybody else from the 40-man, which would appear to be good news, however tentative, for Shelley Duncan and Justin Germano.
  • When Rule 5 protection is the hottest topic this time of year, you know you’re dealing with a team that’s not exactly billed as a contender. So, in Antonetti’s estimation, how far away are the Indians from fielding a competitive team? Is such a thing possible for 2011? “I do think it’s a possibility,” he said. “We had a very talented but very young team. With that youth comes volatility. The group of guys we have are certainly capable of being a contending team. Will that happen? That’s going to depend on guys staying healthy and guys continuing to progress and get better. But as a group, it’s all guys that are either in their prime or entering their prime.”
  • What that prime consists of is the issue. The hope, of course, is that guys like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco can turn their potential into substance. “The important thing with young players is to have that consistency,” Antonetti said. “Once you start to see young players contribute on a consistent basis, rather than sporadically, it gives you optimism that you’re getting to that point of being a contending team — not just competitive, but contending.”
  • You already know the Indians had the youngest roster in the game at season’s end, but here’s a little added perspective: Grady Sizemore is the team’s second-oldest position player, behind Travis Hafner, and Rafael Perez is the oldest pitcher. Those guys were both born in 1982.
  • As noted at the time they traded him, the Indians would have loved to bring back Jake Westbrook… just like they would love to bring back Cliff Lee. There’s a difference between hope and reality, of course, which is why there were never any serious conversations with Jake before he re-upped with the Cardinals with a two-year, $16.5 million deal. Westbrook took less than his perceived market value because he loved his experience with the Cards, a team that had targeted him for a while before finally landing him in July.
  • Westbrook was out of the picture, so the Indians instead settled for re-signing Anthony Reyes, who hasn’t thrown a pitch in the bigs since May 2009, to another Minor League deal on Monday. They view him as a legit candidate for a rotation job. So lump him in with the group that already included Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff. Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson and Mitch Talbot are all assured spots, and Carlos Carrasco seems all but guaranteed a spot, as well.
  • Obviously, Huff is the only left-hander in the above list. Problem?  “Ultimately, we need the best starting pitchers to get guys out,” Antonetti said. “Whether they’re right-handed or left-handed, we’re not ultimately concerned about. The thing we’re more concerned about are who are the most effective pitchers to get us deep into the game.”
  • The lineup will obviously be augmented if Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana make successful returns from knee surgery. Both are on-schedule, for now, but December and January will be important months for them. Sizemore’s status, in particular, will be interesting to monitor. “From an injury standpoint, Carlos’ injury is maybe a little bit more predictable because there are more cases of his type of injury, a repaired ligament,” Antonetti said. “With Grady, it’s a little less certain. Grady, we’ll have to continue to see how he meets the individual milestones and be in touch with Dr. [Richard] Steadman on what he feels the appropriate progression will continue to be. He’s met all his checkpoints so far.”
  • Baseball America released its list of the top 10 Indians prospects. Lonnie Chisenhall heads the list.
  • On my flight to Orlando, I was seated near our old friend Eric Wedge, his wife Kate and their two young kids, Ava and Cash. It was great to see the Wedges (and Eric’s reborn ‘stache, in particular). I was always of the opinion that he deserved another shot. Though obviously the situation he’s inherited in Seattle will be an uphill climb, something Wedge is, unfortunately, accustomed to. M’s GM Jack Zduriencik said Wedge’s intensity really showed in the interview process. “I had met him a few times, talked to him a few times at meetings like this, but had no relationship with him,” Zduriencik said. “But a lot of people I knew did. We had a few discussions before we brought him in, and when we brought him in he lived up to the billing. We set a criteria of what we were looking for in a manager. As you go through the process, there’s a relationship that gets to be established, and that happened there. He fit the bill for what we were looking for.” The way Wedge handled his dismissal in Cleveland was noticed around the league. “He handled it with a lot of class,” Zduriencik said. “That’s Eric. That’s part of the reason why he’s our manager.”
  • Speaking of managers, what’s new in Manny Acta’s world? Well, as you probably know, Acta holds dual citizenship here and in his native Dominican, and part of the responsibility of being a U.S. citizen is fulfilling that age-old obligation known as jury duty. Acta was called into involuntary servitude down here in Florida last week. He spent six days listening in on a civil suit. Six days he could have been spending with his family in a too-short offseason. But he took dedicated notes and took his position very seriously. And then, on the last day, the judge informed him that his vote would not be needed. Acta learned he had merely served as the alternate. Gotta love the judicial system.
  • You new Tribe scribe, Jordan Bastian, has begun his new blog at this link. Be sure to bookmark it and check it often.
  • Finally, if I haven’t said it enough, thank you so much for all the kind words about the work I’ve done here and on the site. It’s extremely gratifying and extremely appreciated. But now that all the mushy stuff is out of the way, it feels nice to dig back into the minutiae, doesn’t it?

~AC

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