CLEVELAND: With Chris Antonetti, you have to look for clues. He avoids specificity until after a deal is done or a signing is made.
The Indians’ general manager knows very well that the team does not have a player within its farm system to play the outfield on a regular basis while Shin-Soo Choo recovers from a broken left thumb, a process that is expected to take until late August or early September.
“There are areas where we have more depth than others,’’ Antonetti said. “That’s the best way to say it.’’
The question is whether the alternatives on the big-league roster – Austin Kearns, Shelley Duncan, Travis Buck – can adequately fill in until Choo returns.
Antonetti won’t respond to questions about particular players, either those whom clubs have asked about or those he has inquired about.
On Tuesday, he did say that the volume of trade talk among general managers has increased.
“Dialogue between teams has picked up, which is only natural after the draft,’’ he said. “There is more activity now than there was a couple of weeks ago.’’
Asked what the Tribe needs, Antonetti said, “As it stands today, the offense is probably an area that has been the least consistent, so the focus is on improvement there.’’
Antonetti did not mention the need for an outfielder, but it’s obvious that the Indians’ most urgent need is a replacement for Choo in right field. The candidates (probably of last resort) at Columbus are Ezequiel Carrera, Jared Head and Chad Huffman, all of whom would be rookie call-ups.
It would be unusual for a contending team to play three rookies regularly and still stay in the race. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is in his first big-league season, as is Cord Phelps, who shares second base with Orlando Cabrera.
So what are the chances that Antonetti will be able to make a deal?
Trade talks have moved slowly throughout baseball, because almost no teams feel they are out of the race.
“I think that has affected the timing of things,’’ Antonetti said. “It’s been a slow developing market, because teams are still in the race and in a competitive stance.
“We’re open to do whatever we can to improve the offense. We are exploring all options.’’
Cost in talent and cash obviously are important considerations.
“I think ownership has encouraged us to do the things we need to do to improve the team,’’ Antonetti said, referring to budgetary concerns.
Antonetti also is unlikely to give up a top prospect for a two-month rental.
“We recognize there has to be a compromise concerning the young players we might give up who can affect our future,’’ he said. “There has to be a balance.’’
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/tribematters. Follow the Indians on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Indians.