CLEVELAND -- Before the Indians target what pieces they want to add to their roster this offseason, they must make a decision on the future of center fielder Grady Sizemore. Before the club accepts or declines Sizemore's $9 million option for next season, however, the three-time All-Star must pay a trip to Vail, Colo., to assess the health of his balky right knee.
"That is a significant issue for us to decide," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "Depending on which direction we go there, it goes to the question of where else we may have some needs and the economic impact of that, too, in terms of the dollars we can allocate to improving the team elsewhere."
Sizemore, who hit .224 with 10 homers in 71 games, endured three stints on the disabled list this season. He sustained a right knee contusion in May, an injury he then aggravated in June. He also underwent surgery in June to correct a sports hernia.
The 29-year-old had microfracture surgery on his left knee last June and missed the start of this season. He played in just 210 games over the last three years after playing in 157 or more the previous four campaigns.
"When Grady is healthy, he's been a very productive Major League player," Antonetti said. "We even saw that this year when he came back from his microfracture surgery on his left knee. He was able to run and had a bunch of extra-base hits and home runs, and was a spark offensively for us when he returned. I think that's something we know, we just don't have clarity on how healthy he might be for next year."
Antonetti hinted that the team's decision would be much easier had Sizemore completed the season with a full bill of health. However, making another trip to the doctor who performed his previous microfracture surgery -- Sizemore will visit Dr. Richard Steadman on Monday -- puts the Indians in a wait-and-see mode.
"That will give us an opportunity to get some further clarity on that," Antonetti said. "Once we have more information, we can factor that in and weight it as part of the decision."
Nine Indians could be eligible for arbitration
CLEVELAND -- As many as nine Indians players could be eligible for arbitration this offseason, depending on how the club handles the contract of Fausto Carmona.
Pitcher Justin Masterson and third baseman Jack Hannahan will be eligible for arbitration for the first time. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and relievers Joe Smith, Rafael Perez and Chris Perez are also eligible. Southpaw reliever Tony Sipp could have Super Two status, in which he would have an extra year of arbitration eligibility. The Indians discussed offering Choo a long-term contract before the season, but nothing transpired.
As for Carmona, the right-hander scuffled through what manager Manny Acta termed "an up and down season." He finished 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA, though he logged 188 2/3 innings and hurled six or more innings in 12 of his last 14 starts.
"He put together a lot of good starts after he came back from the disabled list [on July 18]," Acta said. "It's not a secret: It has taken him longer to make the transition from a thrower to a pitcher. It happens with certain guys."
The Indians hold a club option on Carmona for the next three years. If exercised, the 2012 option would cost the organization $7 million. If the Indians decline Carmona's option, the future options would be wiped out, but the club could offer him salary arbitration.
"We have to weigh if what we think his expected performance will be is a wise investment for us," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "What goes into that is what we think Fausto's expected performance might be, and where else we might be able to allocate those dollars to improve the team."
Antonetti hopes Carmona can return to his form from 2007, when the right-hander went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA.
"If he can get more consistent with his delivery and executing pitches," Antonetti said, "continue his development and understanding how to attack hitters, there's no reason to think he couldn't be successful next year."
Antonetti: Indians' payroll will go up next season
CLEVELAND -- Indians general manager Chris Antonetti expects the club's payroll to increase next season, even before the team explores external acquisitions.
"Our payroll is going to go up next year," Antonetti said. "It's going to increase. The specific level of which, I'm not exactly sure. A big part of that increase is going to be absorbed by the raises inherently due to the players currently under contract or those eligible for arbitration. That will be a big portion of that increase."
The Indians logged a payroll of about $49 million this season, down from $61 million the previous year and $81 million in 2009. The organization drew more than 1.8 million fans this season, an increase of nearly 450,000 from a year earlier.
The club has options on center fielder Grady Sizemore ($9 million) and pitcher Fausto Carmona ($7 million), which, if picked up, would also pad the payroll.
"It's not only determining that investment in Fausto at that value," Antonetti said, "but also trying to understand what the alternatives are and where else we can invest that money. Are we better served reallocating those dollars to someone else or multiple other players?"
Thome says good chance he'll return in 2012
CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome plans to take some time this offseason before deciding if he will return for another year. The Indians will adhere to whatever route the slugger takes, though the club is looking forward to a healthy return from another left-handed designated hitter, Travis Hafner.
"We've talked to Jim a little bit about it," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He wants to take a little bit of time with his family and then assess things as the offseason progresses. The one thing that he demonstrated is that he certainly has the ability to contribute to a team, both offensively and in the clubhouse. The decision of whether or not to play next year will be Jim's."
Thome, who has tallied 604 home runs in his 21 Major League seasons, said he was leaning toward returning to the big leagues, though he stressed he would not come to a decision before discussing the issue with his family.
"I still love to play," Thome said. "I would say that the percentage is higher of me coming back next year than not."
Thome split time with Hafner at DH once Hafner -- aka "Pronk" -- returned to the lineup from an injury to his right foot. The Indians acquired Thome from the Twins on Aug. 25 to replace Hafner's production. Hafner made a quicker-than-expected recovery.
"He was able to come back and contribute again," Antonetti said. "As we look ahead to next year's team, we think Travis is going to be healthy. And if he's healthy, he'll be a productive hitter for us."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.