DALLAS -- The Indians plan on being as creative as possible in their quest to upgrade their roster. That is why Cleveland is considering giving outfielder Michael Brantley a trial run as a part-time first baseman this spring.
The extent of the experiment is currently undetermined.
"It's dependent upon what other players we're able to acquire," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. "But we have to be as flexible as we can in how we build the team."
Right now, Brantley is in the plans as the Tribe's starting left fielder, but he is well aware that he could see some time at first base (a position he played in the Minor Leagues) next year. Antonetti said he and manager Manny Acta discussed the possibility during last season, and again heading into the offseason.
Antonetti said Brantley was fine with digging out his old first baseman's glove.
"He was all for it," Antonetti said. "He said he's a good first baseman and very comfortable there."
Brantley, 24, who was acquired from Milwaukee in the July 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, last manned first base in 2008 with Double-A Hunstville. In all, he played 53 Minor League games at first between the 2007-08 seasons. Brantley moved to the outfield on a full-time basis after joining the Indians.
Last season, Brantley hit .266 with seven homers, 24 doubles, 46 RBIs and 63 runs in 114 games before having his season end by undergoing right hand surgery on Aug. 31. Brantley underwent a procedure to have a fractured hamate bone removed, and he is expected to be back at 100 percent come Spring Training.
Cleveland is currently searching for a right-handed bat, and first base and the outfield are the obvious areas to explore. Brantley's willingness to consider playing some first allows the Indians to continue looking for outfield depth, if there is not an external fit for the corner infield spot.
The Tribe has been linked to free-agents Derrek Lee, Josh Willingham, Andruw Jones, Mike Cameron and Mark DeRosa in various reports. It appears increasingly likely, however, that the Indians will pursue the trade route to solve its need. Two possible fits could be Miami's Gaby Sanchez or San Diego's Kyle Blanks.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reported that the Astros approached the Indians about a potential trade that would send slugging first baseman Carlos Lee to Cleveland. Houston reportedly offered to assume half of the $18.5 million Lee is owed in 2012, but the Tribe did not bite.
The Indians plan on having catcher Carlos Santana play first base on occasion, but his primary responsibility rests behind the plate. An internal option for first base is right-handed-hitting Shelley Duncan, who can also double as a corner outfielder and part-time designated hitter.
Last season's starting first baseman, Matt LaPorta, has not been guaranteed anything heading into next season. The 27-year-old LaPorta has struggled offensively and could very well begin the 2012 campaign with Triple-A Columbus. The Indians want more consistent production from the first baseman before handing him a big league job.