CLEVELAND -- Indians general manager Chris Antonetti spent more than an hour with Chris Perez this week, as the two sifted through the rubble frequently deposited by the candid closer this season. They discussed Perez's performance, his future and his propensity to arm reporters with an arsenal of quotable material, among other topics.
So when Antonetti was prompted to explain how the meeting went, he needed only one word.
"Long," Antonetti said.
Perez, who saved a career-high 39 games this season, voiced his displeasure with an abundance of empty seats at Progressive Field in May when the Indians were atop the American League Central. Later in the season, as the Tribe tumbled down the standings, he spouted unpleasantries about ownership and the front office. On Tuesday, he remarked that frustration from earlier in the year "walked out the door" upon the dismissal of manager Manny Acta.
Antonetti senses that the candid comments are his way of expressing his unwavering desire to win.
"It comes from a good place with Chris," Antonetti said. "He's an exceptionally competitive guy that badly wants to be a contributor to a winning team. Now, I wish he would choose his words differently in how he communicates those messages and maybe use the opportunity to discuss some of them more privately or in a different forum, but the root of where his comments are coming from are in a deep-seeded belief of, 'I want to be part of a winning team and do my part to help out.'
Antonetti, who said that he didn't see evidence that any of Perez's comments influenced the team's performance, is hopeful that the colorful closer will be more mindful of his diction in the future.
"I appreciate his candor when it's behind closed doors," Antonetti said. "I think everyone would be best served if he chose his words more carefully."
Front office attempts to pinpoint what led to collapse
CLEVELAND -- Why is the sky blue? Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
What caused the Indians' downfall in 2012?
The third question might not seem to fall in line with the first two, but Antonetti admitted on Thursday that the club has yet to fully pinpoint what triggered Cleveland's second-half collapse.
"I'm still taking opinions if anyone has any ideas of exactly what happened," Antonetti said, jokingly.
What was a summer mystery to the organization's ownership and front office has become merely a means for motivation and enlightenment as the team aims to prevent another collapse in the future.
"I don't think there's any one sole reason," Antonetti said. "We've asked a lot of people that question to try to get a lot of feedback and a number of different perspectives on it. I don't think there's one single reason as to why we struggled the way we did. I think the one thing we all feel is that we have better talent than our record shows."
The Indians sat 3 1/2 games out of first place at 50-49 after a July 26 triumph over Justin Verlander and the Tigers, a comeback victory that Antonetti identified as perhaps his favorite moment from the season. From there, Cleveland proceeded to lose its next 11 contests en route to a historically miserable August in which the club went 5-24. The lackluster second half contributed to the dismissal of manager Manny Acta, and instead of closing out the regular season in contention, the Tribe finished with more than 90 losses for the third time in four years.
"There are certain things that we've identified that we clearly could've performed better," Antonetti said. "All aspects of our team -- we didn't pitch effectively, we didn't hit very well during that stretch, we didn't play great defense. Now, the explanation as to why all of those things at the same time didn't perform to our expectations, we don't have a great answer for."
That is not to say, Antonetti cautioned, that there weren't positives to draw from the season.
"It has been really tough," Antonetti said. "We have -- and continue to have -- high expectations, and we were a competitive team for four months, and it disintegrated very quickly. That's not how we wanted to finish the season.
"The important thing for us is how we move forward. I don't want what happened over the last month or two months to completely mask some of the positives of our team. There are a lot of positives."
Tribe ponders potential offseason transactions
CLEVELAND -- Once the Indians hire a new manager, the club will have a series of internal transactions to consider.
The team can pick up Ubaldo Jimenez's option for next season for $5.75 million, or buy out the right-hander for $1 million. Roberto Hernandez, who pitched in just three games because of legal troubles and a sprained ankle, has a club option for $6 million. The Indians are not expected to exercise Travis Hafner's $13 million option. They can buy out the designated hitter for $2.75 million.
All team options must be picked up or declined by three days after the conclusion of the World Series. Antonetti said Thursday that the team is still in the process of making those decisions.
"Some of those decisions are more challenging than others," Antonetti said.
Closer Chris Perez and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo have been two of the names most frequently included in trade rumors. The Indians have been unsuccessful in reaching an agreement on an extension with Choo, who has one year remaining on his contract. Perez is expected to earn a sizable raise in his penultimate year of arbitration.
Antonetti said the club will do its due diligence and entertain any trade discussions with other teams, though he warned that every player recently mentioned in trade rumors is still with the team.
"It goes for every player on our roster and every player in our organization," Antonetti said. "We have to be open-minded, and at least engage in a dialogue to understand how other teams value our players."
Departments that deal with player evaluation will meet in Arizona next week to assess each player in the organization. Antonetti said that if a manager is hired in time, he will be a part of those discussions, which begin on Monday.
Antonetti said the club will first look to boost its starting rotation, then search for additions to the lineup.
"Our starting pitching and our position players, we can certainly complement," Antonetti said. "I feel good on the position player side ... we have a young nucleus of players that are very talented."
Antonetti scoffed at the notion that the club's decision to stand pat at the Trade Deadline -- despite actively pursuing additions -- played into the club's second-half demise.
"I'm not sure ascribing too much to that would explain what happened to us in the second half," Antonetti said.