With the end of the season, the first thing that should then come to mind is, "then what about next year." The Indians have quite a few more choices than in past seasons when they have jettisoned their tradeable players during the regular season. We will split up the top players from the end of 2013 into categories to help you know who will be back and where the Indians will have holes to fill going into the off-season.
Players who are signed into 2014 or are not yet arbitration eligible are likely to be back for the next run. The final year of their contract will be listed in parenthesis by each player. Carlos Santana (2017), Nick Swisher (2017), Michael Bourn (2017), Ryan Raburn (2016) and Mike Aviles (2015) are signed long term. Jason Kubel has a $7.5M option for 2014 or a $1M buyout. One would have to think the Indians are planning on using that option or else they would not have traded for him.
Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Cody Allen, Nick Hagadone, Yan Gomes, Bryan Shaw , Matt Carson and all the Indians rookies from the past season are all pre-arbitration, allowing the Indians to keep them around for about the league minimum. Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, Vinnie Pestano, Marc Rzepczynski, Josh Tomlin, Clay Rapada, Blake Wood and Carlos Carrasco are all entering into their early arbitration years and should still be cheap enough to stick around for a few years.
Justin Masterson will be entering his final year of arbitration, so the time is now for the Indians to lock up their ace long term or risk losing him after 2014.
For the second season in a row, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez are trade prospects. Both have obvious replacements that are near MLB ready (Francisco Lindor and Allen) and are in the final year of team control. Cabrera would be the better of the two to keep around as Lindor is not quite ready (but should be by 2015) and he is already under contract for 2014. After another sub-par season in 2013, the Indians are not likely to bring a great haul into for the short stop.
Perez on the other hand has made it clear he isn't interested in staying in Cleveland and the feeling is reciprocated. His replacement is ready now and he will likely be given an unreasonable raise in his final year of arbitration. Teams in the past have also generally overpaid for good closers, especially ones that would be interested in signing a long term deal.
Of the other players listed as staying, Carrasco and Kubel are the most likely to be dealt. Carrasco doesn't have a future as a starter in Cleveland, but some team could be interested in him as a starter or long reliever after his brief success at the end of 2013 in the bullpen. If the Indians decide not to use Kubel as the DH in 2014, he could be signed and traded to get back some value that was lost in the deal.
Ubaldo Jimenez has an $8M option for 2014, but it would be an incredible risk for the Indians to resign him. While he had a resurgence in the second half of 2013, that can't be expected again in 2014 and with a strong rotation outside of him, it isn't worth the risk.
Scott Kazmir was signed to a risk-free one year minimum contract which worked out wonderfully. He will likely be out of the Indians price range as a free agent this off-season. Jason Giambi was signed to a similar deal, which didn't work out as well. He should consider his little respect left and retire. Rich Hill had a year nearer Giambi's than Kazmir's and should also be allowed to swim the free agent seas.
Joe Smith is a free agent this offseason and the Indians would be better off bringing him back in 2014, but it will take some loyalty from Smith, who will likely command far more in the open market than the Indians can afford. With tons of young stars like Allen, Preston Guilmet and C.C. Lee, the Indians will likely go with the cheap options and save their funds for higher priorities. Matt Albers is also a free agent, but the Indians will likely be less interested in that right handed relief pitcher.
In the End
Assuming the above, the Indians are only losing two starting pitchers, four relievers and the least versatile DH in baseball. They have obvious replacements that have already played on the team, most of whom are listed in the "keepers" section. Salazar and Tomlin will likely be the two 'new' starters, while Guilmet, Lee, Wood and Rzepczynski will likely fill out the bullpen. Kubel could replace Giambi or Raburn could be converted to starter with Jose Ramirez taking the unused bench spot.
The best news in all of this is that the Indians don't need to be involved in the free agent market whatsoever after spending like mad during 2012. Most of those players were signed for multiple seasons and the ones who weren't (Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers, etc) aren't welcome back. The internal options for the other small holes are better than ever, especially looking at Salazar and Lee.
This will allow the Indians to spend any extra salary money on in house players, possibly signing Masterson long term or giving guaranteed deals to Kipnis, Brantley or Stubbs. The team proved they are ready to compete already and most of the roster should be improved in 2013. The building time is over. This offseason should be used to strengthen what is already here and to make sure the team stays together for the long term.