As a free-agent destination the Indians rose dramatically on Oct. 8 2012 the day they hired Terry Francona as manager.

Making their first playoff appearance since 2007 with a 92-win season in 2013 has improved that status.
Francona changed the culture that came from losing 93 or more games three of the previous four years. He molded what Jason Giambi deemed “an eclectic group of players” into a fun-loving bunch that went 21-6 in September before losing the American League wild-card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. Looking forward the Tribe has a bevy of young arms even if free-agent starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir sign elsewhere.

Francona will be the carrot General Manager Chris Antonetti continues to dangle as he upgrades the team especially as he searches for a power hitter. But even with the Indians’ improving reputation around the league enviable chemistry and a 24-game turnaround the carrot knows what counts most.
“I think money speaks” Francona said.

As Francona and Antonetti spent an hour wrapping up the season Monday in the Indians’ clubhouse Antonetti said he didn’t know his budget for 2014. The Indians’ payroll of $73724300 this year ranked 23rd in the major leagues according to ESPN.

Antonetti confirmed he’d heard team revenue was up 20 percent over last season. He wouldn’t say whether he’d be hamstrung by an attendance total that ranked 29th out of 30 teams besting only the Rays.

“I’m confident we’ll have the resources to building a contending team for next year” Antonetti said. “I think we’ll be aggressive.”

He must find the big-bopper he thought he had in Mark Reynolds who hit .301 with eight home runs in April and managed only seven more homers before he was released on Aug. 12. Francona used seven different players as his cleanup hitter and none seemed comfortable. Such a signing might require a convincing pitch to owner Paul Dolan. But with their abrupt dismissal in the wild-card game the Indians learned the negatives of the two wild-card format. They must build to win the division and that means spending for a slugger.

Francona didn’t want to box in his boss with demands in that regard but he dropped a tiny hint.
“We saw at the beginning of the year when Mark Reynolds was hot that was a big plus for us. After he went cold and ultimately left we really didn’t have that very often” Francona said. “We knew our margin for error was smaller. That doesn’t mean we can’t win.”

Such a signing would force Antonetti to creatively maneuver as players are added and subtracted. There could be plenty of movement. Gone could be Jimenez Kazmir relievers Chris Perez and Joe Smith and outfielder Drew Stubbs. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could be traded which seems logical especially with Mike Aviles ready to take over until top prospect Francisco Lindor is ready.

Nick Swisher Michael Bourn and Carlos Santana will receive salary bumps but the Indians still should have the money to be a player in free agency.