CLEVELAND — If manager Terry Francona could push rewind and replay Cleveland's riveting 2013 season, he would in a second.
With one minor change.
"I'd like to go through next year with the same people," Francona said. "Just play longer."
With the sting from last week's wild-card loss to Tampa Bay finally bearable, Francona and Indians general manager Chris Antonetti reflected Monday on the club's startling turnaround this season — a 24-win jump over 2012 — while keeping most of their plans to alter the roster and lineup for next season under wraps.
Free agency is looming, and the Indians intend to shop as aggressively as they did last winter when the signing of Francona was followed by the acquisitions of first baseman Nick Swisher and center fielder Michael Bourn.
During a one-hour meeting inside Cleveland's clubhouse, Antonetti and Francona touched upon a variety of topics, including their hopes to carry the momentum created this season into next. Antonetti cited a return to the postseason for the first time since 2007 and "re-establishing a winning culture" as the club's top accomplishments, and said the hope next season is to get deeper into October.
"It didn't end the way we envisioned it," Antonetti said. "But to get back [in the playoffs] is a first step. The only way you can win a World Series is to get into the postseason, so that was encouraging. But we want to continue to move forward. We want to continue to play in the postseason year in and year out and then progress through the postseason. A lot of things have to happen for that to come to fruition, but that's our goal."
Antonetti credited Francona for much of Cleveland's climb in the standings. Hired on Oct. 8 last year, not long after the Indians slogged through a miserable season, Francona and his steady hand helped navigate Cleveland through a dizzying maze of losing skids and winning streaks that peaked with the club winning its final 10 games to capture one of the AL's two wild cards.
Francona's arrival may have ushered in a new era for the Indians, still seeking their first World Series title since 1948. With him, they believe it will be easier to land free agents. Cleveland has most of its position players under contract for next season, and Antonetti feels they'll come back looking to do even more after playing in only one playoff game.
The club would like to re-sign starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who bounced back from a 17-loss season to win 13 games and anchor Cleveland's much-improved rotation down the stretch.
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