February Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

Asdrubal Cabrera image taken from Google Images

There just has to be a big bat out there somewhere. At least that’s what the Indians keep thinking. According to press conferences from various front office personnel over the past week, the team claims they have achieved all of the offseason goals they set for themselves except for one: finding a big bat to add to the lineup.

One of the goals that were cited in these discussions was that they needed more depth in many areas on the team. They recently made a move to add some depth when they dealt for Russ Canzler with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Canzler was named MVP of the International League (AAA) last year after he played in 131 games during which he started at four different positions. Among his accomplishments, were leading the league in slugging percentage and doubles. Overall, he batted .314 with 18 homeruns and produced 83 RBIs on the season.

The Indians also recently came to terms with left handed reliever Rafael Perez on a one year contract worth $2.005 million. The contract allowed the team to avoid going to arbitration over Perez’s 2012 salary. Perez played his fifth full season with the Tribe in 2011 when he went 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 71 appearances.

Another move the Indians recently made was to sign additional first basemen to compete with Canzler and Matt LaPorta for the first base job in spring training. The team may have found their man in Casey Kotchman who they inked to a one year deal worth $3 million.

Kotchman has played for five different teams during his eight year major league career and has been a consistent hitter, posting a career average of .268 with 59 career homeruns. While he may not have the strongest bat for a first baseman in the league, his fielding percentage of .998 is the highest in Major League history when compared to all first basemen who have at least 700 games in that position.

The last player the Indians have to agree to terms with in order to avoid arbitration is All Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Recent reports state that the Tribe and Cabrera are not only in talks to avoid arbitration, but are also working on a longer term extension that would seemingly keep Cabrera in Cleveland for most of his prime. Cabrera, who recently won Athlete of the Year at the Cleveland Sports Awards, was no doubt the most exciting player to watch for the Tribe last year.

To follow-up on news reported in last month’s edition of Indians reflections, Tribe pitcher Fausto Carmona, legally known as Roberto Hernendez Heredia, seems no closer to rejoining the team. The Tribe does not currently have to pay Carmona any of the $7 million from the contract he was under primarily because it now isn’t a legally binding contract due to the incorrect name and date of birth. The Indians still hold the rights to Carmona and have examined what their options are if and when the pitcher is cleared to join them.

The Indians recently completed a tour around Northeast Ohio during which manager Manny Acta and four or five of his players would hold a type of press conference in the local malls for fans to have a chance to ask questions and get autographs. Despite the fact that the Indians did not finish strong last season, Tribe fans still came out in droves to support their home team, many able to walk away with autographs from those who they believe to be the future of the organization and who may take them to the promise land of the playoffs.

There are certainly still some moves to make and players to sign to the famous but inevitable Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite, but many of the Tribe’s brass feel confident they currently have a team that can compete for a Central Division title. Spring Training games officially start for the Tribe on Saturday March 3 when they face off against their interstate rival, the Cincinnati Reds.

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