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December Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

Tribe fans saw almost no action from their team in November and almost thought they were in for a very inactive off-season.

In December, things changed, but before we get to that, here’s a rundown of transactions the Tribe completed during the ho-hum month of November:

  • Activated right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco off of the 60-day disabled list.

    Mark Reynolds brings a proven power hitter to the Indian line-up.

    Mark Reynolds brings a proven power hitter to the Indian line-up.

  • Activated reliever Rafael Perez off of the 60-day disabled list and then failed to offer him a contract, making him a free agent.
  • Activated right-hander Josh Tomlin from the 60-day disabled list.
  • Signed pitcher Hector Rondon to a minor league contract.
  • Signed outfielder Cedric Hunter to a minor league contract.
  • Announced second basemen Brent Lillibridge refused outright assignment to the minor leagues and will be a free agent.
  • Signed pitcher Blake Wood to a one-year contract.
  • Signed pitcher Fernando Nieve to a minor league contract.
  • Claimed infielder Mike McDade off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Allowed infielder Jack Hannahan to become a free agent.
  • Allowed pitcher Chris Seddon to become a free agent.

The move listed above that made the most noise in Cleveland was the fact that they did not pick up the option for utility infielder Jack Hannahan. He became somewhat of a phenomenon early in the season last year as he came up big in many clutch moments. Unfortunately, back problems limited his opportunities in the last two-thirds of the season, but it didn’t stop him from becoming a fan favorite. Hannahan has since signed a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

Apparently the Tribe wanted to wait until after the winter meetings to get the pulse of the rest of the league because later in that same week, the Indians wrapped up what is probably their largest free-agent signing in some time. The Tribe came to terms with right-handed power hitter Mark Reynolds. He will likely be the everyday first baseman in Cleveland and could also see some time as the designated hitter. Reynolds has played six full seasons in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles. Last year with Baltimore, Reynolds batted .221 with 23 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

Many knew that outfielder Shin-Soo Choo would be dealt before the trading deadline, but some were surprised that it happened in early December. The Tribe hit the trading block by sending Choo and utility player Jason Donald to Cincinnati for outfielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop Didi Gregorius. (The Indians also included cash in the trade.) Stubbs will start in the outfield for the Tribe this year and is known for his speed. Hopefully his work with the Indians’ hitting coaches will teach him to become more selective at the plate. Between Stubbs and Reynolds, the Indians acquired two players who finished in the top five in strikeouts in their respective leagues in a three-day span. Not exactly Moneyball at its finest…

While moving Choo made headlines, the reason they moved him for those pieces was actually to acquire Gregorius. This is because the Arizona Diamondbacks had their eyes on Gregorius and the Indians had their eyes on a minor league pitcher in the Diamondbacks’ system named Trevor Bauer. After unloading much of their young pitching talent in 2011 in a trade for Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians were looking for a young prospect who they could foster and perhaps anchor their rotation for years to come.

In this deal, the Indians sent reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson, along with Gregorius, to Arizona for Bauer and pitchers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. The national media has claimed this is a good deal, but as for many of the deals the Tribe has made in recent years, Tribe fans won’t know if it was a good trade until many years down the line.

As of this writing, the Indians have reported signed free agent outfielder Nick Swisher. The Tribe reportedly brought him to town Tuesday and regaled him with dinners, tours and scoreboard messages from Ohio State coaches Urban Meyer and Thad Matta. Swisher, an Ohio State grad, had left town without signing a contract despite having a four-year deal on the table. Reports state he was to visit four more cities before deciding where he will play in 2013. However, words came down Sunday that Swisher was opting for the Indians.

 

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