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January Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

Source: NYPost.com via Google Images

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What has happened in the past month has been astounding to those who have followed the Tribe’s recent history. Not only did they make a few trades, which were detailed in last month’s edition of reflections, but the Indians signed one of the most highly sought after players on the market, Nick Swisher.

The Indians last big contract was when they signed designated hitter Travis Hafner to a $13 million per year extension. That didn’t work out so well as Hafner spent the majority of the past three seasons on the disabled list. The Indians hope that their signing of Swisher will end up being much different in terms of on field progress.

Swisher, who will turn 32 in 2013, played the past four seasons with the New York Yankees. Last year, the outfielder batted .272 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI. He made the All Star team in 2010 with New York and never missed significant time with an injury. This will likely be Swisher’s last major contract in the Big Leagues.

The Indians introduced Swisher during a news conference on Thursday, January third, during which he expressed how excited he was to become a member of the Tribe. Granted, his words did come just moments after inking his name to a contract that would allow him to play professional baseball for four more years while getting paid more than $50 million in the process, but for Clevelanders, it was good to see someone who actually wanted to be in the city.

The Indians continued to make moves into January and their first addition was to sign free-agent pitcher Brett Myers to a one year contract with a club option for 2014. The Tribe’s everyday line-up seems to be set, but there are major concerns to be answered about their pitching which is why the team is taking a chance on Myers.

Myers has been signed to a one year contract worth $7 million. The club option in 2014 would be worth $8 million if the team choses to keep him. The pitcher will be 32 years-old by next season and had split last year between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. In 2012, Myers posted a 3.31 ERA while appearing in 70 games as a reliever.
Besides from his stint with the White Sox last year, Myers has spent his entire career in the National League. Myers was drafted by Philadelphia and played eight seasons with the Phillies to start his career. He will likely be looked to come out of the bullpen, perhaps taking over the roll occupied by Tony Sipp before he was traded in December.

Myers probably still has the capability to start as he did it early in his career before transitioning to the bullpen over the last few seasons. One of the strengths of the Tribe over the past two seasons has been their pen. It has earned the nickname of the “Bullpen Mafia” and the addition of Myers would make that part of the team even more formidable.

On January 8, the Indians announced another move in the hopes of bolstering the pitching staff as they signed free agent left-hander Scott Kazmir to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League spring training. Kazmir hit his peak in 2007 when he lead the American League in strikeouts and posted a 3.48 ERA with a 13-9 record. Kazmir, 28, will have a real shot to be in the starting rotation for the Indians. He has started 179 games in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and compiled a record of 66-61 with a 4.17 ERA in 179 starts.

The Indians have been rumored to still be shopping some of their most well-known and talented players. Perhaps the most prominent of these would be the current ace of their pitching staff, Justin Masterson, who has garnered considerable interest from the Boston Red Sox. Masterson was a member of the Sox before being included as the major piece coming from Boston to the Indians for catcher Victor Martinez in the summer of 2009. The Masterson talk has died down some especially since the Tribe ponied up to grab a few free agents, but with Shin Soo Choo being traded earlier this off season, anything is possible.

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