The Cleveland Indians have signed Casey Kotchman to a 1-year deal for 2012 to be their first baseman. This comes on the heels of trading for corner defender and reining IL MVP Russ Canzler.
This does a couple things for the Tribe for the upcoming season. First it gives Cleveland an established Major-Leaguer at what was the biggest position of need heading into the off-season. It certainly is not like inking Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, but Kotchman raised his stock considerably with what may have been his career best offensive season in 2011. Playing on a one-year minor league deal with the TB Rays, Kotchman hit .306 with an OBP of .378. He is regarded as a fine defender at 1B and does not strike out much. These are all good things and part of what the Indians were looking for when seeking to fill the position. The rest of what Kotchman as everyday 1B means leaves some holes unfilled. He hits from the left side, which does not help the balance of the line-up (though as the Indians have noted over recent days, the Tigers and Twins project to have rotations with 9 of 10 slots filled by right-handed pitchers). Also Kotchman does not provide much in the way of power, which is something the Indians need more out of 1B than they have gotten. So what it comes down to is that Cleveland opted to solve some, but not all of the issues they have had at 1B over the last few seasons with the resources they had available. Kotchman signed for a reported $3 million, a windfall after a minor-league deal last year, but still far less than what the other 1B free-agent options garnered. It should be noted that the Indians made a higher offer to Carlos Pena than he took from TB. Pena, like Kotchman, provided some, but not all of what Cleveland was looking for at 1B. The Indians were never in on Pujols or Fielder (though maybe they should have been on Fielder) and so you have to be selective in what needs you address given your financial constraints.
All of this 1B talk could have been avoided if the Indians had a first baseman who hit right-handed, had pop in his bat and didn’t strike out much. If only they had a prospect who had a .298/.390./566 minor league slash line who only K’s once every 6 PA’s who could play passable defense. That’s exactly what they had in Matt LaPorta, but he has not found consistent success in the Majors. The recent moves seem to indicate that he will start the year in Columbus barring a spectacular Spring Training. For Clippers fans, this is great news. LaPorta has hit .313 as a Clipper with 27-2B’s 23-HR’s and 79-RBI’s in 113 games. Matt is 27 and his window for establishing himself is closing, so hopefully he will find a way to put it all together this season in Columbus and get another shot in The Show.
Pitchers and catchers report in less than 3 weeks, so next time we will look at some position battles.
Happy Groundhog Day!
Despite this oh so fantasic holiday, I’m here to tell you that the first sign spring is near has nothing to do with a groundhog. It does however have everything to do with an 18-wheeler, the Cleveland Indians equipment truck to be exact, which leaves for Goodyear on Friday.
Pitchers and catchers report on February 20th and shortly after that we’ll be watching highlights and reading box scores from the Cactus League. It really is a great time of the year, when the prospect of warm sunshine and a winning baseball season fill our hearts and minds.
I get goose bumps just thinking about it, don’t you?
* As the season nears, the Indians are attempting to put the finishing touches on their arbitration situation. Five of the seven arbitration-eligible players are signed, leaving just Asdrubal Cabrera and Rafael Perez. However, it looks like the Tribe may be headed in front of the arbiter for the first time since 1991. Rafael Perez is reportedly asking for $2.2 million and the Indians are offering $1.6 million while Asdrubal Cabrera is reportedly asking for $5.25 million while the club is offering $3.75 million. That’s a substantial difference and it’s likely that an agreement won’t be reached before the hearing dates, which began Wednesday and last for three weeks.
Why go, Lugo?
It appears now the Julio Lugo will NOT be joining the Indians after all. The 36 year-old agreed to a minor league contract almost two weeks ago, but reports say the deal is now off. Some have speculated that Lugo failed his physical, but the club has not commented on it. Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian has more insight on the Lugo fallout and the contract specifics for some recent Cleveland signings.
One more mouth to feed…
The Clippers roster will expand from 24 to 25 players starting this season because of recent legislation passed by the MLB general managers. The group voted to add one player to maximum roster limit for all Double-A and Triple-A clubs. The minor league managers will surely be very happy to have an extra bullpen arm or a bench player to use late in games. This change will benefit National League affiliates who do not use a designated hitter when playing against other NL affiliated teams. Bring on the double-switches!
Thanks, but no thanks.
Free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt has reportedly told the Indians and Blue Jays that he is not interested in signing with them. Oswalt, 34, may be leaning towards a deal with either St. Louis or Texas. The right-hander will be entering his 12th Major League season, carrying a 159-93 record and 3.21 ERA over 326 starts with Houston and Philadelphia. He is a three-time All Star.
The Biggest Little City in the World
The International League and Pacific Coast League each announced that Reno, Nevada will host the 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game. This season’s game is being held in Buffalo. One of the most common questions I’ve received is “When will the Clippers host the All-Star Game?” The answer is that I don’t know, but two leagues alternate hosts, so it will be back in an International League park in 2014.
Meanwhile, Durham is hosting this year’s Triple-A National Championship, which now also rotates location each season like the Super Bowl. It’s up for grabs again for 2013.
The season is approaching quickly the Clippers Cargo Shop is featuring 23 brand new hats! Check them out here.
You can get a Clippers partial season ticket plan for as low as $235! Talk a look at all the options here.
Columbus Alive has started its voting for the “Best of Columbus”. Take this survey and vote for the Clippers as the best of the best!
There are only 63 days until the Clippers host Louisville on Opening Night! Check out the 2012 schedule!
That’s all for today, keep coming back!
The Indians acquired INF/OF Russ Canzler on Tuesday from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash, placing him to the 40-man roster spot that opened with the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona was placed on the Restricted List.
Canzler, 25, was named the International League MVP last season. He is very versatile, with the ability to play the corner infield and outfield positions. Cleveland hopes he adds some serious competition for a spot on the big league roster, possibly an alternative to Matt LaPorta at first base.
If Canzler fails to make the team this spring, he’ll start the season in Columbus. Canzler has all three minor league options available, so the Tribe can bounce him from Cleveland to Columbus as they see fit.
Canzler hit .314 with 40 doubles, 4 triples, and 18 HRs in 131 games with Durham last year, his rookie Triple-A campaign. He also compiled 83 RBIs and posted a .401 OBP before receiving an end-of-season call-up to Tampa where he appeared in three games (1-for-3, K, BB, 1 RBI). He was designated for assignment on January 27th after the Rays signed INF Jeff Keppinger.
He was originally selected by the Cubs in the 30th round of the 2004 draft out of Hazleton Area High School in Pennsylvania. Russ was released by Chicago in 2010 and signed by Tampa Bay as a minor league free agent prior to the 2011 season. The right-handed hitter owns a minor league average of .280 with 172 doubles, 23 triples, 84 HR and 405 RBI in 738 career games.
He could be the second reigning IL MVP to join the Clippers in the last three seasons. Shelley Duncan joined Cleveland in 2010 after winning the award with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Duncan has now logged 161 games (506 plate appearances) in the majors with the Tribe. The Indians are hoping Canzler, who is five years younger than Duncan was when acquired, can help them in some capacity either now or in the future.
Jordan Bastian has more on Russ Canzler at Indians.com
Russ Canzler has a fan in Mike Trowbridge of the Rockford Register Star.