MLB Free Agency 2012: Casey Kotchman Isn't What the Cleveland Indians Need

Jim PiascikCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2012

The Indians should pass on signing Casey Kotchman.
The Indians should pass on signing Casey Kotchman.Elsa/Getty Images

Even though the Cleveland Indians are still in need of a first baseman, Casey Kotchman is not the guy they need.

When Carlos Pena signed with the Tampa Bay Rays last Friday, it simultaneously took away the Tribe's best free agent option off the board and put Kotchman in search of a new team. Wouldn't it make some sort of karmic sense then for Kotchman's next team to be the Cleveland Indians?

That wouldn't be the best idea for the Tribe, though.

There is no denying that Kotchman finally had a breakout year last year. After being rated the 22nd, 13th, 15th and sixth best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America from 2002 through 2005, Kotchman struggled for the majority of his big league career. That changed last year when he posted these stats:

.306/.378/.422 slash line, .800 OPS (128 OPS+), .351 wOBA (125 wRC+), 10 HR, 48 RBI, 11.7 K%, 8.5 BB%, 2.8 fWAR

You might be thinking that would look very good on the Indians in 2012, especially considering the level of bad production the Indians got out of the first base position at times last year. But there are numerous reasons to pass of Kotchman. 

First off, you should never exaggerate one good season. Compared to his career numbers, 2011 sure looks like an outlier (averaged to 155 games):

.268/.336/.398 slash line, .733 OPS (98 OPS+), .321 wOBA (97 wRC+), 12 HR, 65 RBI, 10.0 K%, 8.3 BB%, 1.0 fWAR

This is the reality of what Kotchman is. What happened last year is likely a career year that won't ever be repeated. Considering his BABIP jumped from a .280 career mark to .335 in 2011, this is very likely.

If the Indians sign Kotchman—even considering his above-average defense—they'll be adding a player who is only worth one-two wins maximum above a replacement level player. With that kind of upside, I'd prefer letting Matt LaPorta try to figure things out for 162 games.

In addition to LaPorta, Shelley Duncan could be worth the same amount as Kotchman. It seems that signing Kotchman would give the Indians another first baseman who can't do enough to be the answer.

I know that the free agent market is starting to look a little bare, but the Indians should pass up the opportunity to sign Kotchman. They'll likely be better off with the options already in-house.