Cleveland Indians: Coco Crisp and 9 Players the Tribe May Target in Free Agency
Just days after the completion of the 2011 World Series, Cleveland Indians' GM Chris Antonetti has already made a splash acquiring SP Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves. The Indians also exercised SP Fausto Carmona's club option for 2011 while declining the $9 million option for OF Grady Sizemore.
"We've transitioned from that developing team to a contending team," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti explained to MLB.com. "Our sole focus is to do what we can to build around a very talented nucleus to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to play meaningful games not only in September, but in October next year. That's what we'll set out to do this offseason."
Looks like Antonetti has wasted little time adding a solid veteran starter in Derek Lowe for next to nothing in return. Let's take a look at who the Tribe may target in free agency for some veteran leadership on offense.
When the Indians decided to decline Sizemore's $9 million option for the 2012 season, many believed it would mark the end of Grady's tenure in Cleveland. I don't believe this is necessarily the case as the Indians will look to sign Sizemore to a more cost-effective deal in the coming days and weeks ahead.
"We thought that we were best served at this point declining Grady's option," Antonetti said on a conference call to the media on Monday. "We will still stay in touch with his representatives and Grady throughout the offseason and remain hopeful he will remain part of this organization. I think both parties remain open-minded to continuing the relationship. It's just not at the option value."
I think a one-year deal is very possible here. There would be little risk for the Indians, and if Sizemore can regain his health in 2012, there could be a high reward.
The Indians must address their need for power, especially out of the 1B/3B positions. If Antonetti decides he can live with Jack Hannahan and Jason Donald at third, he will most likely be looking to upgrade at first base with Matt LaPorta's future in question.
Carlos Pena could be an option. In 2011 with the Cubs, Pena batted .225 with 28 HRs, 80 RBI and a .357 OBP. Pena made just below $10 million last year, which could be an issue for the Tribe. Antonetti might have the wait-and-see approach with Pena. I'm not sure how the market will value Pena, but I doubt he will make much less than what he made last year.
In my opinion, Casey Kotchman would be a great pick-up for the Tribe. He may not have the power numbers of a Carlos Pena, but he can hit and get on base which is essential to offensive production.
In 2011 with the Rays, Kotchman batted .306 with a OBP of .378. He only had 10 HRs and 48 RBI, which doesn't give the Indians the needed power, but his contract could work nicely into Antonetti's budget.
I think Kotchman could be a better fit than Carlos Pena.
Josh Willingham's name was discussed by a handful of teams including the Indians before the trade deadline in July, but Oakland apparently didn't have enough incentive to move him.
Willingham batted .246 with 29 HRs, 98 RBI and an OBP of .332 for the A's in 2011.
Juan Rivera could be an option to add some veteran leadership on offense. His numbers won't jump out at you, but they are solid and his price won't be very high.
This would obviously be a reach, but the Indians have a way of rejuvenating a veteran's career.
Chavez is contemplating retirement but could have a few productive years left in him at age 33. After recovering from a fractured foot early last season, Chavez was solid in his part-time role for the Yankees, batting .263 with a .320 OBP in 175 plate appearances.
If not Eric, why not Endy?
With Sizemore's future in doubt, the Indians will look to add depth in their outfield.
Chavez batted .301 with 10 steals and an OBP of .323 for the AL Champion Texas Rangers in 2011. He also provides a nice glove in center field.
Jason Kubel dealt with a sprained foot most of last season but was still productive for the Twins, batting .273 with 12 HRs, 58 RBI and an OBP of .332 in 2011. He made close to $5.5 million last season, which could fit into the Tribe's budget for 2012 and beyond.
Kubel could be another option as the Indians' look to add an outfielder with some pop.
Coco Crisp was another guy the Indians were interested in acquiring before the trade deadline in late July. The former Indian batted .264 with 49 stolen bases and an OBP of .314 in 2011 for the Oakland A's.
Looking Forward to 2012?
With a solid core of young talent, the Indians are looking to add some veteran pieces that will hopefully put them over the edge in the AL Central in 2012.
Although they stumbled in the second half, the Tribe was still a surprise team in 2011 and should now be considered serious contenders heading into next season.
Follow Jim McCarthy on Twitter: @JimMcCarthyJr