If you buy 100 lottery scratch-off tickets, odds are you’re going to find at least one where you win a dollar or two. That’s kind of how I feel about the Indians’ off-season moves. If you make enough of these low-cost, low-impact moves, there’s bound to be at least one of them where I think, “wow, that’s a half decent move.” Maybe (as with the scratch-off tickets) one or two of these moves will even end up paying off for the Tribe.
I’m speaking about the deal with Tampa Bay that was announced today, where the Indians acquired 1B/OF/3B Russ Canzler for cash considerations. They didn’t have to surrender relief prospects, or any prospects at all…just cold, hard cash. Canzler was added to the 40-man roster (a spot was open from when Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez Heredia was put on the restricted list).
Canzler is no superstar high-priced free agent, or even a moderately-priced free agent; the kind I hoped they would acquire to compete with Matt LaPorta for the 1B job. He may very well end up going down as a Quad-A player that never is quite able to transfer his success to the Major Leagues. Or Canzler could be the right-handed power bat the Indians have been looking for; as a prospect he’s shown a great deal of promise in the minors, and he deserves a chance to prove himself with a Major League club. The move was praised over at the SweetSpot blog, and in this Fangraphs article from August, Tommy Rancel implores Tampa Bay to “Free Russ Canzler.”
It sounds as if Tampa Bay was prepared to let him compete for their starting 1B job before they signed Carlos Pena. Obviously Tampa Bay didn’t have too much faith in him if they were wary of heading to Spring Training with Canzler as their primary option at first. One of the reasons I feel that Canzler is a bit different from Aaron Cunningham or Felix Pie, is that Cunningham and Pie have both spent significant time in the Majors and have struggled with their consistency. Both players supposedly had tons of promise, yet have never made much of a continuous impact at the Major League level. Canzler has never really even gotten a chance at the Major League level. He has exactly three (three!) Major League at-bats on his resume. It’s almost baffling that the Rays (and the Cubs before them) gave up on him without seeing what he could really do in the big leagues. In Tampa Bay’s defense, they were in a pennant race last season (Canzler’s only year in their organization) and probably didn’t want to waste at-bats giving a tryout to a minor leaguer, especially when Casey Kotchman was so solid for them. But the Cubs – the Cubs had nothing but time on their hands over the past few years.
In 2011, Canzler was the International League MVP with Tampa Bay’s Triple-A Durham Club (Shelley Duncan is another International League MVP alum) as he hit .314/.401/.530 with 18 home runs. With the Cubs’ Double-A team in 2010, Canzler hit 28 home runs with a .287/.372/.566 line on par with his career minor league averages of .280/.341/.469.
This move isn’t likely to make Indians fans scream, “THAT! THAT is the missing piece…World Series bound!” However, it’s still is a pretty decent deal when you consider that you acquired Canzler for cash, and didn’t even have to designate another player for assignment to make room for him. Even though he may not end up being much of an improvement over Matt LaPorta (remember – LaPorta mashes every time he goes down to Triple-A) I think that Canzler and LaPorta could make each other better players. Competition for a starting job can sometimes bring out the best in people.