As Spring Training creeps ever closer (pitchers and catchers report Monday, first game is March 3) it’s time to think about what Indians fans will see unfold in the desert this spring. Particularly, which which players are out of options and how that could impact the look of the roster heading into the regular season. Unless Matt LaPorta has a ridiculous, insane, monster spring, he’s probably going to start the season at Triple-A Columbus. The reason: he still has options.
MLB Trade Rumors put together this great list on all of the players out of options with their respective teams. By out of options, I mean players that can not be sent to the minors without first being designated for assignment. Once a player is DFAed, any team can snag them on waivers and add them to their roster. The Indians are much more likely to name a player that’s out of options to the 25-man roster, just because they don’t want to risk losing them.
Here are the Indians that are out of options: Shin-Soo Choo, Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan, Jack Hannahan, Rafael Perez
It’s highly unlikely that Shin-Soo Choo or Rafael Perez would be in danger of being sent to the minors in the first place, barring some odd mental breakdown (aka Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez Heredia). So that leaves Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan and Jack Hannahan.
Hannahan will be a utility infielder, and his job as such probably isn’t in any danger. He’s superb defensively, even if he’s not going to necessarily tear the cover off the ball.
Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham are players that have both bounced back and forth between the minors and the majors over the past several years and two that could be considered “on the bubble.” I think it’s safe to say that Duncan’s performance toward the end of the 2011 season likely earned him spot on the 25-man for the start of the 2012 season. He could serve as a fourth outfielder, plus spend some time at 1B if necessary. He has right-handed power, which is something the Indians need.
Aaron Cunningham is the more intriguing scenario. The Indians acquired him from the San Diego Padres for Cory Burns (and lost Josh Judy clearing a roster spot for Cunningham) so they’re unlikely to designate him for assignment and leave him unprotected to the rest of Major League Baseball. That means that unless he has an absolutely abysmal spring, Cunningham will probably make the roster out of Spring Training.
So if the Indians make sure to keep all of the players out of options on the roster, who draws the short straw?
Barring injuries, it probably means that Matt LaPorta starts the season at Triple-A Columbus. If LaPorta comes into Spring Training and just literally lights the place up, things may get a bit interesting. Otherwise, he’ll probably get an opportunity for more at-bats with the Clippers, and his remaining options ensure that the Indians won’t have to designate him for assignment. This may also make the path to the Major League roster much more difficult for for Ryan Spilborghs, Fred Lewis and Felix Pie. If Lewis isn’t on the 25-man by June 1, he can elect to opt out of his contract. Otherwise, these additional outfielders will likely remain in Columbus to provide depth, along with Trevor Crowe. Crowe was outrighted off of the 40-man over the winter, but will still be in camp with the team in Spring Training.
As you can see from the photo that Ubaldo Jimenez tweeted earlier today, many of the Indians are already in camp!