Even though the Indians vowed to consider all options to replace the injured Grady Sizemore, it seems as if they plan to handle the situation internally. They have a number of potential outfielders in camp this spring, when you consider Ryan Spilborghs, Felix Pie, Fred Lewis, Aaron Cunningham, and Ezequiel Carrera. All of these names have really failed to excite; in fact Carrera was already sent down to the Triple-A camp last week. They could still use a mix of Shelley Duncan, Jason Donald, and Russ Canzler in the outfield. Canzler has had a great spring, and Duncan has a team-leading 5 home runs and a .216/.326/.622 batting line; both provide the right-handed bat the Tribe so sorely needs.
It’s obvious that the Indians aren’t 100% comfortable with the in-house options, because they are still connected to some veterans via rumors. One of those players with a rumored connection was Johnny Damon (I really wanted to spell that Jhonny, by the way). However, Jim Bowden said that the Indians have no interest due to Damon’s weak defensive skills. News came out today that the Indians watched Vladimir Guerrero work out at their complex in the Dominican Republic. The 37-year-old Guerrero was supposedly in good shape, and is willing to play in Japan if he’s unable to find a spot on a major league roster. The right-handed Guerrero has a lifetime .318/.379/.553 line with 449 home runs and hit .290/.317/.416 line with 13 home runs in 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles.
There are some benefits and some drawbacks to a Guerrero signing. The benefits are that Guerrero is a solid right-handed bat that could provide a veteran presence on a fairly young roster. I’ve always appreciated his ability to put the ball in play (even if he has to golf the ball into the outfield because the pitch was in the dirt). The downside is that Guerrero’s defensive skills aren’t superb, and you may not be able to put him in the outfield on a daily basis without him being a defensive liability. You’d also be squeezing out a young player, when some of those young players are out of options. (Cunningham and Duncan, for example) Plus you’d have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Guerrero, although you would need to do the same if Jose Lopez makes the team out of spring training.
Guerrero verdict – I would do this under certain conditions. If you can sign him to a deal that’s favorable to the Indians, he’s a veteran right-hand hitter that’s still got a bit of pop. While he’s not excellent defensively, Russ Canzler and Jason Donald are novices to the outfield for the most part; it’s not like Guerrero would be that big of a step down from either of them. He may need to participate in some extended spring training, but he may be an intriguing option for the Indians to consider.
Other outside options:
Travis Snider – The Blue Jays just announced that Eric Thames won the starting left fielder job in Toronto. This means that Snider, a 2006 first round draft pick, will start the year at Triple-A Las Vegas. (Side note – have you ever been to a Las Vegas 51s game? Very strange experience. Slot machines around the ballpark and easily the creepiest mascot of any sports team, ever). Toronto sports writer Shi Davidi points out that GM Alex Anthopoulos typically buys low on players like Snider – someone who hasn’t quite lived up to their potential and hopes that a change of scenery benefits the player. This is someone that the Indians could try to buy low on, much like Anthopoulos did with Colby Rasmus from the St. Louis Cardinals last year. My verdict – I wouldn’t do this. Snider fits the mold of about a half dozen players in the Indians’ system right now. Someone who was a “can’t miss” prospect that just wasn’t able to find his footing. While he may benefit from different surroundings in Cleveland, the Indians have guys that fit this mold, and they don’t have to give up anything for them.
Bobby Abreu – About a month ago, I tossed out the idea of the Indians trading for Abreu. The Angels have a surplus of players, and Abreu has said he prefers a trade to reduced playing time. The situation has gotten a bit more volatile recently – Abreu voiced his displeasure to a reporter from ESPNDeportes, resulting in his second closed-door meeting with manager Mike Scioscia. In 2011 Abreu hit .253/.353/.365 with 8 home runs, while his career numbers are .293/.397/.481. This spring, the left-handed hitting Abreu is batting just .100/.163/.150 with 0 home runs. There has been some speculation that the Angels may just release Abreu and eat the roughly $9 million he is owed this season. My verdict – I don’t think I’d do this one either. The Indians need a right-handed bat, and while a veteran like Abreu is intriguing, his defense is less than stellar and he hits left-handed. The Indians may be able to get him for a steal if the Angels end up releasing him, but what happens if his spring slump continues during the season? Will he start to lash out at the Indians if his playing time is diminished? His performance may improve once he’s away from the controversy with the Angels, but there’s no guarantee he’ll match his career figures in Cleveland.