Who will be the DH for the Indians this season? As of right now they do not have a single person labeled as the DH, so it is possible that they will consider a rotating short list of players. People like the recently signed Ben Francisco or Ryan Raburn, or minor leaguers like Ezequiel Carrera or Tim Fedroff – players that can play in the field or serve as the DH. There is still an outside chance that the Indians sign someone to primarily serve as the DH, or that they orchestrate a trade with another team for a slugger. Jon Heyman from CBS Sports is reporting that the Indians are currently considering a couple of familiar names – Travis Hafner and Jim Thome. Even though Manny Ramirez was hot during the playoffs in the Dominican winter league, supposedly he is not someone that is on the Tribe’s radar at the moment. Even though it is just speculation at this point, would you want either of these players back? If not, do you feel comfortable with a rotating DH made from minor leaguers and spare parts? I figured I’d look at some of the potential options; not just Hafner and Thome, but some of the other still unsigned players mentioned in the article.
Travis Hafner – I haven’t heard of any team that had interest in Hafner yet this winter. This could be good for the Indians if they do want to sign him, because they may be able to nab him on a minor league deal. I’m not thrilled about his return, because you know that he’d spend an indeterminate amount of time on the DL this season. If it’s for an insanely low price, it does take some of the sting off of a reunion with Pronk.
Jim Thome – There are reasons I like this, but they are primarily sentimental and not necessarily logical. From a marketing perspective, there are a lot of nostalgic fans that would be excited to see Thome back in Cleveland. If this ended up being his last season, it would be nice to see him finish with the Tribe. At the same time, he wasn’t fully healthy last season and he’s not the player he used to be. One thing I keep thinking of – if there were any other players with these stats not named Jim Thome, would I want them? In 2012 he hit 8 home runs between Philly and Baltimore and hit .257/.348/.396 in just 186 plate appearances. While his OBP is respectable, if I were shown these stats blind, without Thome’s name attached, they wouldn’t do much for me.
Aubrey Huff – He’s 36 and had just 95 plate appearances for the Giants in 2012. The bonus is that he could probably play some first for the Indians (and outfield if they’re really desperate) but his best days are probably behind him. He hit just .192/.326/.282 with one home run last season. Anything greater than a minor league contract with an invite to spring training would be complete insanity. I wouldn’t even be thrilled with the minor league deal, but at least he could come to camp and have a chance to prove himself.
Luke Scott – Scott also provides some versatility, but his stats have been in a free fall since his decent 2010 season with the Orioles. He hit just .229/.285/.439 with 14 home runs in 344 plate appearances in Tampa last season. That OBP is just dreadful; it doesn’t really matter if he can play multiple positions, because you’re still unfortunately going to have to watch him bat.
Carlos Lee – At 36, Lee’s best days are probably behind him as well. He could at least play in the field if necessary, and his .264/.332/.365 line certainly isn’t the worst on this list.
Jason Giambi – Jason Giambi is 42-years-old and he hasn’t had more than 300 plate appearances since 2009. With the Rockies last season he hit .225/.372/.303 with one home run. He plays at Coors Field, and he hit just one home run. Giambi’s numbers drop pretty dramatically away from Denver – .242/.405/.394 at home and .214/.352/.250 on the road last year. It’s important in life to know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em; I think it’s time for Giambi to fold ’em.
Juan Rivera – Rivera hit .244/.286/.375 with 9 home runs in 339 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season. His career averages are a bit better – .274/.323/.443 so I guess there’s a chance he could have a bounce back season. He could play some outfield and first base.
Johnny Damon – Even though he may be less abysmal with a spring training under his belt, I think the Johnny Damon experiment in Cleveland is over.
Casey Kotchman – No. I’m not even wasting anymore energy typing anything else…just no.
Grady Sizemore – He may sign mid-year with someone if he is healthy, but I honestly think he won’t be back this season. He just had another major knee microfracture surgery in September and is going to need recovery time. It’s just my personal opinion, but I have to wonder if Sizemore didn’t push himself to come back before he was fully ready and it was the cause of his additional problems. I really hope he’s able to come back, but I think it’s time for the Indians to move on and let him try his chances with another team.
Out of all of these options, there are none that truly thrill me. I liked the idea of Lee’s right-handed bat, but the Indians have finally signed some right-handers in Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher (switch hitter). You’re stuck with people who could probably come cheap, but they’re either way past their prime, or fragile and likely to spend time on the DL. If I had to make a prediction (not what I want, but what I think will happen) I’d say the Indians will end up signing Hafner to a deal with a low base salary and incentives. I guess the one positive thing I can say is that if the Indians do have very limited funds left to spend, at least the guys on this list will likely be affordable.