In today’s spring training game against the Reds, non-roster invitee Ryan Raburn hit two home runs as the Indians topped the Reds 13-10. Raburn spent the last few seasons with Detroit, and hopes to win a utility job in Cleveland in 2013. For players like Raburn, the offseason can end up as a version of musical chairs – just find a team to play with before the music stops. With this in mind, I tried to trace the landing spots of all of the 2012 Indians no longer with the team. I looked at the bigger names, as well as players that were just briefly with the team. If they played at least an inning, and are not in camp with the Indians, I tracked down their whereabouts.
Casey Kotchman – Marlins, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. In 2011, Kotchman signed a minor league deal with an invite to the Rays’ spring training. After a great 2011 season, the Indians gave him $3 million on a 1-year deal with the team in 2012. His dreadful season in Cleveland is the reason he’s back to a minor league contract with an invite. Since the Marlins gave most of their team away this winter, he probably has a decent chance to make the squad. It would probably be helpful if he stopped being so nice to machines (pitching machine 1, Kotchman 0) but at least the machines will probably remember his kindness when they take over the world.
Jack Hannahan – 2 year/$4 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Lonnie Chisenhall is expected to get the starting third base job this season, so it made Hannahan expendable. He got a lot of interest from around baseball (the Yankees were supposedly interested) and he was able to turn that interest into a multi-year deal.
Jason Donald – Traded with Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. Donald was part of the mega-trade this offseason between the Reds, Indians and Diamondbacks. He was basically a utility guy at this point, and thus easily replaceable.
Jose Lopez – Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan; guaranteed $1.5 million with $500,000 in performance bonuses and a team option for 2014. He ended up with the White Sox after the Indians released him last season. He’ll spend 2013 across the Pacific.
Russ Canzler – Indians-Toronto-Indians-Yankees-Orioles. Trying to trace Canzler’s offseason actually gave me a headache. While I could trace his various teams, it became more complicated when I tried to determine whom his departure was making room for on the various rosters. For example, the Indians initially released him to make room on the roster for Mark Reynolds. I still can’t quite remember why Toronto designated him, but when the Indians brought him back they designated Jeanmar Gomez to make room. Then they designated Canzler again; I believe that time it was to formally make room on the roster for Brett Myers. The Yankees claimed Canzler, but he was only with them until they signed Travis Hafner. At that point, Baltimore claimed him and he is in camp with them this spring. Canzler was actually added to their 40-man roster and still has an option remaining, so he can be sent to the minors. When asked about his busy offseason, Canzler joked to the Baltimore Sun: “I just kind of sat in my living room and answered the phone every couple weeks to see which team I was going to be on.”
Brent Lillibridge – Cubs, minor league deal with invite to spring training. Lillibridge was once with the White Sox, so he returns to Chicago with the hopes of winning a roster spot on the north side.
Shin-Soo Choo – Traded to Cincinnati. The Reds hope that he will play center field for them, but we’ll see if that sticks.
Grady Sizemore – Nowhere. After his second microfracture knee surgery in the offseason, it was clear that Sizemore was not going to be ready to play anywhere at the beginning of the season. It sounded like the Mets had interest, but in the end Sizemore remains unsigned. I think that may be for the best; it seemed to put a lot of pressure on him to return as quickly as possible, and now he can take his time and make a full recovery.
Johnny Damon – Nowhere. There’s been some speculation that Damon wouldn’t have been quite as bad last season if he’d attended spring training. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but it looks like he won’t be anywhere this spring either. (Unless someone swoops in and signs him soon).
Shelley Duncan – Rays, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Two of the Rays’ other invitees include Jamey Wright, who was briefly in the Indians bullpen a couple of years ago, and reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo. If you remember, Oviedo is the other player that had identity/age issues at about the same time as Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez signed with the Rays, so they’ll both be in camp together. At least all of the surprises have probably already been revealed.
Aaron Cunningham – Rangers, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. With the departure of Josh Hamilton, the Rangers obviously have some room in their outfield. We’ll see if Cunningham can try to snag the position with a good spring.
Vinny Rottino – Orix Buffaloes, Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. Signed a 1 year deal for $350,000, plus a potential additional $100,000 based on performance. Rottino was basically a minor league journeyman that got some time with the Indians last season. He opted for Japan this offseason, rather than take a minor league deal somewhere.
Thomas Neal – Yankees, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. I hoped Neal, who had a solid season at Akron last summer, would shine during his brief call-up last season and hang on with the Indians as a fourth outfielder. He didn’t get much playing time last year, and after the offseason’s transactions there wouldn’t be much room for him anyway. He was designated to formally make room for Nick Swisher on the roster.
Travis Hafner – Yankees, 1 year, $2 million contract with a chance to earn $4 million more in bonuses based on plate appearances. I really thought that the Indians would end up signing Hafner to a one-year deal, but they let him walk instead. If he can stay healthy, that short porch in right at Yankee Stadium should suit him well. As I mentioned, when he was added to the Yankees roster, Canzler was designated for assignment. Small world.
Luke Carlin – Angels, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Carlin is a minor league journeyman, but he played some games in Cleveland this past season thanks to injuries.
Rafael Perez – Twins, minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Perez battled injuries last season, but will try to make a comeback with the Twins this year.
Jeanmar Gomez – Pirates, traded for minor league outfielder Quincy Latimore after the Indians designated him for assignment to make room on the roster for Russ Canzler when they re-claimed him from Toronto. I always liked Gomez, but he was terribly inconsistent and when he looked bad, he looked really bad. He has a chance to make the Pirates’ starting rotation in 2013.
Derek Lowe – Nowhere. There were teams that had interest in Lowe, the Rockies were one of them. However, it sounds as if these teams were only willing to give him a minor league contract, and Lowe was holding out for a major league deal. I would guess that won’t be coming, unless someone gets desperate. He could also try to join a team mid-season, which may actually work for him. If you remember, he started out strong and then started to fall apart mid-year.
Esmil Rogers – Traded to Toronto for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. I really liked Rogers, but Aviles and Gomes are a solid return. Particularly when you consider that the Indians really got Rogers for nothing once the Rockies designated him for assignment.
Scott Maine – Marlins claimed him off waivers in November. Maine bounced around a lot, and spent some time in Indians’ bullpen. He’s on the Marlins’ 40-man roster, because their 40-man is pretty empty after this winter.
Roberto Hernandez – Rays, 1 year deal for $3.25 million and he can earn additional performance bonuses. It sounds as if the Rays are considering him as their fifth starter and possibly as a bullpen arm, so his place with the team will probably become more obvious toward the end of spring training. Rays manager Joe Maddon praised Hernandez on Twitter one day and said that he is “a good guy, a big teddy bear.” That is the next Hernandez scandal to break – he’s not really a human, but in fact a giant bear.
Dan Wheeler – Royals, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Some of Wheeler’s performances from last season still haunt me late at night. Godspeed Kansas City, Godspeed.
Tony Sipp – Went to Arizona in the Choo-Donald-Bauer-Stubbs deal. He had a rough year in 2012, but I always liked Sipp. Still, his departure was a small price to pay in order to acquire Trevor Bauer.
Chris Seddon - SK Wyverns, a team in South Korea. I couldn’t find anything about how much the SK Wyverns were going to pay Seddon, but he will be pitching overseas this year.
Jeremy Accardo – Nationals, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Accardo had a good spring last year and had some bright moments during the season. The Nationals have a lot of pitching, but I guess you can never have too much; especially when it comes to bullpen arms.
Jairo Asencio – Brewers, minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He ended up with the Cubs after the Indians let him go last season, but signed a minor league deal with their division rival in the offseason.
The vast majority of these players are on minor league deals, so there’s no guarantee they will make a major league roster outside of spring training. If they have a great spring, I’m sure these teams will find some room for them.