If the rumors are correct, (there’s been nothing official from the team yet) the Indians have officially made their first free agent splash of the offseason, as they’ll sign former Rangers outfielder David Murphy to a two-year, $10 million deal. Murphy had a down year in 2013 with Texas, as he hit just .220/.282/.374 with 13 home runs. He had a fantastic 2012 though (.304/.380/.479 with 15 homers) and his career numbers are a respectable .275/.337/.441. If he’d duplicated his 2012 numbers in 2013, he probably would have been priced out of the Indians’ reach.
If you’re counting, this leaves a relatively crowded outfield – Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Raburn, and now David Murphy. Even though Stubbs has been mentioned as a non-tender candidate (since he could make between $3 million and $4 million at arbitration), according to Buster Olney he’s drawing a lot of trade interest. It would make sense to tender Stubbs a contract, and then trade him to fill another hole on the roster. A platoon between Murphy and Raburn would seem to work – Murphy, a left-handed hitter, has a career .280/.347/.469 line against right-handed pitching. Raburn, a right-handed hitter, has a career .263/.336/.492 line against left-handed pitching, and hit .308/.403/.617 against lefties in 2013.
Jacob Rosen, a writer at Waiting for Next Year, mentioned an interesting theory – trade Michael Bourn instead (he also discusses the Murphy signing in a blog post at WFNY). The primary idea being that it would free up salary, and it’s possible that he may net a better return on the trade market. I think it’s probably safe to guess that we’ll see a companion move to the Murphy signing at some point in the near future. If the Indians follow the pattern of last offseason, some of the moves seem to make more sense once everything comes together. Even though a Murphy signing may not blow anyone out of the water, it could serve as the warning shot for subsequent moves.
Here are some other rumors and news connected to the Indians:
– I mentioned Tim Hudson among potential pitcher bargains. The Indians were rumored to have interest in Hudson, but he just signed with the San Francisco Giants for two years, $23 million.
– Another potential pitching bargain was Josh Johnson. According to MLB Trade Rumors, he’s narrowed it down to three or four teams, but all are in the National League. There are rumors that the Pirates made a very strong offer and are one of the finalists. EDIT: Literally as I was posting this, it was announced that he signed with the Padres.
– Also from MLB Trade Rumors, there are a number of teams with interest in Matt Albers and it’s possible he could receive a two-year deal from someone.
– Reliever LaTroy Hawkins recently signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Rockies. According to Bob Nightengale, the Indians, Mets, and Braves were finalists for Hawkins’ services.
– The Indians also supposedly have interest in Brian Wilson, along with at least six other teams (including division rival Detroit).
– There are a lot of American League teams with interest in Carlos Beltran, and the Indians are reportedly one of them. The Indians have had interest in Beltran for several years, although he has spurned them on two different occasions. He rejected a trade to Cleveland during the 2011 season, and chose St. Louis instead of the Indians prior to the 2012 season. I put Beltran into the “dream on” category. Even though the Indians have a full outfield, I’m sure they’d still welcome Beltran with open arms if he actually agreed to come to Cleveland. He’ll likely get a richer offer, or an offer from a more preferred team.
– Matt LaPorta is eligible to be a free agent this winter and it doesn’t sound as if he’ll remain with the organization.