Local News

Indians: Tribe arbitration streak still intact

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The Indians avoided an arbitration hearing for another season, agreeing to terms Friday on a one-year contract with their only remaining arbitration eligible player, All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera will earn $4.55 million in 2012. The contract was $75,000 above the midpoint of what Cabrera was asking at arbitration ($5.2 million) and the $3.75 million Cleveland was offering.

The Indians have not gone to arbitration with a player since 1991.

Indians glad to have Kotchman and vice versa

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

CLEVELAND — The Indians have been after Casey Kotchman for awhile. They officially got him Friday.

“We feel like we brought in a guy that complements our group very well,” Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti said of Kotchman, a free-agent first baseman who signed a one-year contract worth

$3 million plus incentives ($1.75 million). “We’ve had long-standing interest in Casey and his abilities.”

Antonetti tried to lure Kotchman to Cleveland prior to last season, which wound up being Kotchman’s best in six-plus years in the majors. Kotchman chose to sign with Tampa Bay instead.

The Rays brought Carlos Pena back to play first this year, and the Indians, who pursued both Pena and Kotchman this offseason, landed Kotchman on their second try.

“I’m really excited to join the club,” said Kotchman, who batted a career-high .306 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs in 146 games for Tampa Bay last year.

“Just seeing how great a start (the Indians) got off to last year. That was fun for me to watch on the outside, just being a fan of baseball and seeing how good they were playing.

“For me to have the opportunity to go up there this season and try to help contribute to sustaining that start, it’s exciting.”

Though Kotchman, 28, is coming off an impressive year at the plate, the career .268 hitter is expected to provide an even bigger boost to Cleveland’s defense.

First base was a weak link for the Indians last season, with Cleveland players at the position — largely, Matt LaPorta — committing more errors (12) than Kotchman owns during his entire career at first (11). It is a statistic that Kotchman humorously pointed out to Antonetti during a conversation this offseason.

“He’s a standout defensive player, among the best defenders at first base throughout baseball,” Antonetti said. “He not only improves our defense at first base, but he also improves our defense overall in the infield.”

Kotchman, who has committed just three errors the past three seasons, is anxious to join an infield that backs up a sinkerball-laden rotation.

“With the pitching staff, with all the groundball pitchers that they have,” Kotchman said, “and the acrobatic (Asdrubal) Cabrera at short, it’ll be fun for me to be a part of.”

The Indians have all but handed the starting job to Kotchman, meaning LaPorta, who has been a disappointment at the plate and in the field as the regular at first the past two seasons, will be vying for a roster spot as a bench player.

“Matt will come to camp and compete for a job, but there’s one less job to compete for, which is the regular first base job,” Antonetti said. “We’ll see where Matt is at this spring.”

With minor league options available, it is likely that LaPorta will start the year at Triple-A Columbus, if he isn’t traded.

Antonetti said the addition of a first baseman does not necessarily mean the club is finished acquiring players. Cleveland has already signed starting pitcher Derek Lowe and a host of relievers to minor league contracts with invitations to big league training camp.

“I’d like to continue to try to improve,” he said. “I think we’ve been able to address some of our major needs this offseason. I think we’ve accomplished a lot, but certainly, we’re always looking to improve the club anyway we can.”

Negotiating table

Cabrera, the Indians’ lone arbitration eligible player, is in town to discuss a long-term contract with the club.

Cabrera’s arbitration hearing is scheduled in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Cleveland looks to avoid going to arbitration for the first time since 1991.

Cabrera, who said Thursday at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards that he would prefer a multiyear contract, is asking for $5.2 million at arbitration, while the Indians are offering $3.75 million.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

 

 

Indians: Kotchman signing is official

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

CLEVELAND — The Indians have been after Casey Kotchman for awhile. They officially got him Friday.

Cleveland confirmed that it had signed Kotchman to a one-year contract worth $3 million plus incentives ($1.75 million), announcing as much less than 24 hours after reports surfaced that the club had signed the free-agent first baseman.

“We feel like we brought in a guy that complements our group very well,” Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti said. “We’ve had long-standing interest in Casey and his abilities.”

Antonetti tried to lure Kotchman to Cleveland prior to last season, which wound up being Kotchman’s best in six-plus years in the majors after he chose to sign with Tampa Bay instead.

The Rays brought Carlos Pena back to play first this year, and the Indians, who pursued both Pena and Kotchman this offseason, landed Kotchman on their second try.

“I’m really excited to join the club,” said Kotchman, who batted a career-high .306 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs in 146 games for Tampa Bay last year. “Just seeing how great a start (the Indians) got off to last year. That was fun for me to watch on the outside, just being a fan of baseball and seeing how good they were playing.

“For me to have the opportunity to go up there this season and try to help contribute to sustaining that start, it’s exciting.”

Though Kotchman, 28, is coming off an impressive year at the plate, the career .268 hitter is expected to provide an even bigger boost to Cleveland’s defense.

First base was a weak link for the Indians last season, with Cleveland players at the position – largely, Matt LaPorta – committing more errors (12) than Kotchman owns during his entire career at first (11). It is a statistic that Kotchman humorously pointed out to Antonetti during a conversation this offseason.

“He’s a standout defensive player, among the best defenders at first base throughout baseball,” Antonetti said. “He not only improves our defense at first base, but he also improves our defense overall in the infield.”

Kotchman, who has committed just three errors the past three seasons, is anxious to join an infield that backs up a sinkerball-laden rotation.

“With the pitching staff, with all the groundball pitchers that they have,” Kotchman said, “and the acrobatic (Asdrubal) Cabrera at short, it’ll be fun for me to be a part of.”

The Indians have all but handed the starting job to Kotchman, meaning LaPorta, who has been a disappointment at the plate and in the field as the regular at first the past two seasons, will be vying for a roster spot as a bench player.

“Matt will come to camp and compete for a job, but there’s one less job to compete for, which is the regular first base job,” Antonetti said. “We’ll see where Matt is at this spring.”

With minor league options available, it is likely that LaPorta will start the year at Triple-A Columbus, if he isn’t traded.

Antonetti said the addition of a first baseman does not necessarily mean the club is finished acquiring players. Cleveland has already signed starting pitcher Derek Lowe and a host of relievers to minor league contracts with invitations to big league training camp.

“I’d like to continue to try to improve,” he said. “I think we’ve been able to address some of our major needs this offseason. I think we’ve accomplished a lot, but certainly, we’re always looking to improve the club anyway we can.”

 

Negotiating table

Cabrera, the Indians’ lone arbitration eligible player, is in town to discuss a long-term contract with the club.

Cabrera’s arbitration hearing is scheduled in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Cleveland looks to avoid going to arbitration for the first time since 1991.

Cabrera, who said Thursday at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards that he would prefer a multi-year contract, is asking for $5.2 million at arbitration, while the Indians are offering $3.75 million.

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Indians hope they’ve solved problem at first base by picking up Casey Kotchman

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

CLEVELAND — It appears the Indians have finally found their first baseman.

.

Cleveland agreed to terms Thursday with free agent Casey Kotchman on a one-year contract worth $3 million plus incentives. The deal is not official but pending a physical will likely be announced today.

The move comes just two days after the Indians traded cash to Tampa Bay for first baseman Russ Canzler, who was the International League MVP at Triple-A Durham last year.

If Kotchman’s acquisition becomes official, it will complete a lengthy process for the Indians, who have searched all offseason for a replacement for first baseman Matt LaPorta.

But the move isn’t just to replace LaPorta’s anemic bat.

“He’ll make all of our infielders better, because he’s as good around the bag as any first baseman in the game,” Mark Shapiro, Indians president and former GM, said of Kotchman at Thursday night’s Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. “Defense was definitely part of the equation for us.

“He’s still young, and we feel we’re getting him at the right time.”

Cleveland was in the market for free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena, reportedly offering him more money (one year, $8 million) than Tampa Bay but ultimately losing out to the Rays, who signed Pena to replace Kotchman.

The Indians then turned their attention to the 28-year-old Kotchman, who had his best year of six-plus in the majors last season, batting .306 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs in 146 games for the Rays.

Handing the job to Kotchman doesn’t appear likely, but he will come to spring training as all but a lock to win the starting spot at first in a competition with LaPorta and Cantzler — both of whom have minor league options.

Kotchman, a career .268 hitter, is a vast defensive improvement — .998 fielding percentage at first base — for the Indians, who have watched LaPorta struggle at the plate and in the field as the regular starter the past two seasons.

But he doesn’t fill Cleveland’s need for a power-hitting right-handed bat — another area of interest for the Indians this offseason.

The left-handed hitting Kotchman has just 59 career homers, and LaPorta’s power numbers last year — 11 homers and 53 RBIs — outweighed Kotchman, who had 500 at-bats to LaPorta’s 352.

The Indians, who have been active this offseason, could still make more moves, but anything substantial seems unlikely at this point. That means they could enter the season with two switch-hitters — Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana — and seven left-handed hitters in their projected batting order.

Shapiro said he’s not concerned about that.

“Just having a right-handed bat does not help,” he said. “You need the best hitters possible.”

LaPorta, the key cog in the 2008 trade with Milwaukee for CC Sabathia, now appears destined to begin the season at Triple-A Columbus. He could win a spot as a utility infielder/outfielder, but that job is likely to go to veteran Shelley Duncan, who is without minor league options and was a contributor off the bench for the Indians last year.

Streak stopper?

It’s down to Asdrubal.

Relief pitcher Rafael Perez agreed to a one year-contract Thursday, leaving Cabrera, the Indians’ all-star shortstop, as the club’s only remaining arbitration-eligible player.

Cabrera, who stands in the way of a lengthy arbitration-less streak for the Indians, is asking for $5.2 million in 2012. Cleveland, which hasn’t had an arbitration case heard since two (Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne) in 1991, is offering $3.75 million. Cabrera made $2.03 million in 2011.

Major League Baseball arbitration cases began being heard Wednesday. Cabrera’s date has been scheduled but not revealed.

The 26-year-old Cabrera, who hit .273 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs in 151 games last year, started for the American League in the All-Star Game.

Perez, 29, did his part to keep Cleveland’s arbitration streak intact, signing a one-year deal that will pay him $2,005,000 in 2012.

The left-hander, who went 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 71 games last year, was asking for $2.4 million at arbitration, while the Indians were offering $1.6 million. He made $1.33 million last season.

Perez, who has been a staple at the back end of Cleveland’s bullpen since 2008, will earn a $25,000 performance bonus should he appear in 55 games in 2012, a total he’s reached in three of the past four seasons. His 71 appearances last year ranked second among AL relievers.

The Indians entered the offseason with seven arbitration-eligible players. They have agreed to terms with six of them — Perez, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Justin Masterson, Jack Hannahan and Joe Smith.

More Shapiro

Shaprio said he had no updates on Fausto Carmona’s situation.

The pitcher, discovered to actually be Roberto Hernandez Heredia when he was arrested in the Dominican Republic on false identity charges last month (and 31 years old instead of 28) has been placed on the restricted list.

“It’s not ours to handle right now,” Shapiro said. “We’ll wait to see what happens and we’ll adjust from there.”

As for the Tigers signing one of baseball’s top free agents in power-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder, Shapiro said he isn’t discouraged or any less optimistic about the Indians’ chances this season.

“We feel if we’re the team we can be, we’ll be a power in the division,” he said.

Chronicle-Telegram assistant sports editor Scott Petrak contributed to t his report. Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.