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Indians Making Minor Moves to Bolster Roster


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The Cleveland Indians have several pieces of trade bait in their possession this offseason and it is expected that at some point, they will have to make a decision regarding closer Chris Perez, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. For the time being however, it has been business as usual for the frugal-spending Indians ownership, and they have made just a handful of minor-league deals and acquisitions while teams like Toronto have jumped on opportunities to completely overhaul their roster, and greatly increase their strength to compete within their division.

The Tribe started the week by signing outfielder Matt Carson and Cedric Hunter to minor-league contracts and extended a non-roster invitation to Spring Training to both men. The 31-year old Carson is in his 12 th professional season and has three big-league stops under his belt for the A’s and the Twins. Hunter, 24, has 7 years of experience in the Pirates and Cardinals systems under his belt and both men are expected to compete for a bench job this spring. The Indians have only one lock for 2012 in the outfield and that is center fielder Michael Brantley, but neither Carson nor Hunter is expected to make enough of an impact this spring to earn them a starting position.

On Tuesday, the Tribe added four minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster to avoid then being eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Tribe purchased the contracts of Chin-Chang Lee and Tim Fedroff from Triple-A Columbus, and Trey Haley and T.J. House from Double-A Akron to ensure that they will remain a part of the Tribe’s system for the foreseeable future. In order to make room on the roster for the four men, the Indians had to make some difficult decisions regarding two players who did not live up to their expectations in 2012.

First, the Indians out righted first baseman Matt LaPorta to Columbus more-or-less ending any chances that the big right-hander will figure into the Tribe’s future plans moving forward. LaPorta was the key acquisition in the 2008 deal between the Indians and the Brewers that saw CY-Young winner CC Sabathia leave the Tribe and help Milwaukee rejuvenate themselves into a playoff contender. The Tribe had extremely high expectations for LaPorta, but he never developed into the power-hitting first baseman that the Indians envisioned him to be. Instead, LaPorta has bounced up and down between Cleveland and Columbus for the past three seasons, and hit .241 with one home run and five RBIs during his stint with the Indians in 2012. At 27-years old, it is unlikely that LaPorta is going to develop any further and thus, the Indians have clearly made a statement to the youngster that his time has come and gone for this organization.

The Tribe also outrighted utility man Brent Lillibridge to Columbus. Lillibridge was sent to the Tribe via trade from Boston on July 24 th, but he managed to hit just .216 in 43 games with the Indians last season. Overall, Lillibridge posted a .195 average over 102 games with the Tribe, Red Sox and White Sox in 2012. At 29, Lillibridge is eligible for arbitration this winter, and if he chooses to accept his minor-league assignment is a candidate to be non-tendered by the Indians.

On Friday, the Indians inked a minor-league deal with veteran pitcher Fernando Nieve and extended a non-roster invitation to Spring Training to the right-hander. Last season, Nieve pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate and posted a 7-9 record with a 5.96 ERA in 25 appearances. He has 99 career major-league appearances and posts a career record of 8-11 with a 4.61 ERA during stints with the Astros and Mets. The Indians also announced that they were claiming 23-year old first baseman Mike McDade off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. To make room for McDade on their 40-man roster, the Indians designated left-hander Chris Seddon for assignment. McDade made his Triple-A debut last season and played in 18 games for the Blue Jays’ Las Vegas affiliate batting .338 (24-for-71). McDade also played in 100 games for Double-A New Hampshire hitting .275 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs. McDade is a ways off from making an impact on the Tribe’s roster, but he certainly is expected to give them some depth in the minors and should be ready should they need help later in the season.


By Robert Gonzalez
Cleveland Indians Correspondent

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