The Indians’ signing of 1B Casey Kotchman is just another “bleh” move made by the front office this off-season. The best thing you can say about it is that it didn’t cost GM Chris Antonetti that much money.
Hardly a ringing endorsement.
Kotchman is a slap hitter at a position that demands power. His slugging percentage last season, his best year since 2007, was .422, a figure that is ten points higher than the much maligned Matt LaPorta.
The Indians point out that their new first baseman ranking in the top ten in the AL in batting average and on base percentage, so perhaps he can hit leadoff for the 2012 Tribe.
However, he’s a lifetime .268 hitter and his career OBP is a pedestrian .336.
In other words, it’s not likely he repeat his 2011 numbers this season.
Maybe Manny Acta can hit him in the leadoff spot, a bold move considering he plays first base, but his hitting skill set seems to fit better there than in the middle of the order.
Kotchman is a very good defensive player, so he will be a help there, but remember, Manny Acta likes to keep Carlos Santana’s bat in the lineup when he’s not catching, so the newest Indian will probably sit a couple of days a week.
Antonetti has spent some money this winter, but has he spent wisely?
First of all, they’ve spent $8 million on two free agents who may or may not provide an impact on the ’12 Tribe: OF Grady Sizemore and Kotchman.
Both are left-handed hitters as well, despite the fact Cleveland needs a right-handed hitter desperately.
Sizemore has not had a good year since 2008, because of injuries, and Kotchman had mediocre seasons from 2008-2010.
Does anyone feel warm and fuzzy about both coming through big in the upcoming season?
The Indians had to give hefty raises to several players to avoid arbitration, including 3B Jack Hannahan ($1.1 million) and southpaw relief pitcher Rafael Perez ($2 million).
Both players have lower cost alternatives on the 40 man roster: Lonnie Chisenhall showed why he is a top prospect last season during his time in the bigs, and lefty Nick Hagadone could have filled Perez’ role.
Could the Indians have used the $11 million spent here to get a grade A free agent, such as Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, or starter Edwin Jackson?
Let’s put it another way, would you trade Sizemore, Hannahan, and Perez to get either Cuddyer or Jackson? And if you did, would the team be better because of it?
It says here yes!
Once again, it seems the Indians’ philosophy is to sign guys they can get, instead of trying to build a team that can win the AL Central Division.
One of the things heard when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder is that Detroit had the run differential of a team that should have won 89 games, not the 95 they accumulated, meaning the Tigers had luck on their side.
But the Indians have the run differential of a team that should have won 75 games, not 80. They were a little lucky as well.
It appears that Antonetti is putting his eggs in the “everyone will stay healthy” basket. Certainly, having Shin-Soo Choo return to his 2009-10 form will help the hitting, and Santana will improve as well.
Otherwise, the Tribe is hoping for solid years from guys who haven’t done it in a while (Sizemore and Travis Hafner), haven’t done it frequently (Kotchman), and have never done it (Jason Kipnis and Chisenhall) to score runs.
That doesn’t seem like an air-tight strategy.
There is no question that Antonetti tried to get some big name bats (Carlos Beltran, Willingham, Cuddyer) and took a shot at Jackson as well, but ultimately, they didn’t get any of them.
If the Tribe didn’t guess right on most of their moves this winter, and history shows they won’t, it could be another summer spent looking up to our neighbors in Motown.