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Indians sign OF Nyjer Morgan to minor-league deal, offer Spring Training invite

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The Cleveland Indians signed Nyjer Morgan to a minor league deal this week, inviting the outfielder to Spring Training camp.

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According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the former Milwaukee Brewer is poised to earn more than $1 million if he breaks camp with the Indians come April.

Morgan stands to be a cheap, low-risk restoration project for the Tribe. Following the signings of Ryan Raburn and David Murphy, the outfield is already fairly booked for the coming season. Even with Drew Stubbs getting sent to the Rockies last month, the Indians will expect Raburn and Murphy to join Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley in the outfield in 2014.

But in case one or more of them goes down in the meantime, and if Morgan can bounce back from a disastrous 2012, he could be a likely candidate to be a cheap fill-in. A six-year veteran of the National League, Morgan put up respectable offensive numbers most seasons for the Pirates, Nationals and most recently the Brewers.

Morgan batted .307 in 2009 in 533 plate appearances for the Pirates and Nationals. While he only recorded 25 extra-base hits and posted a slugging average akin to a hot-dog vendor, Morgan stole 42 bases and had a .369 on-base percentage. The speedy outfielder actually posted better-than-average on-base plus slugging figures in 2009 and 2011.

That led him to earning more than $2 million in a horrible 2012 campaign. Morgan is known for his brash and unpredictable antics; while this makes for entertaining interviews for local journalists, incidents like his misplaying a fly ball and throwing his glove over the outfield wall while the runner trotted home with an inside-the-park home run are less easily forgivable when he steals just 12 bases and bats .239, as he did in 2012.

Nyjer was out of MLB in 2013, spending the year with the Yokohama Bay Stars. He bounced back a bit from the previous year, batting .294 in Japan with 50 runs batted in. He only stole three bases however, walked 27 times compared to 81 strikeouts, and managed to slug as many home runs in 424 plate appearances (11) as he had in his entire MLB career.

If successful, Morgan would be the next in a line of low-risk outfielders who have seen time with the Indians in recent years, such as Johnny Damon and Austin Kearns.

But is he likely, on a team with utility players in place for 2014 such as Jason Giambi and Mike Aviles, to break camp with the team? Probably not, though it's not impossible. More than likely, he stands to be a cheap and temporary replacement in case fellow lefties Michael Brantley or David Murphy go down.

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