Even with pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training on approach, the Indians front office made two 11th hour minor league signings they hope will bolster the team’s depth and make the pre-season roster competition a bit more exciting.
Giambi hanging on to the big leagues
As wild of an off-season as the Indians have had, perhaps Giambi will fit right at home. The former Rockies veteran was at one point this winter a finalist for the Denver club’s manager’s job and then their hitting coach position.
Instead, he signed with the Tribe for a $750,000 deal if he manages to make the opening day roster.
Giambi, who sports an MVP and five all-star appearances, is an 18-year veteran of the Rockies, Yankees and Athletics. From 1996 to 2003, he was one of the most dominant hitters in baseball, averaging 69 extra base hits a season including 33 home runs, 110 runs batted in and 100 walks a year.
In that stretch, he also carried an incredible .417 on-base percentage.
The Indians can only hope that Giambi, fighting for their DH spot, can be a shadow of his former self. Age and a rash of injuries have caught up to him, appearing in just 78 games a season between 2009 and 2012. Last year with the Rockies, he managed just 31 plate appearances as a bench bat.
But with the Indians, Giambi could fit in nicely as the regular DH, ready to mentor younger stars and provide a cheap bat from the left side, with Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo both dealt to other clubs this offseason.
Indians ‘roll the Dice-K’
The Tribe is also taking a shot on former Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, signing him to a $1.5 million deal if the crafty right-hander makes the opening day rotation. Signed in 2007 from the Japanese league, Matsuzaka never lived up to the hype he carried from overseas.
After a promising 15-12 campaign in his MLB debut season, his lack of control became a consistent problem. That first year, he walked 80 batters in just over 200 innings with a 1.324 WHIP but a decent 201 strikeout mark.
The following season, he cut his ERA down to just 2.90, but wildness remained his weakness. Despite the lowest hits allowed per nine innings, he held the identical WHIP as the previous year as he walked the most batters in the league with 94 free passes.
In the four years since, including time off last year following Tommy John surgery, Dice-K only managed over 60 innings once, a 2010 season where his ERA ballooned to 4.69 and ERA+ measured him at below the league average.
His signing will reunite him in Cleveland with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, and hopefully the familiar presence will bring a refreshed Matsuzaka back to his old form. As a 32-year old, his signing can only help the Tribe this year with added depth to the rotation if he makes the opening day roster.
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