Finally, some action!
If you actually owned an Austin Kearns Indians jersey, don’t re-gift that sucker quite yet, as the Indians have signed Kearns to a one-year major league contract for $1.3 million, plus incentives.
The Indians signed Kearns to a minor league contract last offseason, and got quite a bit of bang for their buck. Kearns hit 8 home runs with a .354 OBP, playing mostly part time in left field before he was traded to the New York Yankees in July. The Indians received RHP Zach McAllster in exchange for Kearns, who put up s0-so numbers in Triple-A, but is only 23 and was rostered this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. McAllister projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Not too shabby for a guy who was originally viewed as roster filler (Kearns, that is).
The speculation is that as soon as Kearn’s contract is finalized, OF/DH Shelley Duncan will be designated for assignment. Even though I would much rather see Trevor Crowe DFA’ed, Duncan brings the same skill set as Kearns (except Kearns is, y’know, better) making Duncan redundant. Also, I think the Indians privately believe they can re-sign Duncan to a minor league contract and keep him around.
Kearns’s signing brings the Indians’ committed payroll to about $29.42 million, but they still have to add all the 1 year tender guys, and whatever Chris Perez, Asdubal Cabrera, and Shin-Soo Choo sign (Thanks to Nino Colla at the Tribe Daily for this info, saved me a bunch of time). My personal projection is that after all those players sign, the Indians’ payroll will probably be around $50 million. I’m sure many of the snarky cynics will scoff at that, but I’m totally cool with this. All of the Indians’ young talent is controlled well past this season. Tony at Indians Prospect Insider put together a payroll chart and it’s quite reassuring. The only real player of importance to be a free agent befoer 2013 is Grady Sizemore (and who knows what happens with him). That’s a lot of payroll flexibility, and bodes well for the Indians to keep together a core group of players. Whether or not they have the right core is yet to be seen.
But the Kearns signing is welcome as it was an area of need that had a lot of available options. The contract is reasonable, and Kearns, by all accounts, was a stand-up guy and good teammate. And hey, he’s not David Dellucci.