Matt LaPorta Undergoes Surgery: Is His Indians Career Over?

News broke on Friday that Cleveland Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left hip on Wednesday. It’s the second time he’s needed such an operation, with his first coming almost exactly three years earlier. Recovery and rehab are expected to take three or four months.

Assuming LaPorta does not experience any setbacks he should be ready to play by mid-February,meaning he’d be healthy in time for the start of spring training. But given the situation LaPorta is in, one has to wonder if this surgery will signal the end of his tenure with the Tribe.

LaPorta has been something of a disappointment since coming to the Indians as the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade in 2008. After showing some impressive raw power as a rookie in 2009 (.188 ISO), he lost some of his pop in 2010. His plate discipline abandoned him in 2011 and he lost his starting job at the end of the season. And his struggles were only exacerbated in 2012, as he hit just .241/.267/.328 in 22 games across two cups of coffee with the big-league team.

That LaPorta barely got a chance to prove himself in the majors despite tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A doesn’t speak well for his future opportunities in Cleveland—some of that was because of Manny Acta, but if giving him the chance to redeem himself was a priority for the front office they would have kept LaPorta on the active roster longer and probably wouldn’t have traded for Lars Anderson.

LaPorta’s time in Cleveland already looked like it might be coming to a close. He’s out of options so he can’t just be reassigned to Triple-A Columbus if he doesn’t break camp with the Indians in March, and he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter so he’ll earn more than the $400,000 MLB minimum wage if he’s tendered a contract. A guaranteed 25-man roster spot and the potential for a seven-figure salary might be more than the Tribe would be willing to commit to him.

Given his struggles at the plate and the front office’s apparent lack of faith in him, 70 percent of respondents in our survey this month said they expect LaPorta to be suiting up for one of the other 29 teams next year. Now it seems even more unlikely. On top of all the preexisting uncertainty surrounding him, LaPorta will be coming off a serious procedure (four months sounds a lot more ominous than a trip to the 15-day DL) that he’d already had once before. A player who already might not be good enough to make the team will have devoted the offseason to recovering from an injury—not exactly a confidence-inspiring story.

I know I’m in the minority on this, but I still believe LaPorta has a chance to be a useful MLB player and perhaps even a middle-of-the-order hitter. But this news makes the already-risky proposition of tendering LaPorta a contract even dicier. His only chance of sticking around in Cleveland was to make the team more confident in him, so after this surgery it’s hard to imagine the Indians will keep him around for 2013.

Are Matt LaPorta's days with the Indians over?

  • Yes (57%, 8 Votes)
  • No (43%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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Tags: Cleveland Indians Matt LaPorta

  • Steve Kinsella

    You never let raw power walk out the door until you absolutely have to. Check the state of the Indians 40 man roster and ask – why not?

    Now, from a strategy standpoint, I do believe the Indians could remove him from the 40 and if he passes waivers outright him to AAA. If this happens he’d be property of the Indians for the 2013 season in Columbus and the option would come in to play if added back to 40 man and then tried to remove.

    So, the question I’d like to ask is this: If the Indians removed him from the 40 man this winter, given his injury history, does he go unclaimed? If the front office believes the answer is no than take the gamble. If the front office believes the answer to be yes then you roll with LaPorta through spring training and reassess the situation then.

    In short, his career with the Indians is on life support but that ending should come in late March and not early November.

  • Gvl Steve

    If LaPorta is arbitration eligible, then the team will almost certainly non-tender him. If they can still re-sign him after that to a minor league deal with a spring training invite, they probably will do that. LaPorta’s problems started when he injured the hip the first time. Maybe this 2nd surgery is an indication that it never fully healed. It would be nice to find a fixable solution to his lack of development. That would give hope for the possibility of a late bloomer.

  • Apple

    I hate to see the Tribe give up on Matt. I believe much of his problem had to do with Acta. I’m a season ticket holder in Columbus and Matt’s entire demeanor was different in Columbus than it was in Cleveland. He seemed to have a good relationship with Mike Sarbaugh. I like the approach Steve Kinsella posted earlier. I believe the talent is there. If the hip injury (how can you swing for power with a bad hip) clears up, you will see the player for whom the Indians traded.

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