With the Mark Reynolds signing now official, the Cleveland Indians had make room for him on the 40-man roster. The team decided that the best way to clear the space was to designate Russ Canzler for assignment. Was that the right choice?
Canzler could very well end up sticking with the Indians if he clears waivers and accepts a minor league contract. After hitting .314/.401/.530 with 40 doubles and 18 home runs in Triple-A in 2011, when he won the International League MVP, Canzler hit “just” .265/.328/.487 with 36 doubles and 22 home runs in Columbus. And, while the team was starved for a right-handed hitting outfielder, they never called upon the 26-year-old until rosters expanded in September.
With Canzler gone, the 40-man roster has an interesting list to choose from for the designated hitter spot: Lou Marson, Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles, Juan Diaz, Mike McDade, Chris McGuiness, Cord Phelps, Ezequiel Carrera, Tim Fedroff, and Thomas Neal. Assuming that the Indians don’t sign Nick Swisher, who left Cleveland on Tuesday without signing a contract, then right field will be filled by Carrera, Fedroff, or Neal.
So who’s left to be the designated hitter? Will Terry Francona use the DH spot as a revolving resting spot, moving the everyday players to that spot to take a day off from the field? The presence of Mike Aviles will provide a few days of rest for Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Lonnie Chisenhall at second, third, and short. Marson can step in for Carlos Santana behind the plate, saving the knees of the Tribe’s (potentially) best player.
Does Chris Antonetti have a backup plan? Will the team re-sign Travis Hafner on the cheap? Would Jim Thome like to finish his career where it started? Can Raul Ibanez provide a spark like he did for the Yankees in the playoffs last year? Maybe Luke Scott or Lyle Overbay would sign on the cheap to be a potential first base and DH option?
Cleveland does have some internal options at DH:
- McGuiness, a left-handed hitter, is a Rule V pick from the Texas Rangers. If the Indians don’t keep him on their 25-man roster, they’ll have to offer him back to Texas for $25,000 before placing him on waivers and eventually sending him to the minors. He’s unlikely to make it through after hitting .268/.366/.474 with 23 home runs and 25 doubles in Double-A in 2012.
- Mike McDade was a solid pickup from the Toronto Blue Jays, who dumped him after they stole all of the Miami Marlins‘ good players earlier this offseason. McDade, a switch-hitter, hit .285/.360/.445 with 17 home runs and 19 doubles between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012.
- Let us not forget that Matt LaPorta, who accepted a minor league contract after no one picked him up through waivers earlier this offseason, is still with the team. He could get an opportunity in spring training, although the first base and DH position will be very crowded.
There is still some time for the roster to come together, but Antonetti probably isn’t done making changes this offseason. The team could really use an upgrade in right field, and a veteran bat to plug into the DH spot would also be valuable. We can’t forget about the need for another starting pitcher, as the team could use the depth if only due to Carlos Carrasco potentially having an innings limit in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s still early, Tribe fans!