Jordan Bastian of MLB.com first reported that the Indians were close to signing former Detroit Tiger Ryan Raburn to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training and early Saturday evening Jon Heyman confirmed that the Indians and Rayburn had reached an agreement.
Raburn will turn 32 years old on April 17 and is looking to rebound after a disastrous 2012 season in which he posted a slash line of .171/.226/.254. The 2012 season was very frustrating and for the first time in his career he was placed on the disabled list not once but twice.
The time spent on the disabled list cost him all of August (sprained thumb) and all of September (strained right quad). MLB Trade Rumors had projected Raburn to earn $2.1M salary in arbitration and as he was coming off such a poor season the Tigers non-tendered him.
One of Raburn’s biggest strengths is the ability to play both infield and outfield. From 2009 through 2012 he has played left field (265 games), right field (114 games), and second base (143 games), as well as a handful of games at third base (33), first base (13) and center field (35).
Another one of his strengths is his ability to hit left handed pitching. His career slash line against left-handed pitchers in 730 plate appearances is .256/.324/.472 with a wOBA of .345 and a wRC+ of 111, though in 989 chances versus righties he has posted a slash line of only .257/.300/.400 a wOBA of .306 and a wRC+ of 85.
Raburn may be signing a minor-league deal, but barring injury or noticeable deterioration of skills odds are very favorable that he will be on the Opening Day roster. He provides the team with depth in the infield and at both corner outfield positions and his bat will help bolster a lineup that posted AL lows for OPS (.664) and HR (40) against southpaw pitchers in 2012.
His versatility could also be an indication that a reunion with either Travis Hafner or Jim Thome is not out of the question as neither player would bring a glove with them to camp and would be only part time candidates as the Tribe designated hitter. The signing of Raburn will certainly make it more difficult for Ezequiel Carrera to make the team as a fifth outfielder especially if Rule 5 draftee Chris McGuiness takes the last bench spot.