Mar 11, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta (7) looks back after losing his grip on his bat during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Matt LaPorta's Disappointing Ending

Matt LaPorta May Leave Via Free Agency

Few prospects have garnered the type of attention that was thrust upon Matt LaPorta. Acquired by the Indians prior to the 2008 trade deadline, LaPorta was the critical piece of the puzzle that sent the Tribe’s ace, C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers. Deemed a man among boys by many around the inner circle of baseball, LaPorta was believed to be the next great, can’t miss power hitter.

Only LaPorta did miss. He missed a lot actually, both literally and figuratively.

matt laporta

Feb 19, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta poses for a picture during photo day at the Indians Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it was because of holes in his swing, an unwillingness to make changes in his approach, injuries, or simply a lack of talent, Matt LaPorta just couldn’t stick at the big league level. During his on again off again tenure with the Indians, LaPorta turned in a .238/.301/.393 slash line with 31 home runs and 120 RBI. Those numbers are good if not great over the course of one season. For LaPorta, those numbers were compiled over the course of four disappointing seasons and 1068 plate appearances.

Now LaPorta finds himself as a minor league free agent and free to do as he pleases. If they can reach a mutual agreement, it is possible that Matt LaPorta could return to the Indians in 2014. If not, don’t be surprised to see LaPorta land somewhere else on a minor league deal with an invitation to someone’s big league camp this spring.

For a intents and purposes, it appears likely that LaPorta will sign elsewhere for the 2014 season. While the Indians probably wouldn’t mind bringing him back into the fold on a low risk, minor league contract, the fact of the matter remains that LaPorta would stand next to no chance of making the Indians big league roster out of spring training or probably at any point during to season. He’ll want to sign somewhere with a legitimate shot at making a big league roster.

And while things have not worked out with the Indians, don’t be surprised if someone snatches up LaPorta without thinking twice. As our good friend and fellow Wahoo’s on First staff writer, Steve Kinsella, likes to say, “Power plays.”

For all of the issues surrounding Matt LaPorta and his swing, the fact remains that he is as strong as an ox and when he makes solid contact he can hit the ball as far as anyone. Throw in the fact that LaPorta is in his physical prime, he’ll turn 29 in January, and he will probably have interest from several teams looking to catch lightning in a bottle. Perhaps getting away from the expectations of Cleveland and the constant reminder of the Sabathia trade would do him good.

And for those of you scoffing at the idea of LaPorta still having a promising career ahead of him, there have been several notable examples throughout the history of baseball for players breaking out later in their careers. Most recently we saw Chris Davis transform into one of the move prolific power hitters the game has ever seen. Perhaps all LaPorta needs is a change of scenery or the feedback of different coaches. Maybe if he goes somewhere else he will finally get the opportunity he was never really granted in Cleveland.

That said, if this is the end of the line for Matt LaPorta as a member of the Cleveland Indians, it will be forever remembered as one of the biggest and most disappointing failures in the history of the franchise. Given the expectations and the price to acquire him, LaPorta’s tenure with the team will not be remembered fondly. For his sake, thank goodness Michael Brantley emerged as a legitimate big league outfielder, otherwise the Sabathia trade may be even more hated than it already is.

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Tags: C. C. Sabathia Cleveland Indians Matt LaPorta Michael Brantley

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