*2/10 Added Jason Giambi & Daisuke Matsuzaka
In order to fill up the Spring Training roster and possibly find some gems in what was a very shallow free agent class, the Indians have invited a few players to Goodyear that are not on the 40 man roster. Because these players are generally lower level or career minor leaguers or has-been Major Leaguers, Burning River Baseball will provide you with a primer, helping you learn about the new kids in camp.
Hernandez is essentially a AAAA middle infielder, bouncing from AA to AAA and the Major Leagues from 2006 to the present. Most of his time over the years has been spent at short stop, but he has a decent amount of experience at second and has played a little at third as well. Since the Indians have a very durable short stop and second baseman, he would have to make the team as the reserve corner infielder, extra outfielder and pinch runner. His stolen base efficiency is nothing to get excited about however, and Mike Aviles looks to be a super utility man, making a player like Hernandez seem unnecessary.
Jeroloman has been a catcher in the Blue Jays minor league system throughout his entire professional career, but is yet to make the pros. Toronto initially had high hopes for the young catcher, but as the years went by, he was passed over multiple times and ended up spending most of 2012 back in AA after making it to AAA for the first time in 2008. Now the Jays have officially given up on him, so the Indians will allow the 27 year old back stop to play catch with Indians pitchers this Spring. There is a good chance he will be out of the organization again by April, but in the meantime he will be able to bring his years of minor league experience to help along the Indians minor league pitchers and the other former Blue Jay, Yan Gomes.
In an effort to "add depth to the utility position" the Indians are bringing former Tiger, Ryan Raburn to Spring Training. Rayburn is one of the worst all around players in baseball. Last season Raburn hit .171 in 66 games in what was either a fluke season or the beginning of the end of his career. The best case scenario with Raburn looks to be that if he returns to form (like when he hit .256 in 2011 with 14 home runs), he will provide a good versatile utility man for the Columbus Clippers.
I refuse to write a section on LaPorta just because he is a non-roster invitee this you. You all know who he is. I just hope he doesn't take at bats away from young players like Chris McGuiness, Jesus Aguilar and Mike McDade who the Indians should be seriously taking a look at.
Santos is an older back-up catcher heading into his age 32 season. He has only played in the Majors for four professional seasons for a total of 121 games. His best season was a pretty solid year for the Mets in 2009 when he hit 14 doubles and 7 home runs. He will most likely just be an extra backstop during the first week after pitchers and catchers report when there are many more pitchers ready to throw than there are catchers to catch them. The idea of a 32 year old rarely successful catcher passing both Marson and Gomes on the depth chart seems outrageous at this point.
In an effort to increase the average age of the Indians roster, the Tribe has invited the 42 year old former AL MVP into camp for a chance to win the designated hitter role. After failing to secure Travis Hafner or Jim Thome to low cost contracts, Cleveland brought in Giambi with a minor league deal with a maximum salary of $750,000. Giambi hit just a single home run while batting .225 last season in Colorado and doesn't have a huge chance of making the team, but unlike the majority of the people listed here, he doesn't have much competition either. He could be used at the beginning of the season as the starting DH until another player shows they are ready for the position.
Jesus Aguilar – 1B
Roberto Perez – C
Hunter is a centerfielder that was originally drafted by the Padres and most recently played in the Cardinals organization. He has spent the last three seasons at the AAA level, but is yet to make his Major League debut. His numbers have been ok, but not great by any standard and he will probably never be a Major Leaguer. His best attribute is that he doesn't strike out too much. In fact, he has walked more than he struck out in each season starting in 2010. This is a big turnaround from his first couple years, where he was striking out almost twice as often as he walked. There is essentially no chance of Hunter making the Indians or any other team this Spring.
Carson has played in AAA since 2008 while playing in the Yankees, Athletics, Rays and Twins farm systems. The 31 year old has hit more than 150 home runs in his minor league career and almost 600 RBI. Carson has spent the majority of his time playing right field, but since he is past his prime, there is little chance of him improving with a jump to the pros. Unless signing aging minor leaguers is a new branch of the Cleveland Indians Charities, this signing makes no sense.
Like the other two outfielders, Spears is a long-term minor leaguer that has yet to make his Major League debut. The Indians must have at least five players already in the system, but not on the 40 man roster that are more talented and closer to the Majors than any of these players. Hopefully, these three MiLB lifers will not be taking at bats away from those players (like Tim Fedroff, Jeremie Tice, Tyler Holt and others).
In the most exciting Spring Training signing, Ben Francisco will be coming back to compete for an outfield bench position on the 2013 Indians. With no favorite designated hitter or second utility man as of yet, Francisco actually has a decent chance of rejoining the Indians. He was a fan favorite while with the team prior to being traded to Philadelphia with Cliff Lee. While he hasn't been the same player since leaving Cleveland in 2009, he is still able to produce a little power and great defense from a bench role.
The former Marlins prospect will be in camp with the Indians after a disappointing career to this point. He spent most of the last two seasons with San Diego, but only played 43 total games at the Major League level during that time. Early in his career he showed a lot of power, hitting 43 home runs over three seasons with Florida, but he has only hit eight since leaving the Marlins prior to 2010. He is essentially a cheap chance for the Indians as they hope he can play somewhere near the level he was originally projected to. With the Indians still without a designated hitter, they could possibly hold on to Hermida as a platoon DH/PH against right handed pitchers.
Nieve is a relief pitcher that is not only younger than most of the other invitees (at 30 years old), but has much more Major League experience (99 games over four years). While he is by no means a good pitcher, he could be used on the roster if the Indians lost about six pitchers to injury or trade before the season starts. His greatest use would be in AAA, waiting for a chance if someone else fails at the highest level. Nieve hasn't been in the pros since 2010 and spent the last two seasons in the AAA as a starting pitcher (between the Astros and Dodgers).
Gil is a reformed infielder who converted to pitcher in 2008. Since converting, he has played in the Reds and Blue Jays minor league systems, playing all of last season in Las Vegas. He went 7-1 as a reliever, but was not as impressive as that would seem, keeping an ERA around 5.00 and a WHIP over 1.30. He is nowhere near the talent level it takes to be in the Indians bullpen, but he should continue his progress as a reliever in Columbus.
Paredes will be playing away from Seattle for the first time since being signed prior to the 2006 season. He spent 2012 away from American Baseball, but is attempting a comeback after pitching in the Dominican Winter League. He is essentially a left handed match-up reliever, but isn't particularly good at what he does. Through six minor league seasons, Paredes has thrown 444 innings and allowed 230 runs. Like the vast majority of Spring Training invites, Paredes only future with the Indians will be in the minor league system.
Martinez is back (played with Columbus in 2011) in what was one of the more confusing signings of the offseason. He will be 30 years old by the time training starts and has pitched in just 19 total games in the Major Leagues. Since 2011, he has thrown in just a single inning and allowed two hits and a run. A much more common place for Martinez to be is AAA, where he has spent time every year since 2009. During those four seasons he held an ERA of 4.59, incredibly non-impressive for a very old minor leaguer.
Kazmir has the most professional experience of any of the invitees and is the most likely to make the team. After years where the majority of the Indians rotation consisted of left handed pitchers, the Indians have none slated to start during 2013. If Terry Francona decides the Indians need a left handed starter, the options are between Kazmir, Scott Barnes and David Huff and they would likely take the fifth place in the rotation instead of the recently recovered Carlos Carrasco. All three left handed options seem to be inferior to Carrasco, but there is still the option of using a left handed starter.
Capps is an exciting late edition to the Indians Spring Training group. He has more major league experience than just about any relief pitcher in camp, breaking in with the Pirates in 2005. He has also been a very successful closer, saving 138 games in total with at least 14 saves in each season since 2007. Also impressive is the fact that he has more seasons with an ERA below 2.75 (4) than seasons above 3.75 (3). Most recently Indians fans should know him for his time in Minnesota where he recorded 45 saves and held a 3.61 ERA through parts of three seasons. He is a great (and thrifty) pick up for the Indians in an offseason that saw some relievers signing contracts in excess of $20M. Capps immediately has a legitimate chance of making the bullpen depending on his play during March.
In an effort to take a flyer on every single washed up pitcher available, the Indians are bringing for Cub prospect Rich Hill into the mix. In 2007 Hill had a pretty good season when he pitched almost 200 innings, striking out 183 batters and holding and ERA of 3.92. In the five seasons since then, he has pitched just over 100 total innings. Last year he saw a slight resurgence with the Red Sox as he pitched 19 innings in 25 games. It seems unlikely that Hill will ever start again since he allowed a 7.80 ERA in 2009 the last time he started a single game (he started 13 that year). He could be used as a left handed reliever, but is not much of a match-up pitcher (allowed .340 OBP to LHB in 2012 and .333 to RHB).
The pitcher who cost the Red Sox over $100M ($51M posting fee plus more than $50M in salary) to secure is coming to Cleveland for a fraction (just $1.5M if he makes the team with up to $4M in incentives) of the cost. The former Nippon League (and World Baseball Classic) superstar. Boston didn't get anywhere near their monies worth as he had a cumulative WAR of just 8.3 through his six years with the team. Last season was a lost year for Matsuzaka who was recovering from Tommy John surgery, but looks to be yet another very low risk/high reward player trying to make the Indians rotation this Spring.
Giovanni Soto (Also Participating in WBC)