Interesting Free Agents

The free agent market is a little shallow this year, but there are still a few players the Indians should look at that are within their price range. With the biggest holes on the team being first base, DH, left field and starting pitcher, those will be the positions highlighted. None of the players listed are perfect. The Indians will not be pursuing Josh Hamilton or Zach Greinke this off-season as they are out of their pay range, but those players could help fill the needs of the richer teams, leaving some of these other players for the taking.

Lance Berkman

Berkman is old (37 next year) and hurt, giving him just enough negatives to put him in the Indians price range. He has discussed retirement and may not be interested in playing for the Tribe, but a new focus in Cleveland, started by new manager Terry Francona could help him change his mind. One thing that could entice Berkman is the full time designated hitter role. While he has played first and left field for his entire career, a move to DH could extend his baseball life while he recovers from injury. Since 2000 Berkman has only had two seasons with less than 20 home runs. In 2011 he finished in the top ten in MVP voting, although injuries kept him off the field for all but 32 games this year. He has already stated that he will not decide what team to sign with until next February, but it couldn't hurt the Indians to make an offer. Of course this offer would have to be significantly lower than the price for Travis Hafner's option or exchanging one injured DH for another would be pointless.

Melky Cabrera

Cabrera has a very different problem from Berkman. His suspension for using PEDs just recently ended, but the Giants have decided morally to keep him out of the playoffs. This shows that they are probably ready to cut ties with Cabrera. Melky was great for the Royall in 2011 hitting 44 doubles along with an impressive 18 home runs. This year he technically (although unofficially) won the NL batting title, batting .346 in 113 games. Cabrera would be a great fit in left field for the Indians in 2013 and a possible replacement for Shin-Soo Choo in right if he leaves for free agency the following season. He is one of the few players in the league that could replace Choo and play at his same level. The Indians should make a multiple year offer to Cabrera that is maybe a little higher than they would normally go. He is just entering into the prime of his career and, while there is still some risk of loss of playing time with future steroid use, should be productive for his next seven years or so. A five year deal worth around $50M could be enough to pluck this star away from the Giants. 

Ichiro Suzuki

Suzuki would have to take a significant salary cut to join the Tribe, but he probably will no matter where he wants to go. Cleveland doesn't have the spotlight that he obviously enjoys, but they could offer him a starting job in left field with the opportunity to DH when he needs to. Suzuki has been steadily decreasing in production, but still outperforms almost every player currently on the Indians at the age of 38. Like Berkman, this would be a one year only solution while the Indians try to find a more permanent answer from within. 

Kevin Correia

Correia has fallen off some since leaving San Diego's cavernous Petco Park and moving into the friendly confines at PNC. In Pittsburgh he averaged a 4.49 ERA over two years and 59 games. He has started at least 25 games each of the last four years, something only Ubaldo Jimenez can claim on the current staff. In 2012 a pitcher that started 25 games with a 4.49 ERA would have been pitcher of the year.

If the Indians don't sign any of these players, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. The free agent market is so thin, it may artificially inflate prices, efficiently hedging the Indians out. Signing one of these players would be huge however, as it would allow the team to focus on one less position and give them more prospects to trade. There are a few other players of limited interest in the market, but signing of more players like Travis Buck, Casey Kotchman, Mark DeRosa, Jose Lopez or Austin Kearns (who are all free agents this upcoming off-season) would be a complete waste of money and a waste of a roster spot. It would be better to sign nobody than to sign players of this quality.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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