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Five MLB Free-Agents the Indians Should Target This Off-Season

Nov 02, 2012 -- 11:14am

By: T.J. Zuppe

The Cleveland Indians will be severely limited in how active they are in free-agency. And quite frankly, that is not the worst way to approach a thin class. The Tribe could do much more damage via trade but it should not deter them from using free-agency to supplement a young core. If the Wahoos want to take another run at contention – and it would be hard to sell Terry Francona on too much rebuilding - here are a few free-agents I would target if in the position of general manager Chris Antonetti as possible fits in Cleveland.

Torii Hunter – Outfielder

2012 Stats: 16 HR, 92 RBI, .313 / .365 / .451

Why the Indians should have interest…

With Torii Hunter appearing to be on the outs in Los Angeles, an intriguing name is about to hit the free-agent market. No, he’s not the Hunter of old, but quite frankly, he does not have to be to improve Cleveland’s every day lineup. He fits a lot of what the Tribe needs; corner outfielder with the ability to play every day, a right-handed stick and great veteran presence. At 37 years old, it is fair to question his long-term durability but he has not seen a season with fewer than 450 at-bats since 2005 with Minnesota. His .313 average last season was probably an aberration, but there is no reason to believe he still cannot still hit for some pop (16 homers in 2012), get on base (.352 OBP since 2008) and play a solid outfield – while preserving him with the occasional game at DH. His veteran leadership would pay dividends in a young clubhouse.The New York Yankees have been rumored to be interested as a replacement for outfielder Nick Swisher. Why not the Tribe?

Shaun Marcum – Starting Pitcher

2012 Stats: 7-4, 3.70 ERA, 124 innings, 109 K’s

Why the Indians should have interest…

While probably not at the top of the pitching wish list for most clubs, a watered down free-agent class vaults Marcum near the top of the starting pitching market. And interestingly enough, he probably will not get the type of attention he deserves. Over the last three seasons, he has won 33 games and posted an ERA of 3.62 between the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers. However, after logging 200 innings in 2011, Marcum was only able to make 21 starts in 2012. After battling right-elbow tightness last season, health will be a big factor in determining his worth. He cannot anchor the staff as a number one but he would provide some stability near the top of a questionable rotation when healthy.

Melky Cabrera – Outfielder

2012 Stats: 11 HR, 60 RBI, .346 / .390 / .516

Why the Indians should have interest…

Sure, he would create a bit of a media circus but consider me someone willing to take the risk – especially with Terry Francona now in the fold. Some clubs will be turned off by his failed drug test and suspension in the middle of last season. The Indians should capitalize on that. It is fair to believe his numbers would not be up to par with the pace he was setting last season but I believe there is reason to expect him to be motivated, especially if inked to a short-term deal. With a chip on his shoulder, his ability to play left-field and his punch from both sides of the plate, Cleveland should take a chance on that lottery ticket. When small market clubs cannot entice the highly-touted free-agents to sign, they have to be willing to take some risks on unique situations. Cabrera certainly is that.

Brandon McCarthy – Starting Pitcher

2012 Stats: 8-6, 3.24 ERA, 111 innings, 73 K’s

Why the Indians should have interest…

The 29-year old hurler really found himself over the last two years with the Oakland Athletics. Between 2011 and 2012, McCarthy won 17 games, logging an ERA of 3.29, while tossing 281 innings. After a scary situation that involved getting drilled in the noggin by a line-drive, McCarthy has been overwhelmed by the support he has received from A’s fans and teammates. It is very likely he may just stay in Oakland but certainly fits what Cleveland needs in a rotational arm; in his prime and blossoming. He is flying a bit more under the radar than his other pitching brethren but has the potential to make whatever club he inks with very happy and his FIP indicates his last two seasons are not a statistical fluke.

Jonny Gomes – Outfielder / DH

2012 Stats: 18 HR, 47 RBI, .262 / .377 / .491

Why the Indians should have interest…

Let’s be honest, Gomes is not going to win anybody’s press conference. But if we limit the expectations a bit, he fits the mold of what the Tribe could be searching for. Gomes possesses the ability play left-field and rotate in at designated hitter, two of the biggest positions of need for the Indians. He is a right-handed stick with punch (18 homers in limited play with Oakland) and a respectable OPS (.868). Most of all, a journeyman at the age of 31, Gomes would be affordable, likely willing to accept a one-year deal. He cannot be relied on as any team’s cornerstone run-producer, but could fill the role intended for Shelley Duncan in 2012. When used in the range of 100-120 games and about 300-350 at-bats, Gomes could provide some fire-power to a team severely lacking it.


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