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Indians trade RP Kirby Yates to New York Yankees for cash considerations

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 8, 2016

A few days after being designated for assignment, relief pitcher Kirby Yates was traded by the Indians to the New York Yankees for cash considerations.

Yates, 28, was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason for cash considerations and figured to be a contender to fill a spot in the Indians' bullpen this season until room was needed on the 40-man roster for recent free agent addition Mike Napoli.

Suspension

The office of the commissioner announced Tuesday that Indians minor league pitcher Joseph Colon will be suspended 50 games without pay following a second positive drug test. Colon, 25, last season had a 3.14 ERA between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.

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Indians make 1B Mike Napoli signing official, designate RP Kirby Yates for assignment

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 5, 2016
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The Indians on Tuesday made the signing of free agent first baseman Mike Napoli official and designated relief pitcher Kirby Yates for assignment.  

Napoli and the Indians reportedly reached a one-year deal for $7 million in mid-December, but the team was mulling over its options with the 40-man roster before making it official.

“I think as we started the offseason, one of our goals was to try to find a way to both improve our offensive production and balance out our lineup,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “We think the signing of Mike goes a long way toward doing that. Throughout his career, he's been a very productive hitter, especially against left-handed pitching, and has worked really hard also on the defensive end of things to become a very good defensive first baseman.”

Napoli, 34, provides the Indians with an everyday option at first base or as a designated hitter along with Carlos Santana and a power bat to be inserted into the middle of the lineup. Last season, Napoli hit .224 with 18 home runs and 50 RBI with Boston and Texas. After being traded to the Rangers late in the season he took off, hitting .295 with five home runs in only 35 games. Napoli hit at least 20 home runs in each season from 2008-2013.

“I think it was a pretty good opportunity for me to be able to play every day and I wanted to go somewhere where I could win, obviously,” Napoli said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of clubs who have been on the winning side. Looking at the roster and the pitching staff, it intrigued me.”

Napoli registered a 98 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) in 2015, per FanGraphs, the lowest mark of his career after he posted a 123 and 128 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Also per FanGraphs, Napoli was worth 0.7 WAR in 2015, 2.4 in 2014 and 3.9 in 2013, when he batted .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI with Boston.

The Indians cited that September surge as a reason to look past his rough start to the season.

“There were some adjustments Mike made with his swing, some small tweaks mechanically that he made once he arrived in Texas that got him back to the point where he's had success in the past,” Antonetti said. “I think Mike was able to carry those adjustments forward in the second half and that led to the success he had.”

Statistically, Napoli is an upgrade defensively over Santana. He has a career Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games of 5.6 at first base, while Santana owns a -1.5. Napoli has 20 defensive runs saved at first base in his career, while Santana has -9. Napoli also was one of three finalists for an American League Gold Glove last season.

The two will likely switch every now and then between first base and DH, but Napoli figures to take over the primary role as the Indians’ first baseman for the 2016 season.

“As of now, I think I’m going to be playing every day at first,” Napoli said. “But I’ll do whatever it takes to go out there and help the team win. I’ve been told I’ll be playing a lot and I believe it can be at first base.”
Napoli has a previous relationship with Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo and has heard good things about Indians manager Terry Francona, two things he said made an impact on his decision to sign with Cleveland.

Yates was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations in late November and figured to be in line to compete for a spot in the bullpen.

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Indians name Bobby Bradley, Mike Clevinger 2015 Minor League Players of the Year

By Ryan Lewis Published: January 4, 2016

The Indians on Monday named first baseman Bobby Bradley and pitcher Mike Clevinger their 2015 Minor League Players of the Year.

Bradley, awarded the Lou Boudreau Award as the organization’s top position player, hit .269 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI, mostly with Single-A Lake County. He was named the Midwest League Player of the Week three times. Bradley, 19, is listed as the No. 7 prospect in the Indians’ system, per MLB.com.

Clevinger, awarded the Bob Feller Award as the system’s top pitcher, took a major step forward in his career this past season, posting a 9-8 record and 2.73 ERA with Double-A Akron. He also struck out 145 in 158 innings pitched, the third most strikeouts recorded in Double-A. Clevinger was promoted to Triple-A Columbus late in the season and threw 15 1/3 scoreless innings.

Clevinger, who was acquired in exchange for relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano from the Los Angeles Angels, is ranked as the organization’s No. 15 prospect, per MLB.com.

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Indians sign LHP Ross Detwiler to minor-league deal with spring invite; Chris Johnson released

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 22, 2015
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The Indians signed veteran left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring camp on Tuesday.

Detwiler is the third left-handed pitcher the Indians have signed and invited to camp this week. Among those signed as non-roster invitees by the Indians, Detwiler is the seventh pitcher and the 13th player overall.

Detwiler, 29, has spent time both as a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher in his eight-year career, amassing a 21-37 record and 4.20 ERA overall. Last season was a struggle for

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Indians invite left-handed relief pitchers Tom Gorzelanny, Joe Thatcher to camp

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 21, 2015
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At the winter meetings in Nashville earlier this month, the Indians’ top brass said they were interested in bringing in additional left-handed relief options to add to their bullpen mix. That came to fruition on Monday, as the Indians signed Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher to minor league contracts with non-roster invitations to spring training.

Gorzelanny, 33, has a career 4.34 ERA in his career, which spans 11 seasons and five different teams. He spent most of 2015 with the Detroit Tigers, struggling to a 5.95 ERA in 39 1/3 innings pitched, though he did hold opposing left-handed hitters to a .222 average.

Thatcher, 34, has a career 3.38 ERA in 405 relief appearances, most of them coming with San Diego. Last season, he went 1-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 22 2/3 innings pitched with Houston. In his career, he has limited left-handed hitters to a .232 average.

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Indians acquire RHP Dan Otero from Philadelphia for cash considerations, DFA Jerry Sands

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 18, 2015

The Indians added another arm to their bullpen mix on Friday, acquiring right-handed relief pitcher Dan Otero from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for cash considerations.

To make room for Otero on the roster, the Indians designated outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment.

Otero, 30, has spent most of this career with Oakland, posting a 12-6 record and a 3.46 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 158 appearances. He will join the candidates to be added to the Indians’ bullpen, along with recent acquisitions Kirby Yates, Joba Chamberlain, (reportedly) Joe Thatcher and others.

Sands was made expandable by the recent additions of Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler to the outfield mix.

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Indians DFA Chris Johnson to make room for OF Rajai Davis

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 17, 2015
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The Indians on Thursday designated infielder Chris Johnson for assignment to make room for recent free agent signee Rajai Davis on the 40-man roster.

The move means the Indians were willing to eat the remaining $17.5 million on Johnson’s contract instead of having him hold up a roster spot on the active 25-man or 40-man rosters. Johnson was owed $7.5 million in 2016, $9 million in 2017 and had a $1 million buyout for 2018 if his option wasn’t picked up by the club, for which the Indians are still responsible.

The Atlanta Braves, in order to get rid of Johnson’s salary hit in 2017, when they hope to be turning their franchise around, were willing to take on the massive contracts of both Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Now, the Indians have rid themselves of every piece resulting from those two signings prior to the 2013 season.

“It was a tough decision,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “As we looked at how we’d allocate playing time on our roster moving forward, we found it’d be pretty difficult to get CJ some at-bats. That led to the decision.”

With the signing of Mike Napoli in addition to Davis on Wednesday, the Indians had a logjam at first base, of which Johnson found himself at the bottom. Johnson could have moved to third base, but he’s statistically one of the poorest third baseman defensively and would have blocked Giovanny Urshela. Johnson’s last option would have been a move to the outfield, which he said during the season he was willing to do, but that would have been more of a project and the Indians had already brought in other options, including Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler.

Thus, Johnson was one of the highest-paid players on the team but one who would have needed finagling to get into the lineup on a consistent basis. Instead of letting go of a younger piece on the 40-man roster, the Indians chose to simply take their losses with Johnson.

“What we’ve tried to do is focus on what gives us the best chance at the best team,” Antonetti said. “And that’s the sense through which we try to make decisions. We didn’t get there easily, but we felt as we looked at our alternatives, this was the direction we needed to go.”

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Indians reportedly reach one-year, $5.25 million deal with CF Rajai Davis

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 16, 2015
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The Indians fulfilled a second need Wednesday, reportedly signing center fielder Rajai Davis to a one-year, $5.25 million deal, pending a physical.

Davis, 35, last season hit .258 with a .306 on-base percentage, eight home runs and 18 stolen bases for Detroit and per FanGraphs, had a Wins Above Replacement of 1.8. In 2014, he hit .282 and stole 36 stolen bases.

With Davis, the Indians fill a hole in center field, their biggest need this offseason. Abraham Almonte and Collin Cowgill were the likely leading options. Davis now slides into the everyday role.

The Indians on Wednesday also signed first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli to a one-year, $7 million deal. In all, Indians filled two of its biggest needs on the roster on the same day for about $12.25 million and without trading away one of their prized starting pitchers, though in both cases there were more expensive and possibly more productive options available on the free agent market.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first with news of the signing and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was first on the figure.

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Indians reportedly sign 1B/DH Mike Napoli to one-year, $7 million deal

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 16, 2015
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The Indians on Wednesday agreed to a one-year deal with Mike Napoli, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. The signing is still pending a physical. Per Bob Nightengale, the agreement is for $7 million.

Napoli, 34, will provide the Indians with an everyday option at first base or as a designated hitter along with Carlos Santana. Last season, Napoli hit .224 with 18 home runs and 50 RBI with Boston and Texas. Though after being traded to the Rangers, his season took off, as he hit .295 with five home runs in only 35 games.

Per FanGraphs, Napoli was worth 0.7 WAR in 2015, 2.4 in 2014 and 3.9 in 2013, when he batted .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI with Boston.

Napoli would provide an upgrade defensively over Santana. He has a career Ultimate Zone Rating/150 games of 5.6 at first base, while Santana owns a -1.5. This signing could push Santana to the DH spot most days.

It could also push Chris Johnson to either third base or the outfield, as the Indians now have a bit of a logjam. Johnson has been poor defensively at third base, though, to the tune of a career -11.9 UZR/150. Among third baseman with at least 4,000 innings at third base over the past five seasons, Johnson has been the worst defensively by a significant margin. In the outfield, Johnson could act as a platoon right fielder with Lonnie Chisenhall. The Indians also have Jerry Sands, Joey Butler and Collin Cowgill as options in the outfield.

This signing comes on the same day that All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier, who had been connected in trade talks with the Indians, was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal.

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Pete Rose hasn’t helped his own case as Commissioner Rob Manfred won’t lift MLB lifetime ban

By Ryan Lewis Published: December 14, 2015
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The man with 4,256 hits has had about 4,256 chances to put himself in the right light to potentially be reinstated into baseball. It appears as though he hasn’t done that, which is a shame. And so, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday informed Pete Rose that his lifetime ban would remain in place.

This was Rose’s best chance to get back in, with a new commissioner in place and more than 25 years having passed, perhaps slowly washing away the stain. But, Rose will continued to be banned from baseball. And it looks like it is more of his own doing rather than MLB standing on principle.

When Rose was first banned, he accepted his lifetime ban but it came with an opening—he could have a chance to get back in if he reconfigured his lifestyle. It gave him an out, even with a lifetime ban, to make up for a cardinal sin in the baseball world.

But in his September meeting with Manfred—possibly his last chance to make his case—he admitted that he still bets on baseball to this day. To make it worse, per Manfred’s report, Rose first lied about currently betting on baseball and then later changed his answer in the same meeting. Combine that with other acts, for example coming out with his book and overshadowing a Hall of Fame induction week, and Rose hasn’t done the one thing he probably needed to do—find solace and back down. Then there’s the matter of conflicting stories about whether Rose bet on the game while he was a player-manager, and not much progress has been made.

Manfred’s denial of Rose’s reinstatement application didn’t have as much to do with historical significance as it did with Rose not being able to convince him that he was truly apologetic for what he had done, that he had changed his ways and that he wouldn’t do it again. In his 2004 book, Rose admitted to being addicted to gambling, but Manfred points out that to his knowledge, Rose hasn’t sought out serious treatment.

Thus, through Rose’s words and actions over the past 26 years and in this crucial meeting in September, he couldn’t show Manfred that he wouldn’t again break Rule 21, MLB’s gambling rule, or that he had proper appreciation for his transgressions against the game.

“In short,” Manfred wrote in his report, “Mr. Rose has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing, so clearly established by the Dowd Report, or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent ineligibility in 1989. Absent such credible evidence, allowing him to work in the game presents an unacceptable risk of a future violation by him of Rule 21, and thus to the integrity of our sport. I, therefore, must reject Mr. Rose’s application for reinstatement.”

Rose has plenty of supporters among his former colleagues. One of them is Indians manager Terry Francona, who was asked about Rose’s case a couple of times this season. Each time, Francona essentially recused himself from really speaking on the matter, admitting he wouldn't be able to be objective because of the affection he has for Rose as a person. Many of the people who have spent time around Rose think it’d be a great thing if he were allowed into the Hall of Fame.

And there are plenty in other capacities who share that opinion. But Rose was the one in the room, and essentially being caught in a lie during that meeting—after the numerous times he refused to come full circle—pretty much sealed his fate, if it wasn’t already.

It’s not really a surprise that Rose’s ban isn’t being lifted. Perhaps it’s a shame he wasn’t able to make a better argument on his own behalf.

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