New faces headline Indians Spring Training

Shinichi Inoue, Asst. Sports Editor

As pitchers and catchers reported to their respective Spring Training facilities on Monday, the Cleveland Indians begin their preparation for the 2013 season. During the offseason, the Tribe committed a large amount of their cap space to free agents, including four-year $48 million to Michael Bourn and another four-year, $56 million to Nick Swisher. Let’s take a look at some of the new faces that will be showing up at Spring Training for the Indians:

Michael Bourn (CF) – 2012 Stats:

Sp-CLE-Bourn-BWGeneral manager Chris Antonetti surprised many Indians fans this off season, and then there’s the Michael Bourn signing. “The Bourn Identity” came not only as a shock, but it was just as surprising how well the deal was constructed. Bourn will be making less per year than Nick Swisher, and the Indians won’t be losing a high draft pick to the Atlanta Braves. Bourn’s greatest asset is his speed (42 stolen bases last season) and elite defense in centerfield. The former All-Star may not turn the Tribe into immediate World Series contender, but a combination of Bourn and Michael Brantley at the top of the lineup makes the Tribe a constant base stealing threat.

Nick Swisher (RF) – 2012 Stats: .272 AVG, 146 hits, 24 homeruns, 93 RBIs

Sp-CLE-Swisher-BWThe switch hitter Swisher was the biggest signing for the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe signed Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal. The 32-year-old outfielder is coming off a routine season with 24 homers, 93 RBIs, and .272 batting average. The addition of Swisher will definitely give the Tribe a more potent offense as he will be batting behind catcher Carlos Santana. Swisher also brings in veteran leadership that a rebuilding Indians club needs desperately. If Swisher stays healthy and continues his production, he will replace the numbers left by Shin-Soo Choo.

Drew Stubbs (CF) – 2012 Stats: .213 AVG, 105 hits, 15 homeruns, 40 RBIs

Sp-CLE-Stubbs-BWThe 28-year-old Stubbs was a bonus that came with Shin-Soo Choo trade. Despite a terrible 2012, he’s still an outstanding defender as well as an excellent base runner. One major flaw of the former 8th overall pick is his strikeout rate – above 30 percent in each of the past two seasons. Stubbs was shoe-in for the starting centerfield position, but with the addition of Michael Bourn, he will most likely become the fourth outfielder and share time with Nick Swisher in right field. Stubbs will also be providing some great speed on the base path. Along with Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn, the Indians may have one of the quickest outfield trios.

Mark Reynolds (3B) – 2012 Stats: .221 AVG, 101 hits, 23 homeruns, 69 RBIs

Sp-CLE-Reynolds-bWReynolds is quite a disputed offensive talent. The former Baltimore Orioles has great power number: combined 60 homers and 155 RBIs the last two seasons; however, he has struggled on making contact and has a high strikeout rate. For an Indians squad that lacks power outside of Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera, Reynolds should provide sufficient power for the lineup. Reynolds’ one-year deal will benefit the Tribe – a low risk, high reward signing. If Reynolds will be penciled in at first base, and replace the dismal offense of Matt LaPorta and Casey Kotchman from last year.

Trevor Bauer (P) – 2012 Stats: 1-2, 6.06 ERA, 16.1 IP, 17 strikeouts

Sp-CLE-Bauer-BWThe former third pick of the 2011 draft was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite early struggles, including failure to click with catcher Miguel Montero, Bauer will have a chance at a fresh start in Cleveland and establish himself as the future ace of the Indians. Last season, the pitching staff ranked second-to-last in the league in strikeout rate (6.1 per nine innings). Bauer may not immediately revamp the dismal Indians rotation, but he is the building block for the future. If Bauer performs well, don’t be surprised to see him fight for spot as the fifth starter.

Brett Myers (P) – 2012 Stats: 3-4, 3.12 ERA, 34.2 IP, 21 strikeouts

Sp-CLE-Myers-BWVeteran Myers will be moving back to the rotation after spending 2012 in the bullpen for the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. The 32-year-old righty, who signed a one-year, $7 million contract made 33 starts, threw 216 innings, and had a respectable 6.7 strikeout per nine innings back in 2011. The Indians are hoping Myers will return to his form of a consistent 150+ inning pitcher and solidify the rotation with Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bauer, and Zach McAllister. Myers will likely be the third starter for the Tribe.

Jason Giambi (1B/DH) – 2012 Stats: .225 AVG, 20 hits, 1 homerun, 8 RBIs

Sp-CLE-Giambi-BWGiambi has been on a decline since his 2008 season with the New York Yankees when he batted .247 and had 113 hits, 32 homeruns, and 96 RBIs. His one year, $750,000 minor league deal will give him an invite to Spring Training and a possibility to earn the designated hitter spot left by Travis Hafner. Over the last four seasons, Giambi has split time between the Oakland Athletics and Colorado Rockies, sparingly used as a pinch-hitter or benchwarmer. Throughout the four years, he’s averaging less than 80 games and 10 homers per season. At 42 years old, it’s hard to see that Giambi has anything left in the tank, but the Indians hope he can at least provide a sufficient firepower as a DH.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (P) – 2012 Stats: 1-7, 8.28 ERA, 45.2 IP, 42 strikeouts

Sp-CLE-MatsuzakaRemember the huge hype that followed Matsuzaka when the Red Sox spent $51 million to win the bid just to negotiate with the Japanese pitcher? Well, the Japanese sensation hasn’t been an effective major league pitcher since 2008. Dice-K did undergo Tommy John surgery in 2011 and has struggled with pitching control and speed. If he can return to form and perform well, Dice-K could become a dark horse candidate to win a starting position. New Indians head coach, Terry Francona has worked with Dice-K before. Maybe a change of scenery with a familiar coach will help redeem his performance.

Mike Aviles (3B) – 2012 Stats: .250 AVG, 128 hits, 13 homeruns, 60 RBIs

Sp-CLE-Aviles-BWAviles was one of the earliest moves the Tribe did when offseason started. Recently the former Boston Red Sox signed a two-year, $6 million contract to avoid arbitration. Aviles will likely be a versatile asset for the Indians – he’s capable of playing third base, backing up All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera, or even starting at DH. Indians acquired Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes from Toronto for right-hander Esmil Rogers. Aviles’ versatility will definitely get him some playing time, especially providing mentorship to young third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. As of now, look for Aviles to split time between being third and the starting DH for the Tribe.