The signing of free agent Juan Uribe was expected to be the final offseason purchase for the Cleveland Indians, but could mounting outfield concerns prompt the Tribe to come up with a few more dollars for their budget?
The Indians arrived at spring training aware that left fielder Michael Brantley might not be available until May following shoulder surgery. Another dilemma surfaced Friday when center fielder Abraham Almonte failed a drug test and was suspended 80 games.
The suspension has fueled speculation the Indians could make a play for Austin Jackson, the top free-agent outfielder left on the market following Dexter Fowler’s decision to return to the Chicago Cubs.
MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reported last week that Jackson turned down a one-year deal from the Angels worth between $5 million and $6 million. That price is likely too high for the Indians, but perhaps the overall outfield market will come down after the highly regarded Ian Desmond settled for a one-year, $8 million deal to play left field for the Texas Rangers.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says the Indians and Baltimore Orioles “have every reason to make Jackson a priority.” Another team on Jackson’s radar could be the White Sox, who made a play for Fowler.
The Indians signed Will Venable to a minor league deal last week, but Almonte’s suspension could have them looking for more. Another moderately priced option is 38-year-old Marlon Byrd, who hit a disappointing .247/.290/.453 last season for the Reds and Giants.
Here are more rumors making the rounds on Leap Day:
Jonathan Lucroy: Some scouts tell Cafardo that Lucroy could be traded before the end of spring training. The rebuilding Brewers are exploring the idea of moving Lucroy for prospects, and plenty of teams are looking to add a catcher. Lucroy suffered through an injury-plagued 2015 season (.264/.326/.391) and will have to prove he's healthy before any general manager surrenders top minor league talent.
Jay Bruce: After missing out on Fowler last week, the Orioles are still looking for an outfielder, with Bruce and Jackson among the possibilities, tweets Jon Heyman of MLB Network. The Reds are open to dealing Bruce and reportedly came close to sending him to the Blue Jays last week in a three-team trade involving the Angels.
Josh Hamilton: Texas' decision to sign Desmond is “a clear indicator the Rangers don't have faith in Hamilton to provide anything this season,” suggests Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Hamilton was slated to be the Rangers' Opening Day left fielder, but he'll begin the season on the disabled list with inflammation in his left knee.
Kyle Schwarber: The Cubs need to be creative in finding a significant number of at-bats for Schwarber after Fowler re-signed last week. There is some talk about having Schwarber catch games worked by Kyle Hendricks, which would pave the way for Jorge Soler to get some starts in left field, reports Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune.
Justin Bour: The Marlins enjoyed a breakout season from the first baseman who hit 23 homers and 79 RBI in 129 games last season. While Bour hit just .221 with zero homers in 68 at-bats against left-handers, manager Don Mattingly does not consider him a platoon player, telling the Miami Herald “we still think he can hit lefties.” The Marlins did sign veteran infielder Chris Johnson, who has a .314 BA against lefties.