Thursday, February 2, 2012
Updated: February 3, 2:04 PM ET
Indians finalize Casey Kotchman's deal
ESPN.com news services
CLEVELAND -- After exploring other options and coming up empty this winter, the Cleveland Indians may have finally found their new first baseman: Casey Kotchman.
The team finalized a one-year, $3 million contract with Kotchman on Friday, a day after reaching an agreement with the free agent. Kotchman can earn an additional $1.75 million in performance bonuses, sources said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
Kotchman batted a career-best .306 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in a career-high 146 games for Tampa Bay last season. It was a breakout year for the 28-year-old, who signed a minor league contract with the Rays last January.
Kotchman was one of only three American League first basemen -- Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Boston's Adrian Gonzalez were the others -- to finish in the top 10 in both batting average and on-base percentage while appearing in at least 40 games at the position.
Kotchman is expected to compete for the Indians' starting job at first during training camp with Matt LaPorta and Russ Canzler, who signed with the club earlier this week.
LaPorta has been a major disappointment for the Indians, who made finding a quality hitter at first one of their offseason priorities. The team couldn't afford Prince Fielder, one of the gems of this year's free agent class, and the Indians were rejected by Carlos Pena, who spurned their one-year offer and re-signed with the Rays after a year with the Chicago Cubs.
Kotchman, a solid hitter and superb fielder, could be their answer.
Because LaPorta still has a minor league option, it's possible he could begin next seasons at Triple-A Columbus. Kotchman also has a much better glove, another plus in his favor to win the starting job.
Kotchman bats left-handed and is a career. 268 hitter with 59 homers in eight seasons with the Angels, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Tampa.
His career .998 fielding percentage is the highest in major league history among first basemen with at least 700 games at the position.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.