Indians bolster outfield depth
CLEVELAND -- The Indians believe they got a little deeper in the outfield on Friday. Only time will tell if they're any better.
Needing to add depth to an outfield ravaged by injuries in 2011, the club acquired Aaron Cunningham from San Diego in a trade and signed free agent Felix Pie . The club also signed versatile free agent infielder Jose Lopez.
Following a season in which starting outfielders Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley missed significant time with injuries, the Indians wanted to make sure they had more protection in the event it happens again. And while the trade and signings won't send Cleveland fans scurrying toward the box office to buy tickets for next season, general manager Chris Antonetti is confident the moves will make a difference.
The Indians picked up Cunningham, a right-handed hitter, from the Padres for minor league pitcher Cory Burns, who spent last season at Double-A Akron. Cunningham batted .329 in the minors, but just .178 in 52 games for the Padres.
However, Antonetti thinks the 25-year-old can help Cleveland immediately.
"We feel we're getting a guy who has a chance to play in the outfield for us," said Antonetti, adding the Indians have been interested in Cunningham for more than a year. "He has some upside left and we believe he compliments the guys we already have."
The 26-year-old Pie (Pea-yay) played in 85 games for Baltimore last season, batting .220 with eight doubles and 14 RBIs. Pie can play center field, which is important if Sizemore struggles in his latest comeback from injury.
In five major league seasons, the left-handed hitting Pie has a .249 career batting average, 17 homers and 97 RBIs in 398 games with Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs. He had his best season in 2009, when he hit .266 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 101 games.
"We're excited that he still has a lot of tools," Antonetti said. "The performance is still to follow, but we hope his best years are ahead of him."
Pie can make $700,000 if he makes the Indians' roster out of spring training. He can earn $300,000 more in performance incentives.
Antonetti said Lopez can play third base, first and second. The 28-year-old, who was an All-Star with Seattle in 2006, split last season between Colorado and Florida. He appeared in 39 games at third base, 20 games at second and eight at first. He'll earn $900,000 if he makes the Indians out of camp.
The three moves don't mean the Indians are done trying to improve their roster, said Antonetti, who would not disclose how involved the team was in pursuing free agent outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham. Cuddyer signed a three-year deal with Colorado, and Willingham got a three-year package from Minnesota.
Antonetti said he's not worried about making a big splash to appease fans.
"Ultimately, what fans will care most about is how many games our team wins next year," he said.
Antonetti said he has exchanged text messages with Sizemore, who reported he "is feeling great" as he recovers from knee surgery.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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