Signed OF Austin Kearns to a 1 Year, $1.3M Contract
The first major-league signing of the offseason is a familiar player. The Indians signed Kearns last winter to a minor-league deal, and the signing paid off handsomely; Kearns made the club and hit .272/.354/.419 (117 OPS+) in 342 at bats, and was dealt at the deadline for a marginal prospect. Kearns at this point will be the fourth outfielder, though his role could expand rather easily. If, for instance, Grady Sizemore should need more time to recover from his knee surgery, Brantley would move to center and Kearns would be the left fielder. Or he could replace Brantley in left field. The Indians are going to want to work Sizemore back into the lineup slowly, so Kearns should get at least 2-3 starts a week out of the gate.
As the Indians had a full 40-man roster before this signing, they'll need to boot someone to make room for this signing. Trevor Crowe would be my choice to kick off. Crowe, during his time in center field this past center was rated by UZR an incredible -12.0, most of it due to deficiencies in range (-9.0). And if he can't play center field, there's no reason for him to be on a major-league roster, as he proved rather convincingly that he can't hit (.251/.302/.333, 479 PA). Crowe has one option year left, but keeping Crowe as insurance would be the equivalent of keeping a gasoline-filled fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
Shelley Duncan would be another option to kick off the roster, but he's valuable enough to keep through Spring Training in case of injury. I think the Indians could fit Duncan on the 25-man roster as a bench player if they can get the right infielder configuration.
Signed OF Travis Buck to a Minor-League Contract; Invited him to Spring Training
A nice signing. Buck had a very nice debut season in 2007, hitting .288/.377/.474 for Oakland, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy since. He hasn't topped 200 PA in a season since his rookie campaign, and the A's non-tendered him at the tender deadline this month. He's a left-handed hitter, so he wouldn't be a fit as a reserve outfielder, but he's a much better option than, say, Jordan Brown or Trevor Crowe should the Indians have to place one of their starting outfielders on the Disabled List.