Let's Go (Current) Tribe - Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE
The Indians have signed a couple "premium" minor-league free agents.
Cleveland signed utility man Ryan Raburn and outfielder Ben Francisco to Minor League contracts, which include invitations to attend Spring Training with the big league club. Raburn and Francisco will come into camp as candidates for backup roles with the Tribe.
Both players should be familiar to Indians fans. Raburn spent his entire major-league career with the Tigers, and was a regular in 2010 and 2011. He started 2012 as Detroit's everyday second baseman, but an awful slump cost him first his starting job, then a spot on the 25-man roster. He was released by the Tigers in early November, and didn't get any major-league contract offers. As recently as 2011 he was a league-average hitter, and had two consecutive good to outstanding seasons (2009-2010) as a key reserve. Raburn will 32 years old this season, and would be eligible for major-league free agency after the season if he spends 6 weeks or so on the 25-man roster (not that that's really going to matter). Raburn will be in camp to contend for a spot on the bench; he's played considerable innings both at second based and the corner outfield spots; he has also played some third base and first base in the majors. Historically he's hit better against left-handers than right-handers, especially in the power department.
Ben Francisco of course was with the Indians from 2007-2009, going with Cliff Lee to Philadelphia in July of '09. Since then he's been a fourth/platoon outfielder with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, and ended last year with Tampa Bay. He was non-tendered in November, and like with Raburn, obviously couldn't find a team offering a major-league deal. With both Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs on the roster, the fourth outfielder wouldn't necessarily have to be able to play center, so Francisco could get that spot or even serve as a fifth outfielder if the Indians only go with one backup middle infielder.
Francisco has made a career of hitting left-handed pitching, and if he makes the club, that's what he would be doing Francisco actually hits right-handed pitching better than left-handed, so he would used as a general backup, whether it be in the outfield or even an occasional start as DH. Francisco is also less than a year of service away from free agency, so if sticks on the 25-man roster from Opening Day, he would go back on the market after the season.
Ryan Raburn Major-League Statistics
|162 Game Avg.||162||492||64||115||27||2||15||32||119||.256||.311||.430||.740||96|
Ben Francisco Major-League Statistics
|162 Game Avg.||162||514||58||118||31||1||15||42||94||.257||.326||.425||.751||101|