With Casey Kotchman penciled in over Matt LaPorta at first base, the Indians are now looking at the following lineup against right-handed pitching:
CF Grady Sizemore – L
SS Asdrubal Cabrera – S
RF Shin-Soo Choo – L
C Carlos Santana – S
DH Travis Hafner – L
2B Jason Kipnis – L
1B Casey Kotchman – L
3B Lonnie Chisenhall – L
LF Michael Brantley – L
That’s going to look pretty good 70 percent of the time. What about the other 30?
If the Indians opt to carry Chisenhall out of spring training, then they’ll probably have a bench of backup catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jack Hannahan (another left-handed hitter), first baseman-outfielder Shelley Duncan and outfielder Aaron Cunningham. Unfortunately, none of those guys figure to be all that productive against lefties. Lefty-killing is Duncan’s sole reason for being, but he actually had a .679 OPS in 102 at-bats against lefties last year, compared to .918 in 121 at-bats against righties. In his career, he has a .769 OPS against lefties and a .743 mark versus righties.
I think the Kotchman signing makes it a bit more likely that Chisenhall will get some extra Triple-A seasoning. Sending down Chisenhall would allow the Indians to go with a Hannahan/Jason Donald platoon at third base, giving them a little more pop against lefties. They’ll also badly need Cunningham to contribute against left-handers. He has a .741 OPS in 129 at-bats against them lifetime. A lot of those were at Petco, so maybe he’ll be better for the Indians.
Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).
Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.
While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.