Third Base, Second Base Need Help

Third Base, Second Base Need Help

As the free agent signing season gets under way, the Indians have two glaring holes in their infield that may or may not be addressed. The question marks are at second base and third base. The hole at third is larger because the Indians still have some internal options at second. Jayson Nix, Jason Donald and Luis Valbuena remain candidates to claim the starting position in 2011. Third? Who knows?

The situation at third is more unsettled. Nix and Valbuena both played there in 2010, but neither played well enough, especially defensively, to suggest that he might be the long-term or even short-term answer.
Lonnie Chisenhall may get a reasonable look during spring training, though the organization would prefer that he play a full year at Triple-A Columbus. The team's No. 1 draft pick in 2008 has hit well enough along the minor-league trail, but needs work in the field.
Two others in the minor league system who could factor into the second and third base positions are Cord Phelps and Jason Kipnis. Both began the 2010 season as second basemen, and both had outstanding seasons.
Both were also placed on the roster of the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. Phelps has been playing mostly third and Kipnis mostly second. From a developmental standpoint, Indians officials consider Phelps further along than Kipnis, but it's not out of the question that one or both could reach Cleveland sometime during the 2011 season.
It seems unlikely that either would begin the season on the major league roster. Thus, one of the questions club officials will wrestle with this winter is how aggressive they should be in looking to add a second baseman and/or third baseman. If no such players are added, it would seem that the in-house favorites to open the 2011 season would be Donald at second base and Nix at third base.
NOTES, QUOTES:RHP Anthony Reyes, who spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in 2009, was non-tendered and then re-signed to a minor-league contract. The Indians decided to bring him back after he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League.
INF Andy Marte, who never lived up to the hype of being a top minor-league prospect, was outrighted off the 40-man roster (again), and became a free agent. Marte, 27, was acquired as part of a seven-player trade with Boston in January 2006. In his five years in Cleveland, Marte was mostly a bench player, filling in at first and third. He hit .224, including .229 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 170 at-bats in 2010.
LHP David Huff's 2010 season was as dismal as his 2009 season was promising. After leading the Indians in wins when he was 11-8 as a rookie in 2009, Huff fell to 2-11 in 2010, spending most of the second half at Columbus. "He got away from some of the things that made him successful in the minor leagues," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "Being able to command the fastball to both sides of the plate was a trademark of his. At times this year he struggled with that." Huff will go to training camp in 2011 with no guarantees as one of several pitchers competing for a roster spot.
RHP Chris Perez had a breakout season after replacing the traded RHP Kerry Wood as the closer. He had a 1.71 ERA and 23 saves in 63 appearances. Perez will go into the 2011 season having converted nine consecutive one-run save opportunities. He was 23-for-27 in save situations overall, and 10-for-11 in one-run save opportunities.
OF Shin-Soo Choo had several impressive statistics in 2010, but the one that excites Indians officials the most going into the 2011 season is Choo's .401 on-base percentage. Choo is the first Indians outfielder to have a .400 on-base percentage since Manny Ramirez in 2000.
BY THE NUMBERS:: 3 -- Complete games by rookie pitchers in the AL in 2010. All three were by Indians. RHP Mitch Talbot, RHP Josh Tomlin and RHP Carlos Carrasco had one complete game each.
QUOTE TO NOTE:: "Our starting rotation has a chance to be a strength of our team (in 2011), but I don't think there's any team in baseball that couldn't stand to add a top-of-the-rotation pitcher or a guy who can pitch 200 innings." -- General manager Chris Antonetti.
ROSTER REPORT:: The Indians go into the offseason optimistic about making significant improvement in 2011, expecting the return of CF Grady Sizemore and C Carlos Santana, from major knee surgeries. The rotation looks better with the re-emergence of RHP Fausto Carmona into a 13-game winner in 2010. And OF Shin-Soo Choo had another productive season, hitting .300 with 20 homers with 20 stolen bases for the second consecutive season The Indians need to get Sizemore and Santana healthy, find a third baseman and add a veteran starting pitcher.
FREE AGENTS:: None.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE:: OF Shin-Soo Choo, RHP Jensen Lewis, RHP Chris Perez, INF Andy Marte, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Joe Smith, LHP Rafael Perez.
IN LIMBO:: INF Andy Marte and RHP Jensen Lewis are candidates to be non-tendered, in part because they are eligible for arbitration.
MEDICAL WATCH:: OF Trevor Crowe (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October) is expected to be fully recovered by the start of spring training; CF Grady Sizemore (left knee surgery in June) and C Carlos Santana (left knee surgery in August) will continue their rehabs through the offseason. Both are expected to be ready at some point during spring training.

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