Indians Sign Jason Giambi to a Minor League Deal as Possible DH Solution
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the Spring Invitees with a chance to make the Tribe’s Opening Day roster.
By Mike Brandyberry
If this was 2000, this would be a really big deal.
Instead, it is barely necessary to mention that the Indians signed left-handed hitting designated hitter and first baseman Jason Giambi late Saturday evening. The Tribe signed Giambi to a minor league contract, with an invitation to big league Spring Training. He’ll likely compete for a place on the Tribe’s 25-man roster as a possible option at designated hitter.
Giambi, owns a career Major League batting average of .280 with 395 doubles, 9 triples, 429 home runs and 1405 RBI over 18 seasons and 2163 games since debuting with the Oakland Athletics in 1995 (.403OB/.522SLG/.926OPS). He was a five-time American League All-Star with the Athletics and New York Yankees from 2000-2004, captured the 2000 American League MVP award while finishing second the following year with Oakland. He currently ranks seventh among active players in RBI, eighth in home runs and fourth in walks.
However, it has been a long time since 2000-2004, and MVP-caliber production from the slugger. Since Aug. 2009 Giambi has been playing with the Colorado Rockies as a pinch hitter and a backup first baseman. Since joining the Rockies, Giambi has hit a combined .248 with 20 doubles, 22 home runs and 86 runs batted in, in 230 games (.375OB/.452SLG/ .827OPS). He has only played 36 games at first base over the last two seasons. He hit only .225, with one home run and eight runs batted in last season.
While Giambi may bring some star power to the Indians’ clubhouse in Goodyear, he is not a certainty to make the big league club. The 42-year old hitter could not play every day as the team’s designated hitter. If he made the team, he could play against some right-handed pitchers, while platooning with other bench players in the Tribe’s designated hitter role. Currently, the Indians plan to use a rotating designated hitter, with Mike Aviles playing the field and allowing regular starters time to rest and remain in the lineup.
Recently the Indians had discussed the possibility of resigning long-time designated hitter Travis Hafner, but he elected to sign an incentive-laden contract with the Yankees. Just this week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Indians had broken off any discussion with former slugger, Jim Thome.
Despite Giambi’s past, he is not a certainty to make the team. He will likely compete with Ben Francisco, Ryan Raburn, Cord Phelps, Tim Federoff, Yan Gomes and Ezequiel Carrera for one of the available bench positions. If Giambi does not make the Indians, it is likely he will be granted his release and he will retire.
Giambi has been undecided at times this winter if he wanted to continue to play. He interviewed for the once, vacant, managerial job this winter with Colorado. He was supposed to be considered a finalist with eventual-hire, Walt Weiss. Neither have any managerial experience. He was willing to retire if he was hired as manager.
Giambi is believed to be a clubhouse leader and future hitting coach or manager in the Major Leagues. He was known to be a sounding board for players, coaches and front office staff in Colorado. If he makes the team, he could be a positive influence on young hitters like Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana.
Photo: Associated Press