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Indians Address Outfield Concerns with Addition of Davis

Indians Address Outfield Concerns with Addition of Davis

| On 16, Dec 2015

Apparently, the Cleveland Indians prefer to browse about for a little while and then do the bulk of their heavy holiday shopping all on one day.

Hours after a possible deal with free agent first baseman Mike Napoli hit your news stream of choice, Cleveland has reportedly come to terms with free agent outfielder Rajai Davis on a one-year deal.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and the team has made no formal announcement on either deal. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman appeared to be the first to break the story just before 6:00 PM Wednesday night. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com indicated the deal could be for $5.25 million plus incentives and, like Napoli’s contract, is pending a physical.

The addition of the 35-year-old Davis would add a more proven player to an outfield filled with question marks. Entering the offseason, the Indians had Michael Brantley, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall as their starting outfielders, but Brantley will miss time at the start of the season after shoulder surgery, Almonte has had limited success in his Major League career, and Chisenhall has played just two months professionally in the outfield after a lengthy stay as an inconsistent third baseman.

Cleveland has added Joey Butler and Collin Cowgill in cash trades this offseason to bolster the outfield depth. They have also added Shane Robinson and Robbie Grossman on minor league contracts and re-signed Michael Martinez and Michael Choice, whom both spent time at Triple-A Columbus for the Indians last season.

Jerry Sands also remains on the 40-man roster as an option in the corner outfield spots and at first base. Both Chris Johnson and Jose Ramirez were thought to be potential utility options in the grass as well.

Davis has been around the game for longer than it seems and has come a long way from being the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 38th round pick in the 2001 draft.

He debuted with the Pirates in 2006 and spent part of that season and the following one in Pittsburgh before being dealt at the trade deadline to San Francisco. At the end of the following April, he was selected off of waivers by the Oakland Athletics. The A’s swapped him with Toronto following the 2010 season for a pair of players and he remained with the club through the 2013 season.

Davis has spent each of the last two seasons in Detroit, where he hit .272 with 54 stolen bases while manning all three outfield spots. He was nearly split evenly between left and center field for the Tigers last year, with a scattering of opportunities in right field. The season before, he appeared in 99 games in left versus 48 in center and none in right.

He has a career .986 fielding percentage in the outfield and has played almost at league average, in regards to range factor per nine innings, at all three outfield spots in his career. The bulk of his work in the Majors has come in center, where he has spent parts of nine of his ten pro seasons.

He has been known throughout his career for his ability to steal bases, but he stole just 18 last season in 26 opportunities, his lowest successful theft total since playing in 20 games in his debut year. He did, however, make up for it some with a career-high eleven triples.

The right-handed hitting Davis is a career .269 hitter with a .316 on-base percentage. He has stolen 322 bases in his Major League career. His splits last season favored him against righties, as he hit 14 points higher than his previous career average against them. For his career, however, he has hit .296 against southpaws, despite a .245 average against them in 2015 that dropped his career mark eight points.

The versatile Davis gives the Indians some needed outfield flexibility with his experience at all three outfield spots. He has primarily been a leadoff hitter or nine-hitter throughout his career and, given the stacked top of the Cleveland lineup, manager Terry Francona may utilize him in the final spot in the batting order to provide another table setter for Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and, when healthy, Brantley at the top of the Tribe order.

If nothing else, removing him from the roster of an opponent may be beneficial for the Indians – he hit .381 last season in eleven games against Cleveland with 16 hits, including a double, three triples, four RBI, and six stolen bases.

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In unrelated news that was released by the Indians on Wednesday, the club announced that starting pitcher Cody Anderson underwent an emergency appendectomy in Glendale, Arizona, on Tuesday night after experiencing lower abdominal pain. A two- to four-week recovery time is expected before Anderson is able to resume any offseason training activities.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images