The Indians finally made a move yesterday in the free agent market. In an attempt to bolster their lineup and increase the offensive output at first base they signed…
Drum roll, please…
Good lord, where do I even being with this one?
Don’t get me wrong, I like Kotchman. He’s shown at times throughout his career that he can make a quality contribution. Unfortunately for the Indians he doesn’t address the glaring hole at first base from an offensive stand point or from the right side of the plate. If the Indians were one or maybe two pieces away from being the team to beat in the AL, then this move would have made sense. That’s not where this team is at. The Indians have a solid team, but what they really lack is that go to guy in the middle of the lineup that can strike fear into opposing pitchers.
That was the role specifically envisioned for Matt LaPorta when they acquired him for C.C. Sabathia what seems like an eternity ago. In his time with the Indians, LaPorta has done little, if anything, to instill confidence that he can be that guy. In parts of three seasons, LaPorta has only racked up 30 HR and 115 RBI. Those numbers aren’t bad… over the course of one season for Miguel Cabrera. But of the better part of three seasons? Not so much.
For those looking to say LaPorta is getting a raw deal here, you’re only partly right. LaPorta has been faced with changing positions, from the outfield to first, and had to deal with the Indians promising him the starting job only to turn around and sign Russell Branyan. It’s more than understandable that his head might not be in the right place 100% of the time.
Then again, one can also say LaPorta only has himself to blame for the position he has found himself in. It’s been widely reported that he has been somewhat stubborn in making the adjustments the Indians want him to make both at the plate and in the field. When the Indians gave his job away or repeatedly sent him to triple A, he didn’t fight for his big league life and prove them wrong. When he “won” the position last season he didn’t do nearly enough to keep it. From that stand point you can understand why the Indians have chosen to go in this direction.
But back to Kotchman.
As I said, Kotchman isn’t the power hitting threat this team desperately needed to fill out the middle of the lineup. In his best season, 2008, Kotchman only belted 14 homeruns for the Angels and Braves combined. Last year for the Rays, which was a return to form, he only managed 10 HR and 44 RBI. That’s just as good as what the Indians got from LaPorta. The main difference being Kotchman hit a solid .306 as compared to LaPorta’s meager .247. The Indians lineup is significantly better then what the Rays put on the field every night, so that should help, but still, the fact remains that this isn’t the impact bat the Indians needed.
Of course, as is customary for the Indians, this move and the subsequent decision will be decided by money. The Indians will owe Kotchman $3 million this season with incentives that could push his salary up past $4 million. Meanwhile, LaPorta is still working for substantially less. LaPorta also has a minor league option remaining so it should come to the surprise of no one that he starts the year off in Columbus. Does that really help him? Probably not, but it’s better than him rotting away on the bench.