Indians sign reliever Dan Wheeler
By Jim Pete
January 27, 2012
The Cleveland Indians announced yesterday afternoon that they signed reliever Dan Wheeler to a minor league deal. The 34-year old Wheeler is a 12-year veteran right-hander who has spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays. He spent last season with the Boston Red Sox, going 2-2, with a 4.38 ERA, while striking out 39 batters and walking only eight in 49 1/3 innings pitched.
The move adds potential solid depth to an already stout bullpen, as Wheeler has proven to be a highly effective in his 12 seasons in many different roles. While he has closed some (43 saves in his career), his strength has always been against right-handed hitters. Righties have only hit .218 against him lifetime, while striking out nearly 386 batters against only 92 walks.
The issue for Wheeler may be the lack of slots available. At best, he'll be fighting for two spots, and it may only be one. He'll be going up against some of the brightest prospects in the Tribe's minor league organization, as Nick Hagadone, Chen Lee and Frank Hermann are all making major league noise. That said, Manny Acta may give players like Wheeler and Chris Ray a close look to add a veteran presence on the major league roster.
Overall, Wheeler is sporting a 3.88 ERA, with 553 strike outs in 623 innings pitched. He had a nice season for Boston last year, but his season was cut short with a sore forearm in early September. Wheeler declined arbitration from the Red Sox, which now seems to be an odd move, since it cost him $3 million in guaranteed money, leaving him with a minor league contract, and a non-roster invite to spring training with the Tribe.
While it's certainly not a move that's going to blow the doors off any Tribe fans, it's another subtle move to continue to add solid support to a team that should continue to contend in 2012. Prince Fielder this is not folks, but a nice little move nonetheless.
Thanks for all the well-wishers over the past few months. I'm feeling healthy again, and should be back in the swing over the next few weeks. Check out the IPI Winter Ball Recap, going up later today!
Jim is currently the co-site editor, the ATF/Carolina Mudcats/Indians/General Site Columnist, and the co-host of IPI's weekly online radio show, Smoke Signals. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IPI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.