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Winter Meetings Recap: Indians resign Cooper, talk to Balfour

Winter Meetings Recap: Indians resign Cooper, talk to Balfour
December 9, 2013
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Day one of the 2013 Winter Meetings is almost in the books. The news and rumors will surely continue into the night, and if anything of substance regarding the Indians has legs I will provide the update on Twitter @TonyIBI and in the newswire to the right. If anything more signifcant gains legs I will surely post it to the front page as well.

Indians sign David Cooper

The Indians have signed free agent first baseman David Cooper to a major league deal. He does have an option remaining, so his signing looks to be as more of a depth option that will start at Triple-A Columbus and be the first option – if he is healthy and performing - to call up if Jason Giambi or Nick Swisher were to go on the disabled list or if Giambi struggles.

Cooper, 26, split the 2012 season between Triple-A Las Vegas and the Toronto Blue Jays. He began the year in Las Vegas where he hit .314 (82-for-261) with 27 2B, 10 HR and 52 RBI in 62 games before being promoted to Toronto in May, batting .300 (42-for-140) with 11 2B, 4 HR & 11 RBI in 45 games with the Blue Jays. His 2012 campaign ended in late August that season due to a mid-back strain, an injury that led to his March 2013 release from Toronto and required surgery in April.

Cooper is a career .301 hitter in the minor leagues and over two major league seasons with Toronto in 2011-12 he batted .270 with 18 2B, 6 HR and 23 RBI in 72 games.  The left-handed hitting first baseman led the Pacific Coast League in batting average (.364) and doubles (51) for Triple-A Las Vegas in 2011.  He was Toronto’s first round pick (17th overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and played collegiately at Cal State Fullerton and the University of California.

The Indians signed Cooper back in mid-August to a minor league deal but it was a deal that included an opt out if he was not added to the major league roster by September 1st. It was not enough time for the Indians to properly evaluate him as a major league option, so they did not roster him and he exercised  the opt out in his contract and became a free agent.

It remains to be seen if Cooper is healthy or not. The back injury he suffered at the end of the 2012 season was enough where it was considered to be career threatening. He had a herniated thoracic disk that was compressing his spinal cord and needed innovative back surgery in April to help restore his health.

If Cooper is healthy and does not break down, this is a lower profile move which could end up being a nice move for the Indians in creating depth and options at first base and designated hitter. He has a good approach at the plate, limits strikeouts, hits righties well and is a good defender. He’s likened to a Lyle Overbay and James Loney type as someone who is not a big time run producer, but someone who can handle the bat and play defense. There is value with a player like that, even if on a guaranteed small major league deal.

It is also important to note that if Cooper does rebound and prove effective that the Indians would have him under control for at least the next six seasons. The upside as a role player, his low cost and long term control makes this a no-brainer pickup and gives the Indians some additional depth as well as some flexibility to consider other deals.

Rumors and Notes

- According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Indians have talked to the representatives for free agent right-handed starting pitcher Jason Hammel.  ESPN’s Buster Olney later reported that Hammel's price went up as he is looking for a three or four year deal, so the Indians are looking elsewhere and they may wait longer to see what develops in the starting pitching market.  The 30-year old Hammel went 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 26 appearances for the Orioles last season (139.1 IP, 155 H, 22 HR, 48 BB, 96 K). Count me as someone who is not interested in signing Hammel to any guaranteed deal, even for $1 million. If he can be had on a minor league deal then fine (he probably won’t be), but to me he is barely a fifth starter and the Indians have several options in house just like Hammel to fill such a role and for a cheaper cost and with less roster restrictions. If the Indians want to add starting pitching depth I am all for it on minor league deals, but if they want to sign anyone to a major league deal it should be for a more reliable, competitive and effective pitcher who profiles as more of a third or fourth starter that gives innings.

- Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has also noted that the Indians have talked to the representatives for free agent right-handed closer Grant Balfour. The 35-year old Balfour had another good season racking up a 2.59 ERA and 38 saves for the Athletics last season and has 62 saves over the last two seasons; however, this to me looks like the Indians just kind of kicking the tires more than serious interest at this point. He is expected to get a multi-year deal for $5-7 million per season, a contract which appears to be too pricey for the cash strapped Indians who have a finite budget and need to concentrate using most of their available budget on a good starting pitching option. If money were no object I would have no problem with such a signing as the Indians need a legit backend arm to add to the pen since they are very limited with internal options. But, money is always part of the equation, so unless his contract demands come down I don’t expect the Indians to go very far in any talks with him.

- According to several reports, former Indians right-handed closer Chris Perez is at the Winter Meetings and talking to clubs face to face. This is a smart move on his part as he has an image problem that he is going to have to work on getting past, and will need to show interested teams that he is sincere and ready to move on from his troubled past. Whether or not his issues in his past have been overblown or not, it is still something that follows him and he will need to work very hard to rebuild his image. This is a good start. He has no shot of returning to the Indians and will probably get a one or two year deal from someone for $3 to $5 million per season.

- Last but not least, Jim Pete and I are going to do a new Smoke Signals podcast and give our thoughts on the Indians offseason so far and some of the news and rumors from the Winter Meetings. We will post the podcast to the front page later tonight or early tomorrow.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Donnie
December 11, 2013 - 12:21 PM EST
my thought just find a way to Chris Sale from Chicago...what a pitcher he is.....
Tony
December 10, 2013 - 10:16 AM EST
Rajai Davis to the Tigers for 2 years and $9-10M total. I like this deal for them. Adds speed, defense and some athleticism. Will platoon with Dirks in LF. Meanwhile the Indians are going to pay a similar player in Bourn 2/27 the next two years. Ugh.
Walter
December 10, 2013 - 10:08 AM EST
If there is no deal to trade Masterson during this off season, I will be looking forward to see him pitch in his final season with the Indians before he becomes a FA. Who knows maybe the Indians still might try to offer a multi year deal to him.
Walter
December 9, 2013 - 10:41 PM EST
I am glad that the Indians are considering the possibility of trading Masterson. He has the highest trade value at this time. The other reason to trade Masterson is he is inconsistent by having one good year followed by a bad year.

I hope they get maximum trade value. There are desperate teams looking for that top notch 1 or #2 pitcher. The D'backs, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, and maybe the Pirates.

The A's and the Rays are 2 small market teams that have been able to pull off these types of trades by picking up top talent. The don't rebuild they reload. This is how there are able to compete in this crazy FA market that has gone out control.

I will be very disappointed if they give Masterson away just to save on payroll. They come away with talent similar to the Colon trade.

Masterson will become a free agent and more than 80% chance he will not resign with the Indians. He will reject QO and Indians will just get the extra draft pick.
Hermie13
December 9, 2013 - 10:02 PM EST
@Bud

I'd rather have Peavy than Andrew Miller and a AAA player (unless it's a very nice AAA player)...
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 9:52 PM EST
Two prospects that would almost certainly make me say yes to a 3/4 player pkg deal...Taijuan Walker (M's) and Archie Bradley (Dbax). Probably not on the table, but I'd almost certainly say yes to a pkg with either as the main piece of the pkg coming back.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 9:47 PM EST
Per Rosenthal Indians are 'listening' to calls re: Masterson.

I'd have to be blown away to trade him, but at this point anything is possible.
Bud
December 9, 2013 - 9:40 PM EST
Bourn, Cabrera and Carrasco for Nava, Middlebrooks, Andrew Miller and AAA starting pitcher. Then sign Crain and Westbrook
Matt
December 9, 2013 - 9:27 PM EST
Bourn for Dempster and Owens. I know...keep dreaming.
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 8:53 PM EST
Gammons was just saying that the Red Sox are looking for an everyday CF. I'd dangle Bourn and see if they can pluck Peavy or Dempster or Doubrant. Obviously, depending on the pitcher, they would probably want a little more in return.

I still think the Mets may be a good fit when all is said and done for Cabrera.
Jim
December 9, 2013 - 8:04 PM EST
Trumbo is fine if you can get him for something that doesn't deplete your current roster or kill your future. He's a nice player to have if the price is right.

...but the price isn't going to be right. His tangible stats are fine, but his metrics don't match up to what he's ultimately going to cost...
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 7:58 PM EST
Here's my thinking on rostering Cooper: he has an option remaining so he is a pretty valuable piece to have as depth *if* he is healthy. If he proves to not be healthy, you release him in the spring or during the season and move on. Really low risk signing., if any risk at all.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 7:49 PM EST
I know I am crazy for thinking this, but man I would love to see Trumbo in a Tribe uniform. Okay, I'm over it sort of. Oh well.

Signing David Cooper reminds me a lot of Chris McGuiness and Mike McDade moves last yr. Depth options, that could possibly contribute. I thought that's what Jesus Aguilar was, right now. It's a reasonable signing, and my immediate reaction was why roster the guy, but I'm sure that was more about securing the signing than anything. It's hard to complain with an option and yrs of control for a Tribe IF he does prove healthy.
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 6:54 PM EST
Hammel is nuts if he wants a 3-4 year deal. That is insane. I agree on Bauer and Carrasco and impacting.....sort of outlined that a little today where improvement to the Indians roster will need to come from within with rebound of Cabrera/Bourn, emergence of Bauer/Carrasco, a young pen guy or two solidifying the bullpen, Chisenhall reaching his potential....etc
Chip
December 9, 2013 - 6:47 PM EST
Cooper has some intrigue. I think his floor is a Lyle Overbay type, but he has the ability to hit for much more power. I like the signing and if anyone can keep this kid healthy it would be the Indians organization. Please do not give Hammels the time of day. For God's sake Tomlin's a better pitcher than Hammels. It's safe to say that at this point, the success of the 2014 season rests upon Carrasco and Bauer. if either or both can pitch to their potential then they are far better than any free agent still available.

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