Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/29/11
Indians officials continue to voice their hopes of signing an impact hitter during the offseason. However, so far the only hitters added to the roster have been marginal major-leaguers whose signings have done little more than improve the organization's depth.Three recent acquisitions are a case in point. Outfielder Aaron Cunningham was acquired from San Diego in a trade for minor leaguer reliever Cory Burns.Cleveland also signed infielder Jose Lopez and outfielder Felix Pie, both free agents, to minor league contracts and invited both to the team's major league training camp as non-roster players. Cunningham was added to the major league roster.Barring the unexpected, none of the three is expected to begin the season as an everyday player for the Indians. There are no guarantees that any of the three will even be on the Opening Day roster, although Cunningham is out of minor league options.Lopez is the only one of the group who has had success at the major league level. He was Seattle's starting second baseman from 2006-10, and in 2009 he hit .272 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI. In 2006, he was an American League All-Star.General manager Chris Antonetti said Lopez will compete for a spot in the infield, probably as a utility man, although Antonetti did say the veteran could be an option to start at first or third base, depending on how Lopez hits. However, it's hard to see Lopez starting at third, where highly regarded youngster Lonnie Chisenhall is the incumbent. Lopez could factor in at first base, where former phenom Matt LaPorta has fallen out of favor with the front office after failing to live up to hype that surrounded him when he was acquired from Milwaukee as the centerpiece of the package of prospects the Indians received in the 2007 trade of Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia.Cunningham and Pie are almost certainly being looked at as candidates to be fourth outfielders on the major league roster. Pie, once considered a top prospect in the Cubs' organization, has never been able to establish himself at the big-league level. In an injury-plagued 2011 with the Orioles, he hit .240 with no home runs.Cunningham is a right-handed hitter, which would make him a good complement to the Indians' three starting outfielders, Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley, who are all left-handed hitters. In seven minor league seasons, Cunningham has a .306 career batting average.NOTES, QUOTES Judy comes off roster to accommodate Cunningham's arrival --RHP Josh Judy was designated for assignment on Dec. 16 in order to make room on the 40-man roster for OF Aaron Cunningham, who was acquired in a trade with San Diego. Judy spent most of the 2011 season at Class AA Columbus, where in 50 relief appearances he was 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA and 23 saves. He also made 12 appearances with the Indians and had a 7.07 ERA and no decisions.--OF Aaron Cunningham, acquired in a trade with San Diego, could be a candidate to serve as the Indians' fourth outfielder. Cleveland sent minor league reliever RHP Cory Burns to the Padres. Cunningham hit .329 with nine home runs and 63 RBI in Class AAA last season. He is a right-handed hitter, which could make him an attractive bench player for the Indians, whose projected starters in the outfield, Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and Michael Brantley, are all left-handed hitters.--OF Felix Pie, a failed prospect with the Cubs and the Orioles, was signed to a minor league contract and invited to the Indians' major league training camp. Pie hit .240 with no homers and seven RBI in 164 at-bats for Baltimore last season. "All the tools he had when he was a top prospect are still there," Indians GM Chris Antonetti said. "It hasn't translated to the big-league level, but hopefully he can turn the corner with us."--INF Jose Lopez, who hit 25 home runs with 96 RBI for Seattle in 2009 and was on the American League All-Star team in 2006, will compete for a spot in the Indians' infield in 2012. Lopez was signed to a minor league contract and invited to Cleveland's major league training camp. "He could be an option at first or third base, depending on how he hits, or, as a right-handed hitter, he could be a complement to our infield starters who are mostly left-handed hitters," GM Chris Antonetti said.--RHP Cory Burns who put up some impressive numbers as a reliever in the Indians' minor league system, was traded to San Diego in exchange for OF Aaron Cunningham. Pitching for Akron last season, Burns led all of Class AA with 35 saves. He had a 2.11 ERA and averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The Indians felt Burns, 24, was expendable because they have outstanding bullpen depth at the major and minor league levels.BY THE NUMBERS: 41 -- Games the Indians will play in 2012 before they play their first game against the reigning AL Central champion Tigers. Cleveland finished second in the division this year, 15 games behind Detroit.QUOTE TO NOTE: "We continue to explore all our alternatives for adding a hitter, whether he's an outfielder or a first baseman." -- GM Chris Antonetti.ROSTER REPORTThe Indians finished the season with a rotation that is much less of a question mark than it was at the start, but they began to address it by acquiring RHP Derek Lowe from the Braves. RHPs Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin both won 12 games, and the midseason acquisition of RHP Ubaldo Jimenez gives the Indians a solid top three to their rotation. The bullpen was playoff-caliber all year. Offensively, Cleveland has question marks in the outfield and at first base. The team also must decide on whether Carlos Santana, who played both catcher and first base in 2011, is better suited to play one position or the other full-time, or if he should continue to split time between the two spots.ARRIVALS: OF Aaron Cunningham (trade with Padres), INF Jose Lopez (minor league free agent from Marlins), OF Felix Pie (minor league free agent from Orioles), RHP Derek Lowe (trade with Braves).DEPARTURES: INFOF Luis Valbuena (traded to Blue Jays), DH Jim Thome (free agent, signed with Phillies).FREE AGENTS: OF Kosuke Fukudome, RHP Chad Durbin.Fukudome was a useful player after being a acquired in a trade with the Cubs, but there is no way the budget-conscious Indians will offer him anything close to the 13 million salary he made this year. Durbin will not be re-signed because the Indians have multiple, and more economically priced minor league prospects who can fill Durbin's role.ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE:RHP Chris Perez, LHP Rafael Perez, RHP Joe Smith, OF Shin-Soo Choo, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Jack Hannahan, RHP Justin Masterson.The Indians may try to sign Cabrera, their MVP this year, to a multiyear deal, which would buy Cabrera out of his last arbitration year and beyond, although the club has of late shied away from such long-term deals. Choo and the Indians had preliminary discussions on a multiyear deal in spring training this year, but those talks went nowhere.MEDICAL WATCH:--RHP Justin Masterson (arthroscopic left shoulder surgery in October 2011) should be ready for spring training.--RHP Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery in September 2011) will spend the offseason rehabbing. He is expected to miss the entire 2012 season.--LF Michael Brantley (right hand surgery in August 2011) will spend the offseason rehabbing after having the hamate bone removed. He should be ready for spring training.
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