CLEVELAND (AP) -- After exploring other options and coming up empty this winter, the Cleveland Indians may have finally found their new first baseman: Casey Kotchman.
The team agreed to terms Thursday night on a one-year, 3 million contract with Kotchman, a free agent, two people familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is not expected to be announced until Friday. Kotchman can make an additional 1.75 million in performance bonuses, one of the persons said.
Kotchman batted a career-best .306 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in a career-high 146 games for Tampa Bay last season. It was a breakout year for the 28-year-old, who signed a minor league contract with the Rays last January. Kotchman was one of only three AL First basemen -- Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Boston's Adrian Gonzalez were the others -- to finish in the top 10 in both batting average and on-base percentage while appearing in at least 40 games at the position.
Kotchman is expected to compete for the Indians' starting job at first during training camp with Matt LaPorta and Russ Canzler, who signed with the club earlier this week.
LaPorta has been a major disappointment for the Indians, who made finding a quality hitter at first one of their offseason priorities. The team couldn't afford Prince Fielder, one of the gems of this year's free agent class, and the Indians were rejected by Carlos Pena, who spurned their one-year offer and re-signed with the Rays after a year with the Chicago Cubs.
Kotchman, a solid hitter and superb fielder, could be their answer.
Because LaPorta still has a minor league option, it's possible he could begin next seasons at Triple-A Columbus. Kotchman also has a much better glove, another plus in his favor to win the starting job.
Kotchman bats left-handed and is a career. 268 hitter with 59 homers in eight seasons with the Angels, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
His career .998 fielding percentage is the highest in major league history among first basemen with at least 700 games at the position.