Third Anything But Hot Corner For Indians

By: T.J. Zuppe

The 2010 edition of the Cleveland Indians was flawed in many ways and it showed in the final record of 69-93. Of the flaws, quite possibly the biggest of all was at third base, particularly after the trade of former shortstop, turned third-baseman, Jhonny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers in July.

Former Indian - Andy Marte

That opened the door for a combination of veterans and youth, as the Tribe was determined to give opportunities to those who never had them or quite frankly, should not have them.

Those included in that category were Andy Marte, Jayson Nix and Luis Valbuena.

As the Indians turned the page on the regular season, heading into the off-season, it was clear the hot corner would need to be at the forefront of needs to be addressed. Yet, as the calender nears 2011, those changes have yet to take place.

Of the few shifts, gone is Marte, signing a minor-league deal with the Pirates.

His departure caused jubilation from the Indians faithful, as the one-time top prospect turned sub-par headache seemingly had the coziest job in the big leagues, with the Indians. His .224 career average with the Indians would not be missed.

His inning of scoreless relief against the Yankees in 2010 might be.

To replace Marte, the Indians announced the signing of infielder Jack Hannahan to a minor league contact, with a spring training invite. The former Tiger, Mariner and Athletic spent the entire 2010 campaign at Class-AAA, between Tacoma and Pawtucket, hitting a combined .237.

Known for his glove, not his bat, Hannahan owns a career major league batting average of .224. Is there any coincidence that his average in the big mirrors that of Marte’s with the Indians?

Does anyone else think that is something out of the twilight zone?

Cleveland's Newest Indian - Jack Hannahan

Hannahan will be expected to compete for the starting third base job, as well as possibly a utility spot with the Indians in 2011.

His competition remains Nix and Valbuena, both doing their best stay irrelevant in the winter league. Nix, in three games with Senadores de San Juan, stakes claim to a 1-13 performance thus far with the bat, with just as many errors as hits.

Valbuena is not much better, hitting .223 with two home runs and 12 runs batted in, in 36 games with Cardenales de Lara.

To this point, those are your candidates for the starting third base job when spring training approaches. It is understandable why the Indians have little, to no excitement surrounding them in the off-season. Without pulling any punches, the team certainly has one of the worst situations at the hot corner approaching next season.

On top of that, the Indians also made it clear they did not intend to spend much this winter towards free-agents. Outside of the few bargain-basement players that are on the market (including reported mutual interest in free agent Nick Punto), the Tribe will not be making much of a splash at the two biggest positions of need, third and in the rotation.

Instead, they will once again be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, the same way they did when they inked career journeyman Casey Blake. Of course they were rewarded in that situation but placing hope on Nix or Hannahan to do the same is a little like playing the lottery.

However, you might have a little better odds with the Mega Millions.

Expecting either to be anything more than what they have been in their career is unfair to them and certainly puts them in a near-certain situation of failing.

Former First Round Pick - Lonnie Chisenhall

On top of playing the odds, the team is also placing faith in the youth at the position. In the minor leagues, options such as Jared Goedert, hitting .333 in 14 games with Leones del Caracas in the winter leagues, or Lonnie Chisenhall are still a bit away from contributing at the major league level.

Goedert spent 2010 with Class-AAA Columbus, while Chisenall, the former first round pick, was mostly with Class-AA Akron.

While both could be great alternatives, odds are neither will see much action with the big-club next season. That is unfortunate, as either one would create a little buzz in Cleveland, at least more than the kind Nix or Hannahan could provide.

If the Indians truly wanted to make a bold move, they would give a true crack to either Goedert or Chisenhall in Arizona, in spring training.

There is no way either could perform worse than the existing corps of contributors at the position and could possibly surprise, with much better upside. After all, if the team is not willing to spend money through free-agency, why not let either one step up and truly earn it.

It sure beats the alternative.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

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2 Comments

  1. good article on the tribe. I agree that third is a concern, but I feel they have other major issues. One they have no power in their lineup and no major league starters other than carmona. With the indians having no power they will have to struggle to score.

  2. […] Some more updated chatter on the third base position for the Tribe. Includes some Jack Hannahan discussion as well. [T.J. Zuppe/ESPN Cleveland] […]


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