Signed OF Austin Kearns and OF Shelley Duncan to minor-league contracts; Invited them to Spring Training
It's likely one of these two will make the major-league roster. Duncan seems to be trending better than Kearns, but I still hold out some hope that Austin will put things together one of these seasons.
Shelley Duncan had spent his entire professional career with the New York Yankees. He progressed up the organizational ladder slowly, spending two full seasons in the Florida State League, and almost two complete seasons in the Eastern League. He had some success with the Yankees in a short stint in 2007, but only got sporadic spurts in the majors in the two seasons since. He's a corner guy with the ability to hit home runs, and would seem to be a good fit as a bat off the bench. With a left fielder (Brantley) who can play center field and a first baseman (LaPorta) who can play left, there seems to be a role for Duncan - if he hits.
Austin Kearns is still a pretty good defensive corner outfielder, but his last two seasons at the plate with the Nationals were horrible. He's only 30 years old, but his once-promising career has turned drastically south. Still, this is a very good gamble for the Indians to take. If he can hit a little, he'll be a very nice fourth outfielder or perhaps a starter if needed.
Signed IF Mark Gruzielanek to a minor-league contract; Invited him to Spring Training
I would hope that Grudzielanek is coming into camp mainly to challenge Jason Donald. Grudzielanek didn't play in the majors last season, and logged just 11 games in the Twins' minor-league organization. I suppose we won't know until we see him play in Spring Training whether he can still play a good second base, but if he can, it'll be tempting for the Indians to carry him on their roster instead of Jason Donald.
Signed C Mike Redmond to a 1-Year, $850K Contract
I don't whether it's sad or funny that Redmond will probably be the only major-league free agent signing the Indians will make this winter. Redmond has made a career of being a backup, never logging more than 90 games in any of his 12 major-league seasons. He's spent the last five seasons playing behind Joe Mauer, and though he had some excellent offensive seasons with the Twins, his bat tailed off dramatically in 2009. At this point, the only thing Redmond has over Wyatt Toregas is experience, and given Redmond's particular experience (last five seasons in the AL Central), it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
Traded IF Jesus Brito (SSA) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for IF Brian Bixler
Bixler is 27 years old, an Ohio native, and is a decent defender at shortstop or second base. He's also out of options, and has been a disaster at the plate. In his 166 plate appearances, he's struck out a mind-boggling 62 times and walked just 8 times. His minor-league numbers suggest that these ratios aren't just a product of small sample size. Maybe the Indians can break down and rebuild his swing, but they better do it quickly, since they'll have just six weeks to make a decision on him.