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The Week in Transactions: Indians make first major move of the offseason

In which the Indians sign their first major-league free agent of the winter.

Rajai Davis
Rajai Davis
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Transactions

December 17

Signed OF Rajai Davis to a one year, $5.25M contract

Designated IF Chris Johnson for Assignment

After losing out on Todd Frazier, the Indians had a backup plan in place, and moved quickly on it. Davis obviously could have been added even if the team traded for Frazier, but perhaps they were going to get an outfielder in the deal. Davis has been a good 3rd outfielder for the Tigers the last couple years, and his ability to play center field was a big reason why the Indians were interested. I think he'll sub in left field until Michael Brantley returns, then move over to center, or perhaps platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall if Almonte or Naquin is doing well.

In designating Johnson, the Indians are cutting bait on a player with two years left under contract, something that they haven't had to do in quite a while. If someone is foolish enough to claim him on waivers the Indians won't have to pay his 2016 and 2017 salary, but that's not happening, so they'll be paying for Johnson while he plays on other teams the next couple years. Johnson of course was a consolidation of the Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher contracts, so in punting Johnson, they officially punt on the Bourn/Swisher deals as well.

December 18

Acquired RHP Dan Otero from the Philadelphia Phillies for Cold Hard Cash

Designated OF Jerry Sands for Assignment

Signed RHP Jarrett Grube to a minor-league contract; invited him to Spring Training

Otero had been claimed on waivers by the Phillies earlier in the offseason (he ended 2015 with the Oakland A's), and is just one season removed from a nice 2014 campaign in which he threw 86.2 high-leverage innings for the A's. He isn't eligible for arbitration, so he's not going to be too expensive, either. Otero doesn't throw hard for a reliever (high-80s/low-90s), and throws a lot of pitches in the strike zone. He doesn't have the profile of a modern back-end reliever, but perhaps he can have some success as a 6th/7th inning guy.

In make the move, the Indians designed Jerry Sands for assignment, a move that was inevitable after the Davis signing, or even the Joey Butler acquisition. Sands has put up gaudy AAA numbers, but that hasn't translated to the big leagues. He'll get an invite to somebody's camp (possibly even the Indians).

Other MLB Transactions (with emphasis on AL clubs)

December 14

Baltimore Orioles signed RHP Darren O'Day to a four-year, $31M contract

Washington Nationals signed RHP Yusmeiro Petit to a one-year, $2.5M contract ($3M 2017 team option)

Chicacgo Cubs signed RHP Trevor Cahill to a one-year $4.25M contract

Seattle Mariners signed RHP Steve Cishek to a two-year, $10M contract

December 15

Chicago Cubs signed OF Jason Heyward to a seven-year, $184M contract (player opt-out in 2018 and 2019)

The latter opt-out will only be available if Heyward has 550 plate appearances in 2019.

The Cubs not only get Heyward, but in the process they make a division rival (St. Louis) weaker. Heyward can opt out at two points in the deal, and assuming he doesn't have a career-altering injury, he'll be back out on the market in two years at the age of 27, and would get an even bigger contract.

New York Mets signed LHP Jerry Blevins to a one-year, $4.0M contract

Texas Rangers signed RHP Tony Barnette to a two-year, $3.5M contract ($4M 2018 team option)

December 16

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Three team trade:

Chicago White Sox traded 2B Micah Johnson, RHP Frankie Montas, and OF Trayce Thompson to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers traded 2B Jose Peraza, OF Scott Schebler, and 2B Brandon Dixon to the Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds traded 3B Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox

Sunday's Terry Pluto column has some interesting notes about what the Reds were looking for (including Cody Allen?!) from the Indians. The sticking point came when the Reds insisted that the Indians deal Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer, and the Indians didn't want to do that. So instead they gravitated towards a deal in which they'd get 2B Jose Peraza from the Dodgers (the Reds are going to deal Brandon Phillips for prospects). The White Sox were the team that would land Frazier, though, and so the Indians will be facing the player that they almost had for the next two seasons. The White Sox dealt Frankie Montas (one of the players from the Jake Peavy deal), and two players who made their MLB debuts in 2015 (Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson). I don't think anybody in this deal is better than Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer.

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San Francisco Giants signed RHP Johnny Cueto to a six-year, $125M contract ($22M 2022 team option, post-2017 player opt-out)

Cueto's poor second half didn't hurt him that much, apparently. As is de riguer for mega-deals today, Cueto gets an opt-out two years into the year, and should get another contract just as good as this one. Cueto will be pitching half his games in the spacious AT&T Park, so he's landing in a very favorable situation.

Los Angeles Angels signed OF Daniel Nava to a one-year, $1.375M contract

Atlanta Braves signed C Tyler Flowers to a two-year, $5M contract ($4M 2018 team option)

Colorado Rockies signed 1B Mark Reynolds to a one-year, $2.6M contract

December 17

Texas Rangers signed OF Justin Ruggiano to a one-year, $1.65M contract

December 18

Detroit Tigers signed IF Mike Aviles to a one-year, $2M contract

Aviles gets a major-league deal, and the Jose Ramirez Era officially begins.

Latest 40-man Roster

(embiggened version)

Dec 20 2015-2

This doesn't include Mike Napoli, who has yet to officially sign with the Indians. Napoli would be the starting first baseman, which would move Carlos Santana to DH and Joey Butler to the bench. With Michael Brantley at least the first month of the season, Abraham Almonte would be the starting center fielder (unless Tyler Naquin wins the job), and Rajai Davis the starting left fielder. When Brantley returns, Davis would move over to center, and Almonte would be a backup.

When the Indians officially sign Napoli they'll have to remove someone from the 40-man roster. Primary candidates would Tony Wolters, or any of the waiver claims/trades that they've made this winter (Kirby Yates, Collin Cowgill, Dan Otero, Joey Butler).

Jerry Sands and Chris Johnson are still in the DFA ten-day window, and neither will be claimed by anybody. The Indians will try to trade Johnson in order to save some money, but I don't see them getting any takers when a team who wanted him could just wait until he was a free agent and sign him for the minimum.