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The Week in Transactions: The Indians sign a trio of left-handed relievers

In which the Indians collect left-handed relievers, and lose Jerry Sands to the White Sox on waivers.

Joe Thatcher, one of three left-handed relievers signed to minor-league deals this past week
Joe Thatcher, one of three left-handed relievers signed to minor-league deals this past week
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Transactions

December 21

Released IF Chris Johnson

This was the inevitable result set in motion when the Indians designated him for assignment. Anyone with an interest in Johnson would just wait until he came with no salary strings attached, and because the Indians are on the hook for both his 2016 and 2017 salaries ($17.5M - including the 2018 buyout), they could sign him for the minimum. The Indians releasing him might be the best thing for him in the long run, for rather than rotting on the bench, he could go to AAA, play every day, and prove to other major-league organizations that he's still a viable player.

Signed LHP Joe Thatcher to a minor-league contract and invited him to Spring Training

The first of three left-handed relievers officially signed this week (Thatcher was announced as going to the Indians weeks ago), the Indians are obviously trying safety in numbers to find a reliable left-handed option. For in addition to these three pitchers (Thatcher, Gozelanny, Detwiler), they also have Kyle Crockett, Kirby Yates (not a left-hander)and Giovanni Soto on the roster.

Thatcher was demoted (outrighted, to be specific) to the minors after a run of bad outings in July. The Astros were in the midst of a pennant race, couldn't afford to be patient with Thatcher, and had a better left-handed option in LGFT Tony Sipp. Thatcher returned to the Astros in September, and was much better, but didn't make the postseason roster, and became a free agent after the season. His left-right splits have in recent years all but disappeared, which is bad news for him as he once was deadly against left-handed hitters.

Signed LHP Tom Gorzelanny to a minor-league contract and invited him to Spring Training

Once a starting pitcher, Gorzelanny has attempted the transition to a left-handed specialist, with very mixed results. He had some success with Milwaukee (2013 was poor, 2014 was good), but had an awful 2015 campaign with Detroit.

It is a bit unfair to call Gorzelanny's 2015 season uniformly awful, but then again, relievers throw so few outings that one poor week or even one poor appearance can poison his stat line. On May 26, his ERA was 2.93, but just three weeks later in was in the 7.00 range. Like with Joe Thatcher, Gonzelanny was DFAed (July 3) in the middle of the season, was outrighted to the minors, then returned to the big-league club (Aug 9) to finish out of the season.

December 22

Signed LHP Ross Detwiler to a minor-league contract and invited him to Spring Training

Detwiler was dealt to the Rangers last winter after a decent season pitching in relief. The Rangers placed him back in the rotation to start 2015, then moved him to the bullpen after a poor April, then released him in July after he didn't work out as a reliever. The Atlanta Braves signed him, and he reproduced the same numbers back in the National League. Hence his availability as a minor-league signing.

December 23

Chicago White Sox claimed OF Jerry Sands off waivers

The White Sox are looking for outfield help, and while they looking for bigger fish than Sands, he may stick around as a bench bat. Or he'll be available at the end of March.

Latest 40-man roster

(embiggened version here)

Dec 27 2015

(Note: Kirby Yates is a right-handed pitcher. I will update this roster later tonight)

The most interesting part of this update is what's not there: the team has yet to officially sign Mike Napoli. They may just be waiting until after Christmas/New Year's to do so. When they finally add him to the roster, they'll need to boot somebody else off to make room for him. Maybe they'll try to sneak Kirby Yates through waivers now that they've signed three left-handed relievers to minor-league deals. Or maybe Tony Wolters' stay on the 40-man roster is over.