Chris Colabello will be in the running for the starting first base job for the Cleveland Indians this spring:
Tribe signs 1B-DH Chris Colabello to minor league deal with ST invite. Served 80-game PED suspension in 2016 with Jays.— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) December 20, 2016
Colabello, age 33, made his MLB debut in 2013 with the Minnesota Twins. Things did not go well in the 55 games that Chris played that year; over the course of the 2013 campaign, Colabello slashed .194/.229/.344, good for an OPS+ of 74 and a wRC+ of 76. He began 2014 in AAA and only had slightly more playing time at the MLB level than he did in 2013.
In 2015, he made his way north and found a lot of success with the Toronto Blue Jays. His walks were down (6.1%), but so were his strikeouts (26.7%), and his power shot up significantly (ISO of .198) as did his BABIP (.411). In 360 plate appearances, he had what was easily his best stretch of major league level playing time, slashing .321/.367/.520, good for an OPS+ of 138 and a wRC+ of 142. However, his sudden success may have been attributed to some unnatural assistance:
Blue Jays 1B Chris Colabello suspended 80 games without pay after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.— MLB (@MLB) April 22, 2016
The first baseman, following the suspension, continued to adamantly declare that he has no idea how he was exposed to banned substances. When his suspension was fulfilled near the end of July of 2016, he found himself in the Toronto minor league system due to the presence of Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak at the major league level. In the 32 plate appearances he did have in 2016, he slashed .069/.156/.069.
Is Chris Colabello the answer to Cleveland’s first base problem? It doesn’t seem likely. His numbers, outside of what seems to be a drug-aided 2015, are mediocre at best and dreadful at worst. I’d like to think that 2015 is his “true” level of talent, but to do so would be to ignore a rather large elephant in the room. Best of luck, Chris. Please stay clean.