Casey Kotchman Reportedly Signing On With Indians

ST PETERSBURG, FL: Casey Kotchman #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a RBI single in the fourth inning score Sean Rodriguez #1 against the Texas Rangers in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

After a long search, the Cleveland Indians have identified their next first baseman, signing free agent Casey Kotchman.

It was in July 2008 that the Milwaukee Brewers sent Matt LaPorta to the Cleveland Indians as part of a package in exchange for CC Sabathia. LaPorta was a prospect at the time, but he was thought to be an excellent prospect, and for the year he batted .279/.386/.539 between double-A and triple-A as a 23-year-old. After the season, Baseball America named LaPorta the 27th-best prospect in baseball.

He hasn't developed. Not yet, anyway. Over more than a thousand trips to the plate, LaPorta owns a career 93 OPS+ in the bigs, and he's newly 27. LaPorta is no longer thought to be the Indians' first baseman of the present and the future. Which meant the Indians needed to find a new first baseman of the present, at least.

They looked around. They were in on free agent Carlos Pena. They were in on some other guys. Thursday, they got their man, if you want to put it that way. Jon Heyman:

kotchman is heading to the #indians

Casey Kotchman. We don't know the terms yet, but the terms probably aren't very big, by major league standards. A year ago, Kotchman signed a minor league contract with the Rays. Expect this to be a one-year deal worth a few million.

The Kotchman upside is that he's a talented defensive first baseman coming off a year in which he posted a 128 OPS+. Robinson Cano posted a 129 OPS+. Last season, with Tampa Bay, Casey Kotchman was legitimately good.

But the season before that, with Seattle, he was bad. And the season before that, with Atlanta and Boston, he was okay. His 2011 batting average on balls in play of .335 isn't going to keep up, since Kotchman's career mark in that department is .280.

Over the last three years, Kotchman has batted .266/.336/.383, good for a 99 OPS+. That's probably about what one should expect him to do as an Indian. He probably won't be good, he probably won't be bad, and he's the kind of guy who can keep the position occupied or get easily shoved aside if Matt LaPorta shows signs of life.

A solid and very much unexciting pickup for Cleveland. Hey, you know who else used to be a highly-touted first base prospect, like Matt LaPorta? Casey Kotchman. According to Baseball-Reference, Kotchman has a career WAR of 6.0.

***

UPDATE
One year and $3 million for Kotchman, plus incentives.

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