During an oft-mentioned yet still underrated off-season, the Cleveland Indians brought in former most valuable player and admitted steroid user Jason Giambi on a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training. This move as well as the invitation to now fifth-starter Scott Kazmir were lost in the shuffle of audacious and effective moves from a reinvigorated front office.
One thing that is particularly clear surrounding each of these additions is that manager Terry Francona had enough experience with each player to know that whether or not they could contribute during the regular season, they would still be valuable to have in camp. These experiences vary as with Kazmir it was opposing him in the AL East while Francona was leading the Boston Red Sox to two titles in nine years. Francona observed what sort of competitor Kazmir was and understood that whether or not he claimed the fifth spot he would have a positive professional impact in the clubhouse and on a collection of young starters.
While Cord Phelps left camp looking like he had the most to offer, be it his growing positional versatility or a bat that seems to finally be major-league ready, it did not make a lot sense to stack him at the end of the bench waiting weeks to see the light of day on the field. There were other options for the final bench spot including Zeke Carrera, but once Michael Bourn was signed as well as having Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley, it became clear that Carrera’s best tool, speed, would have been relatively redundant.
Which is why it became inordinately clear that Giambi offered the most value to this roster moving forward. A lot of this value won’t be shown on the field or in the stat column but rather through his leadership in the clubhouse. There is little doubt that Giambi will be managing, and sooner rather than later; so his ability to lead and tutor players should be unquestioned. This is a terrific opportunity for both entities; Giambi can take a few more cuts and the Indians can add an unmatched veteran presence.
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