Davis brings versatility to Tribe's outfield, lineup
Vet may see time in left while Brantley recovers from shoulder surgery
The Indians officially announced the addition of free-agent outfielder Rajai Davis via a reported one-year, $5.25 million deal with incentives Thursday afternoon.
Davis, 35, hit .258 with 16 doubles, a career-high 11 triples, eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 112 games for the Tigers last season. He finished tied for third in the American League in triples and equaled his career best with the eight homers. Davis swiped 18 bases, including three against the Indians on April 25 at Progressive Field. For his career, Davis has amassed 322 stolen bases and ranks seventh among active players.
The versatile outfielder appeared in 46 games in center field, 39 games in left field and 10 games in right field for the Tigers.
"Across the field, Rajai is a really good player who has a lot of versatility," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti during a Thursday conference call. "As a right-handed-hitting outfielder, he can play all three outfield spots and he fits our team very well.
"He can serve a variety of roles. He's been a part-time player, a semi-regular player and a regular player, depending upon what a team needs. We think he'll provide some balance to some of our left-handed-hitting outfielders."
With Michael Brantley set to miss time at the start of the season following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Davis could get a lot of innings in left field. Antonetti spoke of Brantley on Thursday, mentioning that they talked in the clubhouse a few minutes before the call.
"Yeah, he's progressing well," Antonetti said. "He's champing at the bit to get our training staff to push things a little bit more quickly because he's feeling so well."
To make room on the 40-man roster for Davis, who has a career .296 average against left-handed pitching, the Indians designated infielder Chris Johnson for assignment.
"It was a tough decision," Antonetti said. "As we looked at how we'd allocate playing time and our roster moving forward, we found it would be pretty difficult to get CJ some at-bats. That led to the decision. It was a difficult roster decision.
"What we've tried to do is focus on what gives us the best chance to have the best team. We didn't get there easily, but we felt as we looked at all of our alternatives, that this was the direction we needed to go. We felt some of the other decisions would have been not as beneficial for our team had we taken someone else off the roster."
Antonetti expects to make more moves before the Indians get to Spring Training.
"I don't think this will be the last one," Antonetti said. "Whether it'll be more trades or more free-agent signings, it's difficult to assess. We're actively engaged on both fronts."