Colby Rasmus, Austin Jackson, Denard Span: Potential Cleveland Indians’ Free-Agent Targets?


Oct 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus hits a RBI double against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning in game two of the ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

With MLB teams about to bid on players in free agency, a recent story in Sports Illustrated said the Cleveland Indians should target center field fill-ins Colby Rasmus, Austin Jackson , Dexter Fowler or Denard Span.

Fans of the Cleveland Indians know better. When free agency rolls around, don’t expect the Tribe front office to be very active. It’s been the way of life on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario since the Dolan family bought the franchise from Dick Jacobs after Cleveland’s amazing run through the mid 1990s.

But as the Tribe begins to prep its roster for a run in 2016, Terry Francona has some big holes to fill in his lineup, particularly in center field and/or right field.

I’ve made the argument that the Indians must upgrade at least one of the spots. If they can do better than a platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Chris Johnson in right field, I’m fine with Abraham Almonte in center for another season.

If they can do better than Almonte through free agency or trade, I’m fine with at least giving Johnson and The Chiz Kid a shot in right.

In a recent Sports Illustrated column, the case was made for the Indians to improve the center field spot because there are free agents are available who could be had on shorter-contracts, which benefits the Tribe, because they have help coming in the minor-league system.

SI’s Cliff Corcoran wrote:

"“It is far more likely that Cleveland will reach into the free-agent market for an upgrade in centerfield, choosing from among Colby Rasmus, Dexter Fowler, Denard Span and Austin Jackson, all of whom could likely be had on a short-enough contract to allow top prospect Tyler Naquin to ascend to the position in the coming seasons.”"

Rasmus is the most intriguing, because he can hit for power. He hit 25 bombs for Houston a year ago en route to the Astros’ postseason berth, but considering he was just extended a qualifying offer of $15.8 million, it’s unlikely the Indians would want to part with a first-round pick to sign him.

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Fowler, who will be entering his age 30 season in 2016, was also extended a qualifying offer from the Chicago Cubs…so take your pen, scratch those guys off your list, and then throw said list into the trash.

That leaves Span and Jackson. Span was limited to just 61 games last year, slashing .301/.365/.431, but he’s just two seasons removed from leading the NL in hits (184). He’ll be 32 when the season starts, which bodes well for the Tribe. No team should be looking throw an exorbitant amount of money his way.

Jackson is a familiar face from his days roaming center field for the Detroit Tigers. He’s coming off down  offensive season of his career, as he slashed .267/.311/.385 between Seattle and the Cubs.

On a side note, it was interesting to see Corcoran write that Naquin is going to be the Tribe’s cornerstone  in center. Bradley Zimmer is widely considered to be the heir apparent in center, and he’s currently ranked the Indians No. 1 prospect on the MLB pipeline website.

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Zimmer, 22, just got promoted to Akron last year, and figures to open this season at Class AAA Columbus. As the Indians showed with Francisco Lindor, they’re probably not going to rush their prized prospect, which means he’s at least a year, year-and-half away from debuting in the big leagues.