It wasn’t that long ago that the Cleveland Indians front office would not give Josh Willingham an extra year on his contract, ultimately losing him to a division rival. Earlier this month, the Minnesota Twins waived the right-handed slugger and traded him to the Kansas City Royals—the team that now sits in first place in the AL Central—in exchange for RHP Jason Adam. Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that, once again, the Tribe (a team that can’t seem to find a right-handed power bat) was close to a deal for Willingham, but didn’t quite pull the trigger.
In 2012, the Tribe had a chance to sign Willingham but he wanted three guaranteed years on a $21 million contract. The Indians offered two. Willingham signed that three-year deal with Minnesota, and was outstanding in 2012: .260 (.890 OPS) with 35 homers and 110 RBI. The Tribe feared that Willingham’s body was breaking down, and that seems to be the case. When discussing Willingham (and adding $1.8 million to the payroll), the Indians decided they’d rather look at [Zach] Walters and some of their other prospects.
Walters, acquired in the deal for Asdrubal Cabrera, was the hero earlier this month when he hit placed a walk-off home run into the visitor’s bullpen against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pluto also iterated that the Indians want Walters to play every day, leaving less playing time for a guy like Willingham.
Over the last week of play, Willingham is 6-for-23 with two home runs, three doubles and seven runs batted in. Walters was 2-for-4 with a solo home run Friday in a win over the Orioles. The Tribe is currently six games out of first place and five games out of the second Wild Card slot in the American League.
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