The Cleveland Indians have signed a deal with 37-year-old veteran reliever Scott Atchison, the team announced on Monday afternoon. The agreement is a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Atchison appeared in 50 games for the New York Mets in 2013, finishing 3-3 with a 4.37 ERA. He was then non-tendered this offseason and thus, the Indians acquire both of his remaining seasons of arbitration eligibility if he makes the team. He had a very impressive 2012 with the Boston Red Sox, contributing a 1.58 ERA in 42 contests. He pitched under manager Terry Francona for the Sox in 2011.
Since he’s 37, Atchison represents fairly low upside for the Tribe. They obviously needed more warm bodies with MLB relief experience in the wake of losing Rich Hill, Matt Albers, Joe Smith and Chris Perez to free agency. Atchison has a 3.64 ERA in his 205 career big league games and a 3.74 ERA in 238 Triple-A appearances. He’s not flashy by any means with his 5.9 K/9 in the last four years since his return from a two-season stay in Japan.
Previously, Cleveland signed similar zero-guarantee deals with 30-year-old righty Matt Capps and 30-year-old lefty Mike Zagurski. Along with brand new closer John Axford, they all are newcomers for the team’s spring 2014 bullpen. Shaun Marcum, a 32-year-old righty who also signed such a deal, is a former starter but could potentially be a factor in the pen.
Only four relievers are likely to have 100% confirmed MLB jobs: Axford, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Marc Rzepczynski. Others that will compete: newly acquired lefty Josh Outman, Vinnie Pestano, Chen-Chang Lee, Nick Hagadone, Blake Wood, Preston Guilmet, Frank Herrmann, Scott Barnes, etc. The Indians also will have choices to make on the future roles of Carlos Carrasco (expected to be a starter) and Josh Tomlin.
Overall, the Atchison signing puts a nice little cherry on top of a solid-yet-unspectacular reliever offseason for the Indians. The team’s pen had a just slightly above average ERA at 3.62 last season, but then promptly lost a large chunk of its contributors. Hopefully a few of these new veterans can stick and make a difference, along with the up-and-coming youngsters.
Photo: MLB/Steve Mitchell