Giambi returns to Indians with one-year deal
Forty-two-year-old designated hitter invited to big league camp
CLEVELAND -- The Indians and Jason Giambi made it clear at the end of the season that there was a mutual interest in continuing the veteran's stay in Cleveland. The two sides wasted little time in turning that possibility into a reality.
On Thursday, the Indians announced that they re-signed Giambi to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to attend Spring Training with the Major League club. It is the same deal that Giambi signed last offseason, when it was clear that he was in the plans for the Opening Day roster.
"I don't think there's any better way to start our offseason than re-signing Jason," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He made such a huge impact on our team. He embodies everything we're looking for in our players -- his professionalism, the way he works, the way he prepares for a game, the teammate that he is, the energy he brings to the team and the clubhouse.
"He made an immense impact on our team this year and we're thrilled to continue to have him as part of the organization."
Cleveland also swung a trade with San Diego on Thursday, reeling in left-hander Colt Hynes in exchange for cash considerations. Hynes, a lefty specialist with only a brief taste of the big leagues with the Padres, was placed on the Indians' 40-man roster and Antonetti said the pitcher will head into the spring with a chance at a big league bullpen job.
As was the case last winter, the 42-year-old Giambi will head into camp as a part-time designated hitter and pinch-hitter for the Indians, who also place a high value on his clubhouse leadership. Giambi hit just .183 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 71 games for Cleveland last season, but his overall showing does not immediately show the kind of impact he made on the field.
"We have a first-hand appreciation of all the other things that Jason brings to a team and an organization beyond just his ability," Antonetti said. "We had heard that from other people about how he impacts a team in those ways. Last year, we lived it first-hand and now go into Spring Training with a clear understanding of the value he adds beyond just what he produces on the field."
That said, Giambi did produce on the field in a variety of critical situations.
Giambi posted a 1.181 OPS in the ninth inning, representing the eighth-highest mark among the 368 Major League hitters with at least 20 plate appearances in the ninth. The veteran also ranked 14th in the American League (among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances) with an average of one RBI per six at-bats. Giambi also hit .271 with a .960 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Giambi will forever have a place in Indians lore for his incredible walk-off home run against the White Sox on Sept. 24. He launched a two-run, pinch-hit shot off closer Addison Reed to help the Tribe claim its fifth win in the team's season-ending 10-game streak that clinched a Wild Card berth. In the process, Giambi broke his own record as the oldest player in baseball history to hit a walk-off home run.
Cleveland can afford to carry Giambi on its roster as a result of having the versatile Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn once again in the plans for the bench. Aviles and Raburn can both handle multiple infield and outfield positions, making it easier for the Indians to have a pure DH such as Giambi on the roster.
After the Indians lost to the Rays in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 2, Giambi made it known -- as he had multiple times previously -- that he hoped to stick around with Cleveland.
"I've enjoyed every minute, watching this ballclub grow and being a part of it," Giambi said at the time. "I feel great. I would love to [play again]. I would love to be a part of this. I love the direction this ballclub is going."
In 19 seasons spent between stints with the A's, Yankees, Rockies and Indians, Giambi has posted a career slash line of .278/.400/.519 with 438 home runs, 1,357 walks and 1,436 RBIs. He won the American League Most Valuable Player Award with Oakland in 2000 and has made five All-Star teams.
Hynes, 28, gives the Indians a little more depth when it comes to left-handed relief. In 41 games between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson last season, Hynes posted a 1.52 ERA with 58 strikeouts and two walks in 47 1/3 innings, in which he held lefties to a .147 average. He had a 9.00 ERA in 22 games with San Diego, but held left-handed hitters to a .156 average along the way.
"He's been extraordinarily effective against left-handed hitters," Antonetti said of Hynes. "He actually recently -- this past year -- lowered his arm slot a little bit and was dominant against left-handed hitters in Triple-A and was very effective against them at the Major League level.
"With that, he'll have to continue to refine his approach against right-handed hitters. But, at this point, we wouldn't limit him to just a left-on-left-only role."