The Cleveland Indians sure do love those minor league contracts for former MLB Starters. Mark Grudzielanek, an All-Star way back when in 1996, is being given an opportunity to catch on with the Tribe. He could very well end up beating out Jason Donald for the utility role and fill the void being left by Jamie Carrol. And yes I said void. Carrol really was more then just a utility guy for the club. He was a solid clubhouse presence and was always making solid contributions with the bat and the glove. Grudzielanek did not play in 2009, but he was with the Royals from 2006 – 2008 and served as their starter at 2nd for ’06 and ’07. His batting average has always been above .270, but not quite around .300 most years, and he won’t hit a ton of extra base hits, but he will get on base at a pretty good clip if he plays up to his level. He did win a Gold Glove Award for Fielding Excellence in 2006, so you know he’s capable at that end. He would definitely be my pick for utility guy to back up the young duo up the middle, and he can play some 3rd and some outfield. Are we sure Eric Wedge didn’t sign him?
He has a .290 is actually ranked 41st amongst active players, which is a very good thing if Asdrubal Cabrer or Louis Valbuena ever got hurt, he could step in at the bottom, or top of the order, and produce solidly. However, nothing is set in stone yet, he has to win a spot on the 25 man roster. Out of the trio of recent signings, Austin Kearns, Shelley Duncan and himself, he might have the best shot at producing regularly. Unless Michael Brantley does not start the year with Cleveland and Matt LaPorta isn’t quite ready to go, Kearns most likely will not be in the mix. Kearns could be a sleeper though, he has always been pretty solid, despite his early ‘hype’ he received in his career in Cincinnati. Grudzielanek however, is at the point where his career is winding down a bit, and he could contribute well to a young team. His defensive abilities will allow for a smaller drop off on days that Valbuena and Cabrera are off, and he is more solid up the middle defensively then Carrol was. He doesn’t have the batting eye but he is a far better hitter. Carrol has been a lifetime back up, where as Grudzienanek has been a very good starter at 2B in his career. He is an insurance policy, to say the least, for Jason Donald as it is not known if he will be healthy, and he has more to prove in Spring Training then the veteran.