CLEVELAND -- The Indians only have one prominent player eligible for free agency. And that is, of course, using the word "prominent" loosely. Utility infielder Jamey Carroll filed for free agency Thursday, and it remains to be seen if the Indians' interest in retaining him matches the cost it would take to do so.
Carroll, after all, made $2.5 million this past season, and it's highly doubtful the cash-strapped Tribe would dole out that kind of cash for a part-time player. If money weren't an issue -- and when is it not? -- Carroll would undoubtedly be back, because the utility-infield situation is one of the few the Indians might address with a veteran player this winter. Though the Indians saved about $16 million off the 2010 payroll by dealing Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in July, their free-agent expenditures are expected to be minimal, at best. But general manager Mark Shapiro said he would like to find a veteran infielder to take some of the burden off youngsters Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena up the middle and Jhonny Peralta at third. "[Carroll] will be among the guys we consider in that infield role," Shapiro said. No teams bit on Carroll before the July or August trading deadlines, but he's established himself as a versatile veteran piece. Since acquiring him in a trade with the Rockies before the '08 season, the Indians have used Carroll more than the average utility guy. In '08, he played 113 games at second base, third base and left field, and he served as the primary second baseman in a five-week stretch when Cabrera was sent down to Triple-A. In '09, Carroll missed the first five weeks of the season because of a broken bone in his left hand. He returned to appear in 93 games, batting .276 with a .695 OPS. "I think I've gotten a lot more opportunities than most [utility] guys were given in the American League," Carroll said toward season's end. "I've tried to make the most of them." The Indians will have more opportunities in 2010. Valbuena will be entering his first full season in the big leagues, and the Indians might see fit to continue to protect him against left-handed pitching. When the Indians pulled the trigger on the Lee deal, one reason Shapiro stated for acquiring infielder Jason Donald as part of that trade was to have Donald compete with Valbuena in Spring Training for the job at second base. But Donald, who batted just .238 in the Minors this year, battled a lower back issue at Triple-A Columbus and wasn't given a September callup. It's difficult to imagine him being deemed ready to assume a spot on the Opening Day roster. And so the Indians will likely turn to someone with a little more experience. If they can afford him, Carroll fits the bill in all facets, particularly given the veteran leadership he provided on an increasingly young team this year. "I've learned a lot over my time of playing," Carroll said. "If I can use that to be a good teammate, sharing what I've learned and what I know, I try to do that. It's only fair." Aside from Carroll, the Indians' only other player eligible for free agency is right-hander Tomo Ohka, who also filed Thursday. He isn't likely to get more than a Minor League deal and Spring Training invite from a club.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.