Every year there are a few players who over-play their off-season hand, holding out for the one team that will up their bid and land them a big payday. For a lot of players, that strategy backfires and they end up signing for far less than they were hoping for. The Indians have already landed one such player in Orlando Cabrera on a one year, one million dollar deal that will help shore up their infield.
Now they can add Chad Durbin to the list as they've signed the veteran to a one year, 800k dollar deal with another 1.0m in possible incentives. It's hard to believe that Durbin has been around for for so long. 2011 will be his eleventh Major League season, and it'll have been twelve years since he debuted with the Royals back in 1999. Durbin has actually already played for three of the five AL Central teams - the Royals we already mentioned. From there he signed as a free agent with the Indians in 2003, and then after stops in Arizona and Washington, made his way back to the Central, signing with the Tigers for the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
While Durbin worked primarily as a starter through the 2007 season, he wasn't particularly effective in that role. He'd make 74 starts over those years spanning 465 innings and his ERA during that time period was a miserable 5.75. The Phillies signed him in 2008 and gave him a prolonged look as a reliever however and he's thrived in the bullpen, throwing 226 innings with a 3.62 ERA over three seasons in Philadelphia.
The Indians already had one of the more projectable bullpens in the Central division, as you could pretty confidently name at least five of their seven opening day relievers already. Durbin really makes the 'pen look set and provides the Indians with a nice swing-man who can act as a strong bullpen option and in a pinch, could provide rotation depth if needed.
Durbin can struggle with his control - badly at times - but despite not throwing hard, he also knows how to miss bats and will keep hitters off balance with a 90mph fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup. He's been particularly effective against righties, especially since dropping his slider for the cutter the last two seasons. He seems like he could make an effective platoon partner with Tony Sipp who the Indians will use to attack lefties in the 6th and 7th innings.
We knew the Indians weren't going to have much money to spend going into this off season, and sure enough, the 3.1m in total guarantees they've handed out this winter has been by far the least of any team within the division, and likely within the bottom three in all of baseball. Still, GM Chris Antonetti has done a solid job using his ultra-limited budget to bring in some key pieces that will provide stability for his ball club.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.