Cleveland Indians Add Scott Downs On Minor League Deal

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Indians Add Vertical Depth With Signing Of Scott Downs

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The Cleveland Indians have signed veteran left handed reliever Scott Downs to a minor league contract.

He has more than six year of major league service time; therefore by Article XX(B)  the Indians must make a decision about his fate by five days before Opening Day.

The Indians have several options of what they could do at that point:

The Tribe can either put him on the 25-man roster, release him outright, or, if the club chooses they can send him down to the minors, the player receives a $100K bonus and an automatic opt-out date of June 1.

Downs opened the 2014 season with the Chicago White Sox appearing in 38 games posting a 0-2 record and a 6.08 ERA. White Sox manager Robin Ventura used him equally against both right handed batters (53 plate appearances against) and left handed batters (55 left handed batters faced). Right handed batters posted a slash line of .295/.415/.364 against him while he fared much better against left handed bats holding them to a slash line of .224/.309/.367.

Despite the overall poor ERA with the White Sox the ERA estimators were much more favorable as he had a FIP of 3.72 and a SIERRA of 3.96. The White Sox could have held on to him and allowed him to be more of a left handed specialist but his contract called for a $4.25MM vesting option if he appeared in 55 games. Partly due to poor performance and partly to avoid having the vesting option kick in the White Sox released him on July 3rd.

The Kansas City Royals signed him on July 6th making his first appearance at Progressive Field against the Indians where he worked a scoreless 7th inning retiring Jason Kipnis (lineout), Asdrubal Cabrera (strikeout), and Michael Brantley (grounder back to the mound) in a Royals 4-1 victory.

With the Royals he appeared in 17 games posting a record of 0-2 with a 3.14 ERA (5ER/14.1IP). Unlike his time in Chicago the ERA estimators weren’t as friendly with a FIP of 4.67 and a SIERRA of 4.61. He was utilized more against left handed batters (32 plate appearances) and right handed batters (25 plate appearances). Right handed hitters posted a slash line of .238/.360/.524) while he continued to have success against left handed batters holding them to a slash line of .226/.250/.355.

Struggling against right handed batters has been something that he has had to battle throughout his 13 year career as right handed batters have a career batting average against of .274 (OPS of .764) while lefties have only hit .219 (OPS of .608).

Downs turns 39 during Spring Training (March 17) and saw a decrease in his fastball velocity from a career average of approximately 88 miles per hour down to 86.2 mph.

The signing is intriguing for the Indians who have three competent left handed relievers on their project 25-man roster in Nick Hagadone (out of options), Marc Rzepczynski, and Kyle Crockett but it’s always good to build vertical depth on your 40-man roster and beyond.

It was just the 2013 season that Downs had success with the Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves appearing in 68 games posting a 4-4 record with a 2.49 ERA.

In the end it’s an upside ceiling with little or no cost to the Indians other than giving away some spring training innings to a veteran looking to turn his career around. The last veteran pitcher the Indians signed with the promise of getting significant “A” game innings in spring training was Aaron Harang who went on to post a very solid 2014 season (12-12, 3.57 ERA)  for the Atlanta Braves.

Downs joins pitchers Bryan Price, Tyler Cloyd, Shaun Marcum, Dustin Molleken, catchers Brett Hayes and Adam Moore, and outfielders Destin Hood and Jerry Sands as non-roster spring training invitees.

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