September 16, 2014

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Indians make trade for another bat, land Jason Kubel from Diamondbacks; Kelly Shoppach back on team, too

CLEVELAND — They weren’t blockbuster acquisitions Friday but at this point the Indians will try anything to breathe life into their sagging offense — and playoff hopes.

Fresh off scoring just three runs in three games and being swept by Atlanta to start a pivotal nine-game stretch, Cleveland acquired veteran outfielder/designated hitter Jason Kubel in a waiver-wire trade with the Diamondbacks, while bringing catcher Kelly Shoppach back to the organization on a minor league contract.

The move of much more significance was Kubel, who has a solid slugging track record, but has struggled this year — .220, five home runs and 32 RBIs in 89 games — after posting one of his best seasons during his debut year with Arizona in 2012, when he batted .253 with 30 homers and 90 RBIs in 141 games.

The Indians also got cash in the trade, with the D-Backs acquiring either a player to be named or cash.
Kubel is expected to join the Indians in Detroit today.

“In acquiring Jason, we feel that we really fortified our organizational depth and we brought in a guy that’s had success in the American League and was a really productive player as recently as last year,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on a conference call.

“This year he’s obviously had a tough year to date, but we’re excited to bring him back to the American League and give him an opportunity to contribute.”

The left-handed hitting Kubel, 31, was drafted by Minnesota in 2000 and spent the first 12 years of his professional career with the Twins, serving as a regular in the lineup from 2007-11. His best season was 2009, when he hit .300 with 28 homers and 103 RBIs.

Kubel, a lifetime .265 hitter with 139 homers over nine seasons in the majors, is in the final year of a two-year, $16 million free-agent contract he signed with Arizona. He is making $7.5 million this season, with Cleveland responsible for $200,000.
Kubel is expected to see the majority of his playing time at DH but could also steal playing time from right fielder Drew Stubbs.

Shoppach, 33, was recently released by Seattle, where he hit .196 with three homers and nine RBIs in 35 games this year. He spent 2006-09 with the Indians, enjoying his best of nine big league seasons in 2008 — .261, 21 homers and 55 RBIs in 112 games.

He will likely be promoted from Triple-A Columbus when rosters expand in September.

“Kelly offers us an opportunity to improve our depth,” Antonetti said. “He’s a veteran catcher who has had success at the big league level. He can still run a game, handle a pitching staff and control the running game.”

For the most part, Cleveland has gotten serviceable efforts from the rotation — an area of concern entering the season. It’s been an inconsistent offense that was thought to be much-improved after a series of offseason additions that has been a major issue.

The Indians, who trail first-place Detroit by 7½ games in the Central Division standings following Friday’s loss and are four games back in the wild-card race, recently released scuffling slugger Mark Reynolds, with virtually every member of the regular lineup struggling at the plate.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.