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AL Central Free Agents: Cleveland Indians Appear To Be In Good Shape Heading Into Winter

After posting two consecutive seasons of under 70 wins, Manny Acta's young Cleveland Indians responded with an 80-82 record in 2011 that saw the team hanging around in the division race for much of the season. The Indians also made one of the bigger trades of the summer when they acquired pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies on July 30th.

As for this winter the Indians only have three free agents, though they have 10 players which will be arbitration eligible. All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera is one of the arbitration eligible players and certainly will see quite a boost from his $2.025 million contract from this year.

Moving the attention towards the free agents, Kosuke Fukudome, Jim Thome, and Chad Durbin will all be hitting the open market. Much like the White Sox, the trio are all older veteran players with Durbin (33) being the youngest. 

Fukudome is finally through the 4-year $48 million deal he signed with the Chicago Cubs prior to 2008, a deal that proved to be terrible in comparison to his production. At age 34 and with the Indians becoming a younger team (much like the Royals), it's highly unlikely Fukudome will be back in Cleveland.

40-year old Jim Thome returned to Cleveland this summer via trade as well, coming over from the Minnesota Twins. While Cleveland was the scene of many of the highlights of Thome's career, this time around he isn't predominately featured. While it's not out of the question that Thome could be a designated-hitter in the American League, he is likely best situated as a pinch-hitter with a National League team. The decision to retire is also something that has been creeping up when people mention Thome as well.

The other free agent, Chad Durbin, was on his second trip through Cleveland as well in 2011 and things didn't go so well in his return to the American League. The righty posted a 5.53 ERA in addition to a 1.64 WHIP in 68.1 innings pitched. His ERA was the highest of any reliever on the team with a minimum of 50 innings thrown.

Most Important Resigning - None

Of the three free agents, the Indians won't be any worse in 2012 for losing any of the three. For sentimental reasons it would be special to see the Indians retain Thome, but they already have a designated hitter in Travis Hafner. With the Indians continuing the youth movement which included six starters in 2010 under the age of 28, the Indians look to be full speed ahead with the youngsters.