Meet the Indians' new right-handed-hitting outfielder, same as the Indians' old right-handed-hitting outfielder.
Austin Kearns is back. Kearns, who won a job with the Indians last spring training, has agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Tribe. He is the first free agent the Indians have signed to a big-league deal this winter.
Kearns' deal includes performance bonuses.
"We think he's a great fit," said GM Chris Antonetti. "He's a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions. He's smart, tough and plays the game the right way."
The Indians traded Kearns to the Yankees for right-hander Zach McAllister on July 30, one day before the non-waiver trading deadline.
Kearns hit .272 (83-for-301) with 42 runs, 18 doubles, eight homers and 42 RBI with the Tribe. He had an OPS of .773 -- .419 slugging percentage and .354 on-base percentage.
Overall, he hit .263 with 10 homers and 49 RBI. He had a .746 OPS, but played sparingly for the Yankees.
"We talked to some pretty good teams," said Kearns, concerning his off-season negotiations. "In the end, Cleveland was the place to come back to."
Kearns and his wife, Abbey, have a home in Westlake.
"Living outside of Cleveland definitely played a part in me signing here," said Kearns.
Last year, Kearns came to camp as a spring training invitee on a make-good deal. He won a spot on the club and earned $750,000 in base salary.
"I enjoyed playing here," said Kearns. "There are a lot of good guys on this team. Guys I've maintained relationships with. They have a lot of talented young guys on this team."
The Indians' projected starting outfield of Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo are all left-handed hitters. Kearns was primarily a left fielder last year, playing 91 games there.
Shelley Duncan, Trevor Crowe and Chad Huffman are the other right-handed-hitting alternatives among the outfielders. Crowe is a switch hitter.
The Indians must drop someone from the 40-man roster to make room for Kearns. They do not have to do that until MLB and the players association approve the contract.
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