The Indians announced that they have signed Casey Kotchman to a one-year contract. Casey Close of Excel Sports Management represents the first baseman, who will earn $3MM in 2012.
Kotchman signed a minor league deal with the Rays about a year ago, and posted an unexpectedly strong .306/.378/.422 line in 563 plate appearances. Kotchman, who turns 29 this month, is a ground ball hitter who had 36 extra base hits in 2011. UZR suggests he is an above-average defensive first baseman. He ranked 36th on MLBTR's list of top 50 free agents entering the offseason.
The right-handed hitting Matt LaPorta and the switch-hitting Carlos Santana had been projected to share time at first base in Cleveland this year. Kotchman, who bats from the left side, now figures to get most plate appearances against right-handers and Santana may still see time at first against left-handers.
Corner infielder/outfielder Shelley Duncan is out of options, while Laporta has options remaining, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. This could play into the team's decision process between now and Opening Day. The Indians acquired another first base option, Russ Canzler, earlier this week.
The first base market has settled in recent weeks, with Kotchman, Carlos Pena and Prince Fielder all finding new teams. Derrek Lee is one remaining free agent first base option, but it's unclear whether he'll play in 2012.