It’s kind of weird to say this about a team with one of the lower payrolls in baseball, but the Indians might have the best bench in the game.
C Josh Bard
2004 WARP: 0.6
Bard’s absence due to various injuries lead the Indians to keep Tim Laker on the roster all last year. Predictably, Eric Wedge ran Victor Martinez into the ground rather than sit him in favor of Laker. Now that Bard is back, Laker’s been banished to Tampa, and the Indians have a credible option at backup catcher. Bard will probably be trade bait as he becomes more expensive, but for the next couple seasons he should be one of the best backups in the business.
OF Ryan Ludwick
2004 WARP: 0.1
A Rangers fan I know termed Ludwick a right-handed version of Todd Hollandsworth after he was dealt for Ricardo Rodriguez in 2002. That prediction looks pretty accurate. Ludwick still should be able to play center field, at least according to early reports out of Spring Training. Because he’s out of options, he’ll be a bench player, providing some right-handed pop in the late innings.
IF Jose Hernandez
2004 WARP: 3.4
The right half of Los Angeles’ 2004 second base platoon, Hernandez will be playing more of a utility role for the Indians. Jose can play all over the field, but his bat is what will get him into the lineup. Another nice late-inning option.
IF Alex Cora
2004 WARP: 4.8
Cora’s 2004 was in most respects a career year. He posted a career high in home runs (10), although they seem to have come at the expense of doubles (9). That’s a weird combination considering the park where he played, so I’m betting that ratio won’t hold this year. He’s a perfect fit with Ronnie Belliard; he’s the better defensive player, and he’s a left-handed hitter. He could also fill in at shortstop for a month or so if need be.