Gonzalez hasn't played full season since 2001
CLEVELAND -- Free agent outfielder Juan Gonzalez, whose production has plummeted in recent years because of injuries, is close to signing a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians.
If the two-time American League MVP makes the Indians' 25-man roster in spring training, he would get $600,000 and would have a chance to earn another $1.65 million in bonuses based on plate appearances and $300,000 based on time on the active roster.
"We have no deal yet, but remain hopeful that we can get something done soon," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said Monday night.
Once one of baseball's most feared right-handed power hitters, the 35-year-old Gonzalez has been limited to just 185 games the past three seasons with Texas and Kansas City because of a variety of injuries.
A lower back problem hampered him last season when he played in just 33 games with the Royals, batting .326 with five homers and 17 RBI.
Gonzalez hasn't played a full season since 2001, when he had one of his best all-around years as a pro with the Indians. In 140 games, he batted .325 with 35 homers and 140 RBI -- the third most of his career -- and helped Cleveland to the AL playoffs.
If he's healthy, Gonzalez would give the Indians some much-needed pop from the right side. He would also alter Cleveland's plans in the outfield.
Gonzalez could take the right-field job away from Casey Blake, who is moving there from third to make room for Aaron Boone. Blake could then go to left and Coco Crisp to center. Grady Sizemore, projected to be Cleveland's starter in center field, would likely begin the season at Triple-A Buffalo.
"There's a comfort zone for him and us," Shapiro said of Gonzalez. "If he's healthy, he's not a bench player."
Gonzalez has hit 439 career homers for Texas, Detroit, Cleveland and Kansas City.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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