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Indians checking out Vladimir Guerrero

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
Vladimir GuerreroThe Indians may be kicking the tires on the unsigned Vladimir Guerrero, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports. Guerrero recently worked out for the team in his native Dominican Republic, and Cleveland needs depth in the outfield, what with Grady Sizemore likely until June after undergoing back surgery earlier this month.

Guerrero's agent recently told CBSSports.com Insider Jon Heyman that his client would be willing to play in Japan, so there's little doubt that an opportunity with the Indians would appeal to him. Guerrero is unquestionably in decline, but even last year's uncharacteristic batting line of .290/.317/.416 grades out as slightly above average once you adjust for park and league.

Guerrero's underlying power indicators cratered last season, but part of his struggles are attributable to a severe and possibly aberrant decline in productivity against left-handed pitching. Guerrero throughout his career has been a reliable abuser of lefties, but in 2011 he notched a paltry .709 OPS against the opposite side (worse than he fared versus right-handers). However, he logged just 161 plate appearances in such situations, so the sample size is not adequate. It's quite possible that, if given the opportunity, he'll rebound in 2012, at least against lefties.

For the Indians' purposes, Guerrero would ideally platoon with Travis Hafner at DH, but presumably he'd be asked to play the field on a semi-regular basis, which he plainly can't do anymore. Sure, he can stand out there and catch balls hit right to him, but Guerrero lacks anything resembling adequate range anymore. He can still be useful but only in a carefully circumscribed role.

On another level, though, skilled bad-ball hitters like Guerrero are fun to watch (last season, he swung at almost half the pitches he saw that were out of the strike zone). It would also be nice to see him add some counting stats to what should already be an unassailable Hall-of-Fame case.

RELATED: Indians spring primer

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