Free-agent outfielder Felix Pie agreed to terms on a Minor League contract with Cleveland, the Baltimore Sun reported on Sunday. The deal would include an invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club and Pie would have the right to opt out of the pact if he did not make the Tribe's Opening Day roster. The Indians did not confirm the report.
Sources indicated that the contract with Pie was not complete. Terms were still being worked out and the outfielder would have to pass a physical before the deal could be made official.
Adding Pie would provide some insurance for an Indians outfield that was beset with injuries last season. As things currently stand, Cleveland projects to open the year with Michael Brantley in left field, Grady Sizemore in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right. All three outfielders missed time last year due to a variety of health issues.
Cleveland's focus, however, remains on adding more offense to its lineup. The Tribe's preference would be to add a right-handed hitter who offers some power, and the most logical areas to upgrade are at first base or in the outfield. That is where Cleveland's interest in Willingham comes into play.
As of late Saturday night, the Indians had not officially tabled an offer to Willingham, who is believed to be seeking a three-year contract. The Twins are also in the mix for the free-agent outfielder, viewing him as a backup plan in the event that free agent Michael Cuddyer leaves Minnesota to sign elsewhere.
The Rockies have also been linked to Willingham in various reports.
If Cuddyer were to re-sign with the Twins, discussions between the Indians and Willingham could heat up. The Indians have some financial flexibility, but the club might be forced to move some salary in a trade in order to add a Major League free agent such as Willingham.
Last season, the 32-year-old Willingham hit .246 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs in 136 games for the A's. That type of power would be right at home within Cleveland's lineup, which currently features six left-handed hitters and a pair of switch hitters. The Indians' interest has been described as "average" to this point, according to another source.
As for Pie, the 26-year-old hit .259 with 14 homers, 33 doubles, nine triples and 67 RBIs in 268 games for the Orioles over the past three seasons. In 2011, he hit .220 with no homers and seven RBIs in 85 games before being designated for assignment on Aug. 23. Pie became a free agent at the end of the season.