The Indians announced Friday that LaPorta underwent a left hip arthroscopy Thursday in Nashville, Tenn., and will need three to four months for recovery and rehab. Barring any setbacks, the expectation is that LaPorta will be healthy in time for Spring Training games in March.
But the surgery complicates LaPorta's already uncertain future.
"He's out of options going into next year," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said at the end of the regular season. "So he'll either have to be on a Major League team somewhere or he'd have to go through waivers before he could be sent back to the Minor Leagues.
"I've talked with Matt. It's obviously an important offseason for him, because he's going to have to come into Spring Training to win a job."
LaPorta served as a first baseman and designated hitter in his 22-game tour with the Tribe last season, and he spent some time in left field while with Triple-A Columbus. All three of those positions are in need of attention this winter, though the chances of LaPorta earning an everyday job at this point seem slim.
First baseman Casey Kotchman will be eligible for free agency this winter, and Cleveland will likely decline the $13 million club option on veteran DH Travis Hafner's contract. The Indians cycled through 10 left fielders this past season, and there is no clear favorite to open the 2013 campaign as the starter at that spot.
If the Indians do not address first base through a trade or free agency, two in-house options are Russ Canzler (under club control) and Jack Hannahan (eligible for arbitration). Canzler and Ezequiel Carrera appear to be the top internal candidates for left field at the moment.
LaPorta, 27, hit .241 with one home run and five RBIs in his abbreviated stay with Cleveland this past summer. In 101 games with Triple-A Columbus, he hit at a .264 clip with 19 homers, 19 doubles and 62 RBIs.
In parts of four big league seasons with the Indians, who acquired LaPorta as a key piece within the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers in 2008, he has hit .238 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .393 slugging percentage. In 291 career games in the Majors, LaPorta has 31 homers and 120 RBIs.
This is the second operation LaPorta has needed on his left hip. He also underwent an arthroscopic left hip procedure -- performed by Dr. Marc Philippon -- on Oct. 14, 2009 in Vail, Colo. The latest hip arthroscopy (a debridement of the joint) was handled by Dr. Thomas Byrd of the Nashville Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center.