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Tribe signs veteran slugger Giambi to Minors deal

Tribe signs veteran slugger Giambi to Minors deal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are keeping an open mind when it comes to their vacancy at designated hitter. The team is considering a variety of options, including giving former slugger Jason Giambi a shot at earning the job.

Cleveland signed Giambi to a Minor League contract on Saturday night, and will bring the veteran into camp as a non-roster invitee. Giambi's days as a full-time player appear to be in the past, but the Tribe feels he still has plenty left to offer.

"He'll come in and compete to make the team," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on Sunday. "He's obviously an experienced left-handed bat with power. And he's universally respected throughout the game, not only for his accomplishments on the field, but the teammate he is and the leader he has evolved into."

Without a full-time designated hitter in the fold, the Indians would be giving the 42-year-old Giambi the opportunity to make the Opening Day roster as one possibility for that position. Cleveland would probably still rotate a handful of players in the DH role considering Giambi has not played more than 102 games in a season since 2008.

Last year, Giambi appeared in just 60 games for the Rockies, hitting .225 with one home run and eight RBIs while posting a .372 on-base percentage as a part-time first baseman, pinch-hitter and DH. Over the past three seasons with Colorado, he has hit .245 with a respectable .370 on-base percentage, while averaging 70 games per year.

"I don't think we would expect him to be able to get 550 or 600 plate appearances," Antonetti said. "It would be more a part-time DH, pinch-hitter role."

In his prime, Giambi was one of baseball's most feared sluggers.

Giambi has 429 career home runs over 18 seasons in the big leagues spent with the A's, Yankees and Rockies. He took home the American League Most Valuable Player Award with Oakland in 2000 and has been named to five All-Star teams.

During a five-season period from 1999 to 2003, he hit .311 with a .444 on-base percentage and a .596 slugging percentage while averaging 39 home runs and 122 RBIs per year.

Over the offseason, the Indians parted ways with full-time DH Travis Hafner, who signed a one-year contract with the Yankees. Cleveland entertained the idea of bringing back veteran DH Jim Thome, but he remains a free agent.

The Indians have a host of players in the mix for at-bats as designated hitter. Cleveland has constructed a roster with a variety of players who offer position versatility, giving the team multiple combinations around the diamond, and for the DH role.

First baseman Mark Reynolds can slide to third base in a pinch, or act as a part-time DH. Catcher Carlos Santana and right fielder Nick Swisher can handle DH as well, and each has the ability to man first, if needed. Utility man Mike Aviles -- acquired from Toronto via trade this winter -- can DH, plays multiple infield positions and offers limited outfield experience.

Other bench possibilities in camp include Ezequiel Carrera, Ben Francisco, Yan Gomes, Chris McGuiness, Mike McDade, Ryan Raburn and Matt LaPorta, among others.

"As we've talked with the DH position generally throughout the offseason," Antonetti said, "a lot of it will depend on the composition of the rest of our team and how the bench comes together."

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Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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