CLEVELAND — The Indians addressed the need for more power in their lineup. Now Brandon Moss has to provide it.
Cleveland finalized a trade — the first of the winter meetings — that has been in the works for weeks by acquiring Moss, a first baseman/outfielder and all-star last season, from the Oakland Athletics on Monday for minor league infielder Joey Wendle.
Moss, 31, batted .234 with 25 homers and 81 RBIs in a career-high 147 games for the A’s. A left-handed hitter, he drew 67 walks and scored 70 runs. Moss hit .268 with 21 homers in the first half of the season to earn his first All-Star selection, but a nagging hip problem cut into his production over the final months.
On Oct. 21, Moss underwent an operation on his hip. Moss said Dr. Thomas Byrd was prepared to perform microfracture surgery but all that he needed was a labrum repair and cartilage cleanup, which should make his rehab somewhat easier.
Moss said his rehab is coming along well and he expects to be cleared to run later this month.
The chance to join the Indians, who contended for a playoff spot until the season’s final weekend, excited Moss. He said the club is similar to some of the Oakland teams he has played for.
“There’s a great core group of guys and, in all honesty, it reminds me of after 2012, when they brought us all up and we all kind of took off,” he said. “That next year in 2013, we had that core group of guys and the young pitching staff and we won the division by a pretty good margin. It reminds me of a team like that. It’s a team with a lot of talent and a lot of capability and it’s going to be exciting to be a part of it.”
Despite the hip issue, Moss, who also has played for Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, finished among the AL leaders in homers, RBIs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage. He played 67 games at first base, 56 in left field and 34 in right for the wild-card winning A’s.
“One of the things that attracted us to Brandon is he’s got the versatility to play either corner spot in the outfield and first base,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said at the winter meetings in San Diego.
Acquring Moss to solidify the middle of the order could mean decreased playing time for David Murphy and Nick Swisher, who hit .208 with eight homers in a season cut short at 97 games because of injuries. Swisher had surgery on both knees in August. With two more years on a four-year, $56 million contract, moving Swisher in a deal likely would be difficult.
“We still expect Nick to be a big part of our team,” Antonetti said. “Right now his focus is on getting healthy for the start of spring training.”
Moss is eligible for arbitration for the second time after making $4.1 million last season.
He’s glad he won’t have to play in spacious Oakland Coliseum, where his statistics were not nearly as good as they were on the road.
“I love the fans there,” he said. “I hated playing at the Coliseum. It killed me as a hitter. I know this past year I hit under .200 at home and the year before that I think I hit exactly .200. I’ve pretty much made my seasons on the road. I’d hit 10 or 11 or 12 home runs there, but it’s just a tough place to hit. You don’t get rewarded for fly balls unless you absolutely crush the ball.
“It’s just a tough place to play, so I’m really excited about playing in a park where I’ve had some success. I’ve always enjoyed playing there.”
Wendle batted .253 at Double-A Akron last season.
A’s general manager Billy Beane said Wendle would be penciled in at Triple-A next season.
The A’s traded another all-star last month, sending third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays for third baseman Brett Lawrie, left-hander Sean Nolin, right-hander Kendall Graveman and minor league shortstop Franklin Barreto.
“We’ve done it before,” Beane said about making big moves in the past several months. “We’ve had to. The tough thing is you’re talking about players who are really good players for us in a very successful period. It’s tough having to do this every few years but unfortunately necessary.”
AP sports writers Howie Rumberg and Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.