Indians sign Rajai Davis to one-year contract

Detroit Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis. (Paul Sancya/AP)

CLEVELAND — Rajai Davis can play all three outfield positions, bat almost anywhere in the lineup and steal a base when needed.

Just what the Indians were looking for.

With star left fielder Michael Brantley expected to miss the start of next season following shoulder surgery, the Indians and Davis agreed to a one-year contract on Thursday.

"He fits our team very well," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He can fill a variety of roles. He’s been a part-time player, he’s been a semi-regular player and he’s been a regular player, depending on what a team needs. We think he’ll really fit well on our team and help provide some balance with some of our left-handed hitting outfielders."

The 35-year-old, who spent the past two seasons with Detroit, will be counted on to give the Indians outfield depth and added speed. He’ll also hold things down in left field while Brantley works his way back.

Antonetti said Brantley is "progressing well." The All-Star is in Cleveland doing rehab and visited with the Indians’ GM in the team’s clubhouse.

"He’s chomping at the bit to get our training staff to push things a little bit more quickly because he’s feeling so well," Antonetti said.

To make roster room for Davis, the Indians designated infielder Chris Johnson for assignment Thursday. Johnson, acquired from Atlanta in August, is guaranteed $17.5 million for the next two seasons and a 2018 option buyout.

"It was a tough decision," Antonetti said of the move on Johnson, who batted .289 with one homer and seven RBIs in 27 games for Cleveland. "I think as we looked at how we’d allocate playing time and our roster moving forward, we found that it would be pretty difficult to get C.J. some at bats. That kind of led to the decision. It was a very difficult roster decision, but we’re at that point in the off-season now that each subsequent roster move is more and more painful, because they’re all guys that we like and have held on to for a reason."

Davis hit .258 with 11 triples, eight homers and 30 RBIs in 112 games last season, playing 46 games in centre field, 39 in left and 10 games in right. Davis had 18 steals, including three against the Indians on April 25.

Davis has a .269 career average since debuting with Pittsburgh in 2006. He has 322 career steals.

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