Anderson might join Indians

Tom Withers and Tom Withers

Free agent outfielder Brady Anderson, dumped after 14 years by the Baltimore Orioles, is close to signing a one-year contract with the Cleveland Indians, a team source told The Associated Press.

Anderson, who will be 38 in January, could sign with the Indians as early as Thursday, said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Baltimore decided to release Anderson after he batted just .202 – 59 points below his career average – with eight homers and 45 RBIs last season.

The Orioles ate the final season of a five-year, $31 million contract Anderson signed after the 1997 season. The Indians would have to pay $200,000 of Anderson’s salary with the Orioles picking up the remaining $3.8 million for next season.

Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro would only confirm that the Indians were interested in Anderson.

The Indians were one of several teams interested in signing Anderson, a three-time All-Star who hit 50 home runs in 1996. The New York Yankees also pursued Anderson but decided to break off talks, leaving him to the Indians.

The signing is low risk for Cleveland, which has been looking for a corner outfielder and who are trying to trim its payroll from $90 million to around $75 million for next season.

Anderson has played most of his career in center field, but will likely bat leadoff and play left field for the Indians. With Anderson leading off, Indians manager Charlie Manuel could bat center fielder Milton Bradley near the bottom of the order.

Bradley was acquired last season in a trade with Montreal, and the youngster wouldn’t feel as much pressure hitting lower in the order with Anderson around.

The Indians will also benefit from Anderson’s leadership in the clubhouse.

Despite his dreary 2000 season, Anderson remained a positive influence with the Orioles.

Anderson recently said he felt slighted in being released by the Orioles on Nov. 16, but was encouraged that other teams were still interested in his services.

“I had my mind made up to finish my career in Baltimore,” he said. “Now you want to go where you’re wanted.”