Juan Gonzalez, who has destroyed Indians' pitching as a visitor to Jacobs Field, is reportedly close to signing a one-year contract with the Indians worth about $12 million.
Gonzalez, a two-time American League MVP, said in Friday's editions of El Nuevo Dia in Puerto Rico that he chose the Indians because he likes to hit at the Jake, and because of his close relationships with Cleveland All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Wil Cordero.
"Juan has certainly indicated Cleveland is a place he's comfortable with," Gonzalez's agent, Scott Boras told WKNR radio in Cleveland. "He likes the city, the fans and the ballpark. There are a lot of ideal elements about it. I think this is an opportunity for both the club and Juan to be a good fit."
Asked for a timetable, Boras said he expected to have his client signed "very soon."
Indians assistant general manager Mark Shapiro did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment on the report. Cleveland GM John Hart was in Florida and unavailable.
It's no secret that the Indians are interested in signing Gonzalez, who played for the Detroit Tigers last season. He would nicely fill the vacuum created by the departure of Ramirez, who signed an eight-year contract with the Boston Red Sox last month.
Indians spokesman Bart Swain confirmed the club has been talking with Boras, but that the sides had not yet reached an agreement.
The 31-year-old Gonzalez hit .289 with 22 homers and 67 RBIs last season in his first year with the Tigers. He seemed distracted by persistent trade rumors, and a bad back contributed to his subpar stats.
Gonzalez never got comfortable in Detroit's new ballpark, Comerica Park, either. He batted just .267 at home with eight homers and 31 RBIs compared to a .307 average with 14 homers and 36 RBIs in road games.
But it's Gonzalez's numbers at the Jake that have the Indians excited.
His 12 homers and 36 RBIs are the most by an opposing player at the ballpark and he has hit .344 (45-for-131) in 30 games at Cleveland.
Over the past five years, Gonzalez has 627 RBIs to Ramirez's 632 and since the 1991 season, only three players - Albert Belle, Frank Thomas an Ken Griffey Jr. have drive in more runs than Gonzalez.
Signing Gonzalez to a one-year deal would be less risky for the Indians, who lost their bidding war with Red Sox for Ramirez and are still looking to add another starting pitcher and some bullpen help.
Boras, who had been seeking a long-term deal, said that he's still speaking with other teams and that he's now agreeable to a one-year contract so Gonzalez could showcase his talents.
Gonzalez missed a large portion of the season with a disc problem, but he apparently passed a medical exam given by the Tigers a few weeks ago and would be looked at by Indians doctors before any deal could be finalized.
Gonzalez was acquired by the Tigers in an eight-player deal with Texas on Nov. 2, 1999. He turned down a $143 million, eight-year extension the Tigers offered him and blocked a tentative trade to the New York Yankees in June.
The Rangers reportedly are interested in re-signing Gonzalez, who had been with the Texas organization since he was 16.
He was voted the AL's MVP in 1996 and again in '98 after hitting .318 with 45 homers and 157 RBIs.
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