The Indians have signed right-handed reliever Matt Belisle to a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. He’ll earn a $1.5 million salary with the chance to earn incentives if he makes the major-league roster, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
Belisle was forced to settle for a minor-league deal despite serving as the closer for the Twins down the stretch last year and helping them reach the postseason. He posted a dominant 1.71 ERA and 0.65 WHIP with 28 strikeouts, four walks, and nine saves in 26.1 innings after the All-Star break.
His overall numbers weren’t quite as impressive, though, as he threw for a 4.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 54 strikeouts, and 22 walks in 60.1 frames. While the lack of sample size provided by his great second-half numbers and the fact that he’s had an up-and-down career are sufficient explanations for why his market wasn’t more robust, Belisle’s primary weakness seems to be that he’s 37 years old, as we’ve already seen aging relievers like Peter Moylan and Jason Motte fail to get guaranteed deals despite having posted strong numbers in 2017.
Belisle has certainly become somewhat of a journeyman, as the Indians will be his fifth team in five seasons. He’ll become the seventh Indians non-roster invitee who pitched in the big leagues last season, joining Jeff Beliveau, Preston Claiborne, Evan Marshall, Neil Ramirez, Carlos Torres, and Adam Wilk. The relievers who have been most instrumental in the Indians’ back-to-back postseason appearances — Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Zach McAllister, and Dan Otero — will all return, while Nick Goody and Tyler Olson are strong favorites to earn roles, so there likely won’t be more than one or two real vacancies in Cleveland’s bullpen. Belisle could certainly force his way into one of those roles, though Cleveland has a pair of out-of-options starters in Danny Salazar and Ryan Merritt who could be end up in those spots if they don’t fit into the rotation.