Indians sign Cooper to Major League contract
First baseman expected to compete for at-bats off the bench
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- First baseman David Cooper is being given another chance to continue his incredible comeback.
The Indians on Monday announced they signed the free agent to a Major League contract, though the terms of the deal were not immediately known. Cooper has a history of solid on-base ability, but he is also in the midst of a return from an innovative upper back surgery.
"He'll come into Spring Training and compete for a spot," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on the first day of the annual Winter Meetings. "He can come in and compete for [designated hitter] at-bats or a bat off the bench. He's a guy we've liked for a long time. Obviously, we had him in the organization last year as he came back from his surgery.
"We were really impressed with the quality of his at-bats. We think he's got a chance to help us next year."
Cooper -- selected by the Blue Jays with the 17th pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft -- underwent a thoracic spinal surgery in April that included inserting a titanium plate and two titanium screws. The endoscopic procedure was performed by Dr. Curtis Dickman in Phoenix and provided the former prospect with a chance to continue his career.
This will be Cooper's second tour with the Tribe, though his deal last season with the club was in a Minor League capacity. The 26-year-old first baseman signed with Cleveland on Aug. 13 and hit .314 with a .364 on-base percentage in 55 plate appearances between Rookie ball and Triple-A. He was granted his release on Aug. 31 when it became clear he was not a part of the Indians' September plans.
Cooper appeared in 72 games for the Blue Jays between the 2011-12 seasons, and posted a .300/.324/.464 slash line in 140 at-bats with Toronto in '12. Across 530 career Minor League games, the left-handed-hitting first baseman has hit .301 with a .376 on-base percentage and a .470 slugging percentage for the Blue Jays, who released him in March.
"He has a really good swing," Antonetti said. "He's got a good approach at the plate and has a good, compact swing. He has a good track record of hitting, going back to his amateur days. Now that he's back healthy, we think he'll pick up where he left off."
Cooper initially injured his back while diving back into first base in a game on Aug. 22, 2012. He was placed on the disabled list by the Blue Jays with what was described as a jammed neck and upper back spasms. Further tests revealed that Cooper had a herniated thoracic disk in his chest cavity that was compressing his spinal cord.
"It's pretty impressive," Antonetti said of Cooper's comeback. "It was an atypical, complicated surgery to resolve the issues he had and for him to get back to this point. He's worked really hard at it."