Lofton May Not Be Back With Cleveland In 2008

By Anthony Castrovince
Updated: October 27, 2007

CLEVELAND — The Kenny Lofton-in-Cleveland era might have come to a close — again.

Lofton, acquired for his third career stint with the Tribe in late July of this year, will be a free agent this winter, and the Indians don’t appear as if they’ll be asking him to come back in ’08.

That’s no knock on the speed, defense and postseason experience the 40-year-old Lofton brought to the Tribe roster for the stretch run in ’07. It’s just that the Indians are hoping to get more run-production from left field next season, and Lofton, who notched only 38 RBIs between Texas and Cleveland this season, isn’t a prime candidate to supply it.

“We have not addressed any of our free-agent decisions yet,” general manager Mark Shapiro said earlier this week. “It was fun to watch [Lofton] play. He contributed in the way we hoped.”

But when naming the Indians’ most likely candidates to fill left field next season, neither Shapiro nor manager Eric Wedge brought up Lofton’s name.

Rather, the Indians will likely sort through a pool of internal candidates that includes David Dellucci, who has two years remaining on the free-agent deal he signed with the club last winter, Jason Michaels, who has a year left on his contract, Ben Francisco, who made his big-league debut in ’07, and Shin-Soo Choo, who will be coming off Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow.

The Tribe might also seek a potent left-field bat in either the free-agent or trade markets this offseason.

“We have a lot of alternatives in the outfield,” Shapiro said. “As far as how that shakes out, we’ll have to gauge how the winter goes on.”

Dellucci and Michaels platooned in left field at the outset of ’07, right up until Dellucci, who was struggling at the plate to the tune of a .234 average, tore his hamstring on June 19 and missed the vast majority of the season’s remainder.

Francisco made a nice impression on the Indians not just with his strong spring camp but also with his big-league break-in, which saw him bat .274 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 25 games.

Choo, who was the Tribe’s regular right fielder at the end of ’06, would have been the one called up ahead of Francisco, had he not injured his elbow early in the year. He underwent Tommy John surgery in September and will likely be a little behind in Spring Training.

As for Lofton, well, the fans went crazy every time he came up to bat, and the presence of No. 7 served as a nice piece of nostalgia from the Indians’ 1990s glory days.

But the nostalgia might have ended with the ALCS loss to the Red Sox.

“He energized our fans,” Shapiro said, “and it was exciting to watch him play that meaningful role for us at that most important time.”

Here’s the question: Lofton ranks third all-time among Indians players in runs scored, with 975. Do you know who holds the team record in this category?

And the answer is: Earl Averill holds the team mark with 1,154 runs scored in his Indians career. Tris Speaker ranks second with 1,079.