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Former Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman agrees to deal with Cleveland Indians

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were pleased with Casey Kotchman's play last season but felt enough need to upgrade their power production at first base that they spent a surprising $7.25 million to bring in Carlos Peña.

On Thursday, Kotchman found a new home, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Indians for $3 million plus up to $1.75 million incentives.

"Like I've always said, it's a privilege to put on a major-league uniform and I'm appreciative for the opportunity to be able to go to Cleveland and play for the Tribe,'' Kotchman said.

The St. Petersburg native and Seminole High product resurrected his career playing at home last season, hitting .306 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs and leading major-league first basemen in fielding for the fourth straight season.

Coming off a miserable 2010 season in Seattle, Kotchman signed a minor-league deal with the Rays for $750,000 then earned another $400,000 in incentives. He had interest in returning, but when the Rays chose to turn back to Peña, who was with them 2007-10, Kotchman had to look elsewhere.

Kotchman, 28, seems likely to be the regular first baseman for the Indians, who will announce the signing after a physical exam is completed. His acquisition means former Ray Russ Canzler, acquired Tuesday in trade, and 2011 starter Matt LaPorta (a Port Charlotte native and former Gator) could be headed to the minors.

Also:

• Reps for the Rays and pitcher Jeff Niemann argued their cases for his 2012 salary during a three-hour session before a panel of three arbiters. The Rays offered $2.75 million; Niemann sought $3.2 million. A decision is expected to be announced today.

Around the majors

JACKSON JOINS NATS: Former Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson agreed to a one-year contract with the Nationals, reportedly worth from $9 million to $12 million. Jackson, 28, was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA last season for the White Sox and Cardinals. He pitched for the Rays from 2006-08. Also, the Nationals won their arbitration case with left-hander John Lannan and will pay him $5 million.

MANNY'S COMEBACK: The Athletics and Orioles are the teams "most interested" in signing Manny Ramirez, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported. Ramirez, 39, played five games for the Rays last season then temporarily retired in the face of a drug-related suspension.

CASHMAN HARASSMENT: A woman was charged with stalking and shaking down Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Prosecutors say Louise Neathway extorted $6,000 from Cashman and tried to squeeze $15,000 more.

INDIANS: Left-handed reliever Rafael Perez, 29, agreed to a one-year deal worth $2,005,000, avoiding arbitration.

ORIOLES: Left-hander Casey Fossum, 34, a former Ray who last appeared in the majors in 2009 with the Mets, agreed to a minor-league contract.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Former Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman agrees to deal with Cleveland Indians 02/02/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 2, 2012 11:30pm]
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