Traded C Maximiliano Ramirez to the Texas Rangers for OF Kenny Lofton
For all the wistful longing to bring back other Golden Agers, the stars finally aligned to allow the Indians to bring back a 1990s star.
When Kenny Lofton left Cleveland after the 2001 season, conventional wisdom was that he wasn't long for professional baseball. After all, Kenny was 34 years old, and played a position that isn't kind to thirtysomethings. Yet despite a nomadic post-Indians career which saw him live year-to-year on one-year contracts, Lofton remained a viable fielder, and he grew more comfortable with what he was capable of. In many ways, his offensive game is as good as it was after signing with the Indians in 1998.
What makes this work is that the Indians were without a platoon partner for Jason Michaels after David Dellucci's hamstring injury. Lofton has always had trouble against southpaws, but with Michaels around, that weakness shouldn't be exposed. A possible roadblock to making the deal work was Lofton's willingness to move out of center, but at this stage of his career, the draw of a championship far outshone a relatively minor position shift.
The deal not only brings to Cleveland an outfielder which filled a definite need, it also was a hugely popular move to a fanbase that has been living a decade behind the present. Before his first at-bat, the fans at Jacobs Field gave Lofton a 30-second standing ovation, and a warm round of applause in each subsequent appearance. Perhaps the juxtaposition of the old with the present may help remind the casual fan that the Indians are a good baseball team again. And the deal certainly won't hurt ticket sales the rest of the season.
Max Ramirez was a more than fair price to pay for Lofton; he's an outstanding hitting prospect who happens to be a catcher, though more Ryan Garko than Victor Martinez. His bat should play at first base or even DH, and although he's a couple years away, the Rangers got good value for a rental.
Optioned LHP Cliff Lee to Buffalo (AAA)
In order for the Indians to make this transaction, Lee needed to pass through revocable waivers. Most of the time, teams won't try to block this transaction. Cliff has an option remaining thanks to his early-career success, so he'll have an opportunity to hopefully regroup and figure out how to regain his former prowess. The Indians officially shipped him to Buffalo for Lee to work on his command, but judging from comments like this....
..some of the adjustments have to come from Lee himself.
Barring the unforseen, Aaron Laffey will make at least one start in Lee's vacant spot. The Indians will go with four starters until August 4th, taking advantage of an off-day on Monday.
Recalled RHP Edward Mujica from Buffalo (AAA)
Mujica's here just to fill out the roster and maybe log some garbage innings until Laffey makes his start.
Optioned OF Ben Francisco to Buffalo (AAA)
Designated IF Hector Luna for Assignment
These two moves provided space for Lofton on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. Luna was hitting an awful .251/.297/.362 for the Bisons while playing poor defense. The decision to DFA him was an easy one, even though the organization is thin in high-level middle infielders.