The Indians have traded Casey Blake to the Dodgers for two quality prospects — Carlos Santana, a 22-year-old catcher who has been dominating the Advanced-A California League with a 993 OPS, and Jon Meloan, a reliever in Triple-A who just turned 24. Reports that a deal was close leaked out this morning and have been confirmed by Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.
Santana leads all minor leaguers with a staggering 96 RBI in just 99 games — yeah, I know it's an "idiot stat," but that is just a ton of RBI. With the caveat that we don't really know the relative park factors, Santana is hitting almost exactly as far above league average as Victor Martinez was in 2001, at the same age and level. His batting line is stunningly without flaw — .323 / .431 / .563, 16% walk rate, 1.74 ISO, 52 extra base hits and 69 walks against only 59 strikeouts. Optimistically, he'll be ready for the majors around 2010 or 2011, which coincidentally are Martinez and Shoppach's respective walk years.
Meloan dominated as a reliever last season in Double-A and Triple-A, but he struggled this season as the Dodgers attempted to make him into a starter. The Indians probably are interested in converting him back to the bullpen, where the club badly needs a few more strong, potential contributors in 2009. Meloan has two more option years remaining after this season.
One somewhat surprising detail of the deal is that the Indians will send the Dodgers cash to cover all of Blake's remaining salary for the season, about $2.2 million. This is an unusual detail in a deal that isn't essentially one team ridding itself of part of a horrendous contract, and it's especially unusual when the team receiving the money has a much larger budget for player salaries ($118 million) than the team sending it ($78 million).
That said, the arrangement is not so unusual considering the Indians' history of deals under Dolan and Shapiro. In most of the famous 2002 deals, the Indians passed up chances to shed payroll, opting instead essentially to continue paying the player they were giving up (Chuck Finley then, Blake now) or to take on "payroll steerage" to even the books (Lee Stevens in the Colon deal). By agreeing to shoulder an extra cash burden, the Indians consistently have given teams an added incentive to include better talent in these deals — given Blake's fairly marginal value over the next nine weeks, one could argue that the Dodgers have essentially sold the Indians a terrific catcher prospect for the bargain price of $2.2 million.
The Indians did not send the Brewers any cash in the Sabathia deal, which saved the club approximately $5.4 million and probably contributed to their generosity in this and any further trades.
In a separate and unrelated deal, the Indians have acquired RHP Anthony Reyes from the Cardinals for RHP Luis Perdomo. Reyes, 26, has had a solid season in Triple-A with a 3.25 ERA over 11 starts but fared poorly in ten appearances as reliever for the big-league club. Perdomo, 24, utterly dominated much younger Carolina League competition, and he's pitched well since being promoted to Double-A earlier this month. Neither is considered a significant prospect.
Reyes famously shut down the Tigers in Game One of the 2006 World Series, playing a key part in the 82-win club's improbable postseason run to a title. He has struggled to find any lasting success in the majors, however, with just 10 wins in 38 starts and a career ERA+ of 82. Ironically, the Cardinals to talked seriously to the Indians about acquiring Reyes this past offseason, in exchange for another young starter experiencing serious career difficulties — Cliff Lee.
The Indians presumably are looking at Reyes as a fifth starter option for the rest of this season, giving them a credible option especially in the event they trade Paul Byrd by August 31. Reyes will be out of options after this season, however, making him a non-option as a sixth or seventh starter in 2009. It's unlikely the Indians will see him as a quality option for the rotation next year, so barring key injuries in Spring Training, he likely will be off our 40-man roster by the end of next March, one way or another.
But wait — there's more!
The Indians have activated Fausto Carmona from the Disabled List to start tonight's game against the Twins, his first start in the majors in over two months. He's, like, awesome, and we have him signed until, like, forever.
Aaron Laffey was optioned to Buffalo to make way for Carmona. Laffey was suppressed runs like crazy in his first two months, garnering a 2.83 ERA over 11 starts despite poor K/BB numbers, 30/19 over 70 IP. The league seemed to catch up to him in his last five starts, in which he allowed 27 runs (22 earned) in just 23.2 IP. A trip to Buffalo might help him catch his breath, or it might just help the Indians keep him an extra year.
Andy Gonzalez has been called up to take Blake's spot on the active roster. He can't really hit at all, but he has played 26 games at 2B for the Bisons this season, plus 15 or more games at each of four other positions: 3B, 1B, SS and LF. Travis Hafner was moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, a formality with little consequence other than opening up a spot on the 40-man roster for a few months. Reyes and Meloan take the 40-man spots vacated by Hafner and Blake.