In a swap of floatsam for jetsam, the Indians sent minor league reliever Jose De La Torre to Boston in exchange for Brent Lillibridge. First, on the debit side of the ledger: De La Torre is a 26 year old who has never appeared in the majors. He strikes a lot of batters out, but he also walks a lot of batters. He was not on the Indians 40-man and he also has all of his options, both characteristics that likely made him appealing to Boston. For the most optimistic take on De La Torre possible, go read the Transactions piece at Over the Monster; I'll now concentrate on trying to write something equally optimistic regarding Lillibridge.
Lillibridge is a one-time sort of top prospect. Coming up through the Pirates system, he hit like crazy in A and A+, all while appearing competent at both middle infield spots. The Pirates sent him to Atlanta, along with Mike Gonzalez, in exchange forAdam LaRoche+. Lillibridge didn't hit much in Atlanta, or with their AA/AAA affiliates, and eventually found his way to Chicago in the Javier Vazquez deal. For his first two years in Chicago, he appeared to be exactly the same player he'd been in Atlanta: a guy who could flash some leather but struggled to hit in AA, let alone the majors. He bounced up and down for the White Sox in 2009 and 2010, although the White Sox did start asking him to play CF, increasing his value.
In 2011, for the first time in his career, Lillibridge did not appear in the minor leagues. Instead, he accumulated 216 PA's top side, playing all three outfield positions, as well as 1B and 2B. It was a breakout season, as the newly anointed super-utility man posted an 845 OPS, fueled by a sudden increase in homerun power. Lillibridge has 16 career homeruns since his major league debut in 2007; he hit 13 of them in 2011 and he's hit none since then.
Lillibridge was unable to replicate his power surge this year, and Chicago decided to utilize him in a different way: as a throw-in to the Kevin Youkilis trade. Lillibridge was unable to revive himself in his short stint with the Red Sox and the team chose to DFA him last week, meaning they had 10 days to trade him or allow him to walk. He now finds himself coming to Cleveland (he's ok with it, per Twitter).
Though he was a middle infielder coming up through the minors, Lillibridge can now play every defensive position besides pitcher and catcher and he's generally well regarded defensively from what I can tell. He is being added to the Indians 40 man roster, with Lonnie Chisenhall moving to the 60-day DL. He will be added to the 25 man roster in the next few days; all signs would point to Aaron Cunningham's DFA being the corresponding move. It's unlikely Lillibridge will ever again hit anything like he did in 2011, but he can be a capable late-inning defensive replacement in the mold of Cunningham and, hopefully, he'll hit a bit more than that. Also like Cunningham, he's right-handed, meaning he could conceivably pinch-hit for Kotchman or Hannahan. Pinch-hitting with Brent Lillibridge sounds absurd but, then again, so do Kotchman and Hannahan's lines against lefties if you read them aloud.
|162 Game Avg.||162||329||47||63||10||2||9||16||8||23||98||.212||.279||.351||.630||67|
|CHW (4 yrs)||256||499||76||96||13||3||15||28||14||38||150||.217||.291||.362||.653||73|
|ATL (1 yr)||29||85||9||16||6||1||1||2||0||3||23||.200||.238||.338||.576||51|
|BOS (1 yr)||10||16||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.125||.125||.125||.250||-33|
|AL (4 yrs)||266||515||76||98||13||3||15||28||14||38||155||.214||.285||.354||.639||70|
|NL (1 yr)||29||85||9||16||6||1||1||2||0||3||23||.200||.238||.338||.576||51|