Seeking a fresh bat to prod an offense that is at or near the bottom of the National League in runs, home runs and batting, the Los Angeles Dodgers have acquired Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians for two minor leaguers and cash, the teams announced Saturday morning.
The Dodgers will play Blake, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, at third base, where Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche have struggled recently. That means the team will stay with Nomar Garciaparra for as long as he holds up at shortstop, though their trading-deadline preference was to add a shortstop (they’d talked about Alex Cora and David Eckstein, had little interest in Jack Wilson) and move Garciaparra to third.
Rafael Furcal, who is recovering from back surgery, is not expected to return until late August, at the earliest, and could miss the remainder of the season.
Blake has 11 home runs and 58 RBIs for the Indians, who expected to contend in the AL Central after coming within a win of the World Series in October. Instead, they have traded their best pitcher – C.C. Sabathia – and one of their most consistent run producers – Blake – this month, and are in a mild rebuild mode.
Kept afloat by a weak NL West, the Dodgers lead the NL in ERA, but have been lifeless offensively, primarily because of Furcal’s injury and Andruw Jones’ strikeout-prone season. James Loney, Andre Ethier and Garciaparra have picked up the offense lately, but DeWitt, who came out of Double-A to win the third-base job in spring training, has no home runs and six RBIs since May.
Protective of their top-end prospects and young big-leaguers and boxed in by the Jones contract, the Dodgers will pass on the bigger bats that could come free in the coming week – Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez – for Blake, a decent bat at a reasonable cost. And with the rest of the West staggering about them, a little bit of offense over the final two months could mean a place for them in the playoffs. They’ll now likely move toward adding a relief pitcher – Takashi Saito’s elbow soreness has left the back end thin – while hoping injured starters Brad Penny and/or Jason Schmidt give them something in the second half.
Most GMs still believe reliever Brian Fuentes will come available in Colorado, despite the Rockies’ better play recently. Closers George Sherrill of the Orioles and Huston Street of the A's also could be dealt. Also, the Mariners appear close to sending left-handed starter Jarrod Washburn to the Yankees.
The Indians, who believed at one point they had a deal in place to send Sabathia to the Dodgers, will underwrite some of the remaining money on Blake’s $6.1 million contract. They’ll receive from the Dodgers Jon Meloan, a 24-year-old right-handed starter with a 4.97 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas, and Carlos Santana, 22, a catcher with 96 RBIs in the Class-A California League. Santana also has played third base.