In the third and final part of the Tribe trade deadline history, we examine the sell-off of ’06, the re-emergence of contention in ’07, followed by what we now see is the reality in ’08, causing another fire sale that included one of the greatest Indians pitchers of all time.
July 20, 2006 Indians trade RHP Bob Wickman to Atlanta for C Max Ramirez – After reading in Part two what Wickman had done for the organization, there is no point to rehash it again. The Braves were looking for a closer, since John Smoltz had moved back into the rotation, and Wickman was a proven veteran there for the taking.
With Kelly Shoppach not yet in the organization, there was a void of top catching prospects in the system after Victor Martinez. Ramirez was tearing up A ball, hitting .292 with 13 homers and 63 RBI’s. With Max still a couple of years away from making a major league impact, it was a no brainer for the Braves.
We would hear from Max Ramirez again later….
July 26. 2006 – Indians trade 1B Ben Broussard to Seattle for a Player to be Named Later (OF Shin-Soo Choo) – The 2006 Indians were supposed to be contenders after their out of nowhere 93 win 2005 season. That never happened, so the team made moves at the deadline to shed payroll.
The Mariners were looking for a left-handed compliment to Richie Sexson at first base, set their sights on Broussard, who was the Tribe regular first basemen since 2003. Broussard, a AA batting champion, was supposed to be slick with the glove in addition to his ability to hit for a high average.
Well, the stick never fully showed in the majors. His best season, 2004, Broussard hit .275 with 17 HR and 82 RBI’s. That is not legitimate corner infield production, especially in the heart of the steroid era. When Benny was sent packing, the Indians received a player to be named later, who turned out to be one Shin-Soo Choo.
Score one for Shappy on this one.
July 30, 2006 – Indians trade 2B Ronnie Belliard to St. Louis for 2B Hector Luna -In what was certainly a straight salary dump, the Indians sent one of my favorites, Ronnie B to the Cardinals. Luckily for him, he happened to get himself a World Series ring. Ronnie deserved it. He played an unorthodox style of second base which was highly effective. Belliard turned a double play about as well as anyone we’ve seen in Cleveland (including Roberto Alomar) and hit .275 during his first two seasons here.
Hector Luna, a former Tribe farm hand, was essentially taken to ease some of the financial burden on the Cardinals. He was released after the season and re-surfaced in 07 with Toronto, playing in just 22 games.
July 27, 2007 – Indians acquire OF Kenny Lofton from Texas for C Max Ramirez -2007 was a return to the good old days. The Indians were contenders again, with a young lineup of future stars (or so we thought). The difference in the ’07 club was that they had two young horses at the top of the rotation in C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.
The one hole this everyday nine seemed to have was left field. The David Dellucci/Jason Michaels platoon was the disaster we all knew it would be. Benny Francisco gave the team a decent shot in the arm, but was not ready to be the every day guy for a playoff team. So Shapiro went fishing and caught himself an old big mouth bass; Kenny Lofton.
The return of Lofton, who was having a renaissance in Texas at age 40 (hitting .303), was the perfect guy for this tight-knit team. Though known for his surly disposition, Kenny knew he was back in the place where he was loved unconditionally and playing for a ring. He was a good solider from the day he arrived.
Hitting mostly seventh and playing left field, Lofton hit .283 and provided a second leadoff man at the bottom of the order. More importantly, he was a spark in playoffs, hitting .375 in the ALDS win over the Yankees. The last image we will ever see of Kenny is Joel Skinner holding up the now infamous stop-sign to him in game seven of the ALCS in Boston. Kenny’s career ended right then and there.
As for Max Ramirez, the highly decorated catching prospect who came over from the Braves a year earlier for Bob Wickman, he became expendable with Kelly Shoppach now in the organization, so Shapiro had to deal from an area of strength. He had a cup of coffee with the Rangers in ’08. but is struggling for his second straight year in AAA, hitting just .238 with three homers and 32 RBI’s.
July 7, 2008 – Indians trade C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee for 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, LHP Rob Bryson, LHP Zach Jackson, and a Player to be Named Later (OF Michael Brantley) -The mother of all trades for the non-contending Tribe era came a month before the deadline. Everyone and their mother knew that the Indians could not afford C.C. Sabathia when his contract would end after the season. The only question was whether the Indians would contend and hold him, or pretend and deal him.
We all know how that turned out.
C.C. was an absolute money pitcher for the Brewers who deserved Cy Young consideration, regardless of how many starts he made there. In 17 starts, he went 11-2 with a minuscule 1.65 ERA. The Brewers managers (both the fired Ned Yost and Dale Sveum) pushed CC to the absolute brink of his limits in regards to innings (130.2/253.0 for the year) and pitches (averaged over 105 each time out), but it all paid off. They made the playoffs and sold a ton of tickets and CC gear.
The Tribe’s haul includes two players who must be good enough to become members of the core – LaPorta and Brantley. For some odd reason, LaPorta (.314 BA/11 HR/46 RBI/.927 OPS in AAA) continues to be stuck behind both Ben Francisco and Ryan Garko and is in Columbus waiting for his shot. Brantley (.262 BA/4 HR/28 RBI/34 SB) too is in AAA, but at age 22, can still use more seasoning. No doubt he is the future leadoff man for the big club.
The jury is still out on this deal, but where the Indians were, it was 100% the right move to trade Sabathia.
July 26, 2008 – Indians Trade 3B Casey Blake to Los Angeles for C Carlos Santana and RHP Jon Meloan - Readers of mine know I was no Blake fan. But there is no denying that he was the right guy at the right time for a trade to a contender. His versatility and free agent status made him even more attractive. The Dodgers, with a wealth of talent in their farm system, had a major hole at third base.
It was a perfect match.
Blake went over to the Dodgers and fit in perfectly in their mix of veterans and youth. While he hit just .251 in LA, he did hit 10 homers and drive in 23 runs for the NL West champions. He was so well liked, that the Dodgers essentially bid against themselves and gave Casey a three-year, $18 million deal during a winter when guys like Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu could only get two years max. Blake currently sits at .279 BA/12 HR/57 RBI.
The Tribe, needing a catcher of the future, was able to pull of a coup and grab one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball, Carlos Santana. The Class A Player of the Year (.326 BA21 HR/117 RBI) was moved up to AA Akron in 2009 and continues to hit for power. He has 15 HR and 63 RBI’s in 284 AB’s. Scouts say the converted third baseman’s his work behind the dish is improving, but he is still a year away from being ready for the bigs.
Meloan was expected to compete for a roster spot in the bullpen this Spring and flamed out in a major way. He struggled so mightily in Columbus (5.52 ERA in 25 games) that he was dealt to Tampa Bay for 32 year old journeyman Winston Abreu.
What will this season’s expected sell-off bring? We will soon find out. The deadline is 10 short days away.