Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Off on the Right Foot

Superlatives fail to explain how unbelievably great today was for your Cleveland Indians!

In a flash, the Hot League season is upon us as the Indians acquired 2B Josh Barfield from the San Diego Padres for IF Kevin Kouzmanoff and P Andrew Brown.

After examining this trade for a little bit here, I’m still looking for a significant downside from the Indians perspective.

Barfield is a 23-year-old 2B who is an above average fielder, who hit .280 in his 2006 (his rookie season) with 13 HR, 32 Doubles, 21 SB, and is under the Indians control for the next 5 years, the next few at the league minimum.

He fills two holes, one at 2B, the other in the 2-hole in the lineup. As a RH hitter, he slots perfectly between Sizemore and Hafner and his numbers should actually improve as he moves from spacious Petco Park in SD to the friendly confines (and smaller dimensions) of the Jake, not to mention the natural progression of any hitter.

Barfield’s inclusion in the lineup brings more speed to the team, and his glove means that Peralta will be surrounded by above-average defenders every day, and not the likes of Aaron Boone and Joe Inglett/Hector Luna, whose range was downright laughable.

While it’s frustrating to see a player like Kouzmanoff, who really burst onto the scene with a fantastic 2006, go – this move represents a departure from former moves by this Front Office. They sold HIGH on a prospect, not waiting for him to be exposed or to see his value plummet (think Jason Davis). It also means that the Indians chose Garko, and his MLB success, over the promise of Kouzmanoff’s MiLB success.

The concerns about Kouzmanoff’s back and hamstring issues, limiting him to play 3B, 1B, or DH probably played a major role in his availability. It will be interesting to see where the Padres plan on playing K2, as he has yet to make it through a complete season healthy. Even more so because he’ll be playing without the benefit of DH’ing every so often, causing more stress on his troubled back.

Kouzmanoff’s performance in the Arizona Fall League (where he was certainly being showcased for scouts) didn’t hurt his marketability.

Brown, to me, is a throw-in – unless the Padres see something that the Indians were unable to coax out of Brown last year. He may end up in the Padres’ pen, but he was likely not to be in Cleveland and (being out of options) is a perfect piece to add to the deal.

When all is said and done, Shapiro filled the #1 hole on the team without trading ANYONE who was being counted on to contribute significantly in 2007. That, by definition, is a coup.

But, even more exciting, is that the Indians have solved their problems at 2B and between Grady and Pronk in the lineup without touching any FA money or dealing a significant arm.

The bullpen and rotation can still be fortified (along with the possibility of adding another bat) with the same dollar amount that the Indians stood at before this deal.

I’m not sure how the Padres benefit from this deal, but that’s not a major concern…actually, it’s not a concern at all.

This pre-emptive strike was the kind of move that we had been hoping for, an aggressive, creative move that dealt from areas of strength to remedy weaknesses. If this is an indication of what we can expect this off-season, I’m already salivating.

Much more on the deal tomorrow as we’re off to child-birthing class.
The DiaBride and DiaperTribe (a nod to my buddy Joyce on that one over some Christmas Ales) take precedent over this exciting news.

And this is EXCITING news!

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