By now you’ve probably heard that the Indians traded for Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome today. This was a solid deal and should help the offense (if nothing else, through addition by subtraction). That’s because Indians outfielder Travis Buck was designated for assignment after the trade to clear space on the 40-man roster. I was hoping that it would be Austin Kearns designated (since Buck has options remaining and can always return to Columbus), but Buck drew the short straw in this deal. It’s entirely possible he clears waivers and reports to Columbus anyway.
First, let’s look at the actual details involved in this trade. The Indians send outfielder Abner Abreu and left-handed pitcher Carlton Smith to the Cubs. In exchange, the Cubs agreed to pay most of what remains on Fukudome’s 2011 salary – he’s set to make $13.5 million this year, but about $4.7 of that is left at this point in the season. He’s in the last year of a 4-year, $48 million contract.
The 21-year-old Abreu was with the high-A Kinston Indians, where he is hitting .244 with 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases. He was named offensive player of the week for July 18-24 as he went 12 for 23 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, a triple and 9 RBIs over the course of 6 games. It was the second time this month he earned offensive player of the week honors. Abreu was initially signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent in 2006; this was his second season at Kinston (last year he hit .252 with 21 doubles, 6 triples and 4 home runs). While he’s obviously having a great July, even with all of that offensive production, his average still sits at .244. He’s young and may blossom into something down the road, but it’s obvious that he wasn’t really on the fast track through the Indians’ system at this point.
The 25-year-old Smith worked out of the bullpen for the Columbus Clippers, where he was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP in 46 innings pitched. In 2010 he split time between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus; with Akron he was 1-1 with an 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched, and at Columbus was 1-5 with a 6.38 ERA in 48 innings pitched. He obviously didn’t make a very smooth transition from Double-A to Triple-A, but he has an outside chance to appear in a Major League bullpen someday. Smith was drafted by the Indians in the 21st round of the 2004 draft.
The 34-year-old Fukudome is on a hot streak over the past week (let’s hope it continues in Cleveland) – in the past seven games he is 6 for 14 (.429). He’s hitting .273 with a .374 on base percentage and a .369 slugging percentage with 3 home runs, 15 doubles and 13 RBI. Fukudome is hitting .273 against both left handed and right handed pitching and led the National League with 4.34 pitches per plate appearance. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of power, his on-base numbers and average are respectable and he exhibits some patience at the plate. It’s an improvement over both Travis Buck (.228 average, .275 OBP, .342 slugging, 2 home runs) and Austin Kearns (.216 average, .318 OBP, .313 slugging, 2 home runs). I still haven’t really forgiven Buck for his pinch hit appearance in the June 5 game against the Rangers at Progressive Field, when he popped up to the catcher on the first pitch in the 9th, with the Indians down 2-0.
There are rumors that the Indians may not be finished yet and may still add pieces. They didn’t give up much for Fukudome and didn’t really take on much additional salary, so they probably still have some pieces to move and some remaining salary space. The names they’re most tied to are Los Angeles Dodger (and former Indian) Jamey Carroll, Hiroki Kuroda from the Dodgers, Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies and Ryan Ludwick from the Padres. I’m not really hot on either Carroll or Ludwick as far as help for the offense goes, but it sounds like it would be next to impossible to pry either Hunter Pence (Astros) or Andre Ethier (Dodgers)loose at this point.