07/26/08 10:12 PM ET
GM lands Blake without big sacrifice
Colletti doesn't deal key Major Leaguers or prized prospects
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Unable to find the player he really wanted (a shortstop with offense), he attempted to upgrade an area of weakness (third base) without dealing away key Major League players or the most prized prospects in the farm system.
He also was able to land Blake without picking up any of his remaining $6.1 million salary, which the Indians will pay. In addition, Cleveland receives Triple-A pitcher Jon Meloan and Class A slugging catcher Carlos Santana.
Blake's arrival to play third base every day, even though it appears to be a two-month rental because of his impending free agency, impacts Andy LaRoche, who returns to the Dodgers bench, and Blake DeWitt, who returns to Triple-A Las Vegas.
"He [Blake] is further along than they are at this juncture, but that's different than giving up on them," manager Joe Torre said. "I've watched him a number of years in the American League. He gave them a tough out, especially in key situations."
DeWitt has been the regular third baseman for the Dodgers most of the season. His demotion is a result of a two-month offensive slump (.200 and six RBIs in his last 40 games), but officials insist it does not signal any loss in confidence in his long-term ability.
While in Las Vegas, DeWitt is expected to work occasionally on second base, which could become his long-range future with Jeff Kent unsigned for next year and turning 41.
Colletti said he shifted away from searching for a shortstop a week ago when it became apparent the cost was too steep.
He felt comfortable dealing Meloan, who had been passed by other young pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Cory Wade and Ramon Troncoso. Santana is considered the player with a higher ceiling, but the Dodgers have depth at catcher with 25-year-old All-Star Russell Martin and Double-A prospect Lucas May, while it's not certain whether Santana's long-range position will be behind the plate.
"I think we improved the club," Colletti said. "Blake's a grinder with great character, a passionate player. We had a chance to improve the left side of the infield."
Torre said that knowing he has an established Major League bat to play third base every day makes him more comfortable giving shortstop Nomar Garciaparra more days off in an attempt to avoid injury. Saturday night, Torre had Garciaparra making his first start of the year at first base to give James Loney a night off with Washington starting former Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez.
Colletti said he will shift his focus in the days before the Trade Deadline to finding a pitcher, most likely for the bullpen, although he said nothing is imminent. Colletti indicated he was not eager to move starting pitcher Derek Lowe, as has been rumored. He said he didn't think another deal was necessary for the Dodgers to win the division.
Colletti said he did not feel added pressure for the Blake trade to succeed in the wake of the problems encountered by free-agent signee Andruw Jones.
"Not every move you make turns out right," he said. "He's [Jones] had a tough first part and it's been disappointing, there's no denying it."
Torre said he "fully endorsed" the Blake trade, and added that he also endorsed signing Jones.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.