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12/08/08 7:16 PM EST
Blake's deal won't deter Tribe
Club continues search for utility infielder
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- As word spread through the Bellagio that Casey Blake was on the verge of signing a three-year contract with the Dodgers on Monday, the Indians were happy for their former third baseman.
"Good for him, man," said manager Eric Wedge, who watched Blake develop from a non-roster Spring Training invitee to an everyday player with impact. "He's come a long way."
And he won't be coming back to the Indians, who, along with the Dodgers and Twins, pursued Blake for their vacancy at third base but ultimately weren't interested in extending a three-year deal to a 35-year-old.
"We had interest in Casey," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "It obviously was not as strong as the Dodgers' interest."
The Indians traded Blake to the Dodgers on July 26 for prospects Carlos Santana and John Meloan. Thus ended Blake's five-and-a-half-year tenure with the club that gave him his first legitimate opportunity in the big leagues. At various points, Blake was the team's starting third baseman, right fielder and first baseman, and the Indians respected the way Blake always did everything asked of him -- including changing positions and regularly changing spots in the lineup -- without complaint.
"We like Casey Blake," Shapiro said. "We feel strongly about him as a person, as an athlete and a teammate. But we couldn't get a contract together. It doesn't change how we feel about him or his time here."
Nor does Blake's agreement with the Dodgers change the focus of the Indians' search for an infielder. While the club had interest in Blake, it was long believed he could command this type of deal and that the Indians, who opted to sign Blake to a one-year deal in his final round of arbitration last year, would eventually fall out of the running for him.
At the moment, the Indians' primary focus appears to be finding an impactful closer. The only other free-agent option at third base is Joe Crede, and the Indians have concerns about his history of back trouble. The club remains open to the possibility of finding a second baseman or shortstop who can round out the infield, with Jhonny Peralta potentially shifting to third base and Asdrubal Cabrera potentially moving to short.
An SI.com report speculated that the Indians might have renewed interest in shortstop Rafael Furcal, who recently turned down what some outlets reported to be a four-year, $35 million offer from the A's. But it seems unlikely the Indians would extend such an offer to the 32-year-old Furcal, who played just 36 games for the Dodgers last season. Shapiro said he has not spoken to Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, thus far at the Winter Meetings.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.