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Trade Deadline Recap: Indians Acquire Fukudome

August 2, 2011

Beset by injuries and general ineffectiveness, the Cleveland Indians have been on the lookout for some outfield help for much of the season. It wasn’t until the trade deadline, however, that they were able to pull the trigger on a deal that should help them over the remainder of the season. The Indians have surprised many by staying in the hunt for the AL Central and seem to have surprised some by making an acquisition at the deadline thinking towards this year and not the future. Of course, they would make an even bigger splash in a second deal just prior to the deadline but we’ll get to that a little later.

On July 28th the team agreed to send a pair of minor leaguers – relief pitcher Carlton Smith and outfielder Abner Abreu – to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. Chicago will also pay $4 Million of the roughly $4.5 Million remaining on Fukudome’s contract through the end of the season.

In 293 at bats on the season Fukudome was batting .273/.374/.369 with just 3 HR and 13 RBI. His power numbers are down from his career averages but he’s actually been getting on base at a higher rate than ever before – which is part of what appealed to the Indians in the first place. He’s also versatile defensively, while most of his playing time has come in right field he is capable of handling center as well.

The Indians need someone who can play multiple positions in the outfield and get on base with some regularity with both Grady Sizemore (bruised knee, sports hernia) and Shin Soo Choo (broken thumb) currently on the disabled list. Fukudome should step right into the top of the lineup and should hopefully help the team’s offense continue to keep the team in contention while they wait for their stars to return to action (Choo should be back mid-August, Sizemore may return in September).

Smith, 25, has been working out of the bullpen for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate. He’s gone 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA while averaging a strikeout per inning in 46.0 innings of work. He profiles as a middle reliever but will need to improve his control if he’s going to have a prolonged career.

Abreu, 21, has been primarily playing right field in High-A. Through 336 at bats he’s batting .244/.291/.429 with 12 HR, 35 RBI, and 102 strikeouts. He’s shown glimpses of being a toolsy prospect but has failed to match those abilities on the field consistently.

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