If Ned Colletti is not the worst GM in all of major league baseball (thank you Brian Sabean!), he is awfully close. Colletti proved once again how overmatched he is by the actually intelligent GMs in the game by trading away top pitching prospect Jon Meloan and breakout minor league catcher Carlos “Santana” Santana for Cleveland utility player Casey Blake.
Of course, Blake was coveted by several teams because he is a free agent to be on a team going nowhere and thus figured to be a decent bat who could be had for a fairly cheap price. Which makes the high price the Dodgers paid so baffling.
After Clayton Kershaw (who is currently up with the big club), Meloan was the pitching prospect closest to putting up good numbers in the majors. Meloan had been an absolutely dominant reliever last year in the minors. Last season at double-A Jacksonville he had compiled a 2.18 ERA and 19 saves and 70 strikeouts in 45.1 innings, and then posted a 1.69 ERA in 21.1 innings at triple-A Las Vegas.
In fact, in his entire minor league career, Meloan has posted an astonishing 335 strikeouts in only 262 innings.
But this year the Dodgers insisted on trying to convert Meloan back into a starter, and he posted an unsatsisfying 5-10 record with a 4.97 ERA, although he did keep striking out almost a batter an inning.
Given how dominant Meloan had been as a reliever, and given that with Takashi Saito down with an injury the Dodgers were in need of a setup man, Meloan and his live arm should have been up with the big club already, especially given the relief innings they are currently wasting on retreads and nobodies like Ramon Troncoso, Brian Falkenborg, and Jason Johnson.
And he certainly should not have been involved in any trades for a two month rental like Casey Blake.
Carlos Santana is not quite as awesome a prospect as Meloan, but he is having a huge breakout season in high A, batting .318 with a .424 on base percentage and a .563 slugging. Most impressively, he already has 66 walks on the season and has walked more than he has struck out, which reminds one of the minor league career of another catcher you may have heard of, current Dodgers backstop Russ Martin.
But giving up good prospects is not always bad if you get a good return. The real problem with this deal is Casey Blake and the guys the Dodgers already had
Not only is Blake going to be a free agent, thus making him only a two month rental, but he is also unlikely to represent an improvement over they guys he is replacing at third base. While it is true that rookies Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt have been slumping of late, and Blake has been hot, we are talking about Casey Blake here.
Blake is a 34-year-old no-glove utility guy posting an .830 OPS when his career average is only .782. It seems much more likely that he will hit at something less than an .830 clip the rest of the way than that he will continue to hit 50 points above his career average OPS in his age 34 season.
But the real downside of the Casey Blake deal is that Casey Blake is one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball, whereas DeWitt is excellent and LaRoche is at least average. Given that the Dodgers are now going with Blake at third, cement-footed Nomar at short, and 40 year old Jeff Kent at second, it is not a stretch to wonder if the Dodgers do not now have the worst defensive infield in baseball. At the very least you can count on any ball hit to the hole on the left side getting through for a hit.
Given that the Dodgers are heavily depending on groundball pitchers such as Derek Lowe and Hiroki Kuroda, this is very very bad news. When you throw in how questionable it is that Blake will even be able to outhit Andy LaRoche (if the Dodgers actually let him play every day), this trade is just a huge subtraction all around.
But of course, Casey Blake is Casey Blake, a big-name “experienced veteran” (big bonus points for his prematurely gray hair), and this is the Casey Blake of the Cleveland INDIANS who nearly went to the World Series last year. So naturally Ned Colletti couldn’t resist, no matter the price.
You knew it was only a matter of time before his incurable case of chronic big-name-itis flared up again.