Cleveland Indians Role in Three-Way Deal: Joe Smith, Luis Valbuena to Cleveland

TCContributor IDecember 10, 2008

According to reports, the Indians area part of the three-way trade that is bringing J.J. Putz to the Mets. Cleveland will receive reliever Joe Smith from the New York and second baseman Luis Valbuena from Seattle. The Indians give up Franklin Gutierrez, who goes to the Mariners.

This will, of course, lead to speculation that general manager Mark Shapiro is interested in signing an outfielder, possibly Raul Ibanez. I personally think this is more about clearing way for the trio of young outfielders: Trevor Crowe, Matt LaPorta, and Michael Brantley. It’s also possible that there is a bigger trade coming, but that seems much less likely.

As for Valbuena, he is a 23-year old second base prospect that was brought up by Seattle in September. In 18 games in the majors, Valbuena hit .245. In the minors, he has been a .300 hitter from the left side. This sounds a lot like Asdrubal Cabrera, who also came from the Mariners.

Shapiro will probably start Valbuena in AAA with the idea of bringing him along slowly. If no infielders are signed, he will probably be expected in the majors to help out at some point after July.

But the acquisition points to Peralta heading to third or being traded. Cabrera will be the shortstop in Cleveland by the start of next season.

Joe Smith ought to be a good fit in the Indians bullpen as long as they don’t ask him to set up or close. With the acquisition of Kerry Wood and having Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt to fill out the back end of the bullpen.