By acquiring third baseman Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians for a pair of minor leaguers, the Dodgers made a move five days away from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline that General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Joe Torre said would improve the offense of their weak-hitting club.
The Dodgers sent triple-A right-hander Jon Meloan and Class-A catcher Carlos Santana to the Indians, who agreed to pay the remaining part of Blake’s one-year, $6.1 million deal. To clear a spot on the active roster for Blake, the Dodgers optioned rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt to triple-A Las Vegas.
Blake, who turns 35 next month, will be a free agent at the end of the season.
“He’s the type of player who doesn’t take an at-bat off,” Colletti said. “He’s a great character guy.”
Blake, who was batting .289 with 11 home runs and 58 runs batted in for Cleveland, was in the Dodgers’ lineup Saturday against the Washington Nationals, playing third base and batting sixth. He went two for three with a double.
Torre called Blake his everyday third baseman. Blake is also capable of playing the outfield.
A late bloomer, Blake never played more than 19 games in the majors in any season until he was 30 years old. His 10-year major league career includes stops in Toronto, Minnesota and Baltimore.
Blake set career highs in home runs (28) and runs batted in (88) with Cleveland in 2004. He had 18 home runs and 78 RBIs last season.
“If you follow my career, you’ll know I’m a blue-collar guy,” Blake said. “I might not hit 40 home runs or drive in 100 runs, but I’d like to think I’m a consistent performer.”
Torre denied that the trade is an indication that the Dodgers have given up on DeWitt and Andy LaRoche, 24, who were platooning at third. Of Blake, Torre said, “I think he’s a little further along than they are at this juncture.”
The Dodgers, who have shopped LaRoche and DeWitt, are “not really” interested in trading for a shortstop to replace the injured Rafael Furcal now that they have Blake, according to Colletti.
Because Blake provides more offense, Colletti said it frees up Torre to do what he did Saturday, moving shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to first and playing the defensively capable but weak-hitting Angel Berroa at short.
Between now and the trade deadline, Colletti said he would be looking for pitching, most likely relief pitching because the available starters don’t excite him.
Colletti said he would not trade starter Derek Lowe, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, and that he felt that the Dodgers could win the NL West with their present roster.
The Dodgers had a chance to acquire Blake at the start of the month as part of a blockbuster deal that would’ve also netted them star pitcher CC Sabathia and infielder Jamey Carroll. The deal would’ve cost the Dodgers five players.
Meloan, 24, was moved from the bullpen to the rotation this spring and was 5-10 with a 4.97 earned-run average in 21 games for triple-A Las Vegas. A September call-up last season, he posted an 11.05 ERA in five games for the Dodgers.
Santana, 22, was hitting .323 with 14 home runs for Class-A Inland Empire and his 96 runs batted in were the most in the Cal League. Santana hit only .223 for low-A Great Lakes last season.