I was at Dodger Stadium last night to see the debut of newly traded-for third baseman Casey Blake, and he looked great, going 2-for-3 in the Dodgers 6-0 win over the Nationals. Earlier in the day, Blake had been traded from Cleveland for Jonathan Meloan and Carlos Santana.
The trade has drawn a wide mix of reactions from all sides of the baseball community. For the remainder of this season, the deal clearly helps the Dodgers. Casey Blake isn't an all-star, but he's an above-average hitter, who has some power, and his bat will add a sorely-needed boost to a Dodger team that has been inconsistent offensively all season long.
He's a significant upgrade over Blake DeWitt, who has been awful since he was NL Rookie of the Month back in May. At this point, it's best for DeWitt's development to play every day in AAA. He wasn't even supposed to be in the majors this season, and while he's talented, MLB scouting reports figured him out and he hasn't learned to adjust yet.
Blake will also be starting every day over Andy LaRoche, a third baseman who draws a wide variety of opinions. Scroll through Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts blog, and you'll find plenty of people who think that LaRoche has the talent to be a very good ballplayer, but bemoan that he's been jerked around by the organization and never given a fair a opportunity. It seems as though the mainstream LA media, such as the LA Times, has never been high on LaRoche, and they don't like what they've seen in the few snippets of playing time he's received.
If LaRoche hadn't torn a thumb ligament in spring training, then he almost certainly would have received the opportunity many felt he deserved. But now, at 24, he's almost too old to be a prospect, and one can't help but feel that the Dodgers organization has soured on him. There are still plenty of teams that like LaRoche, and I'd expect him to be traded in the offseason.
Blake also doesn't figure into the Dodgers future plans, as he's 34 years old, and a free agent after the season. For now, he's a rental down the stretch.
Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus is critical of the deal, claiming the Dodgers gave up too much for 200 at-bats, and is disappointed that LaRoche's development is blocked. Jonathan Meloan flourished in the minor leagues as a reliever, but struggled in five games last September in the majors. He was converted to a starting pitcher this year, and struggled in that role in Las Vegas. In reality, he's probably best used as a reliever, and he could be a really good one.
Carlos Santana is putting up excellent numbers in Single-A, but he's a bit old for that level of the minors, and his path to the majors is obviously blocked by Russell Martin.
I'd argue that the Dodgers gave up a good package to get Casey Blake, and it has more potential than what they received. At the same point in time, it's questionable if that potential will ever be realized. While the Dodgers might have a losing record, they're only 1 game out of first place, there is no runaway team in the NL, and anything can happen in the playoffs. I can't see LaRoche thriving this season within the current structure of the Dodger organization, given the lack of patience that seems to exist with his game, even though it's probably not fair that impatience exists. For now, I think this helps the Dodgers in their pursuit towards the playoffs, and I'm not convinced they'll regret it 5 years from now.