Keith Law once wrote in regards to the Casey Blake trade from Cleveland to LA:
“That is a trade the Dodgers will be regretting for a long time.”
No other reason other than Carlos Santana.
Santana ranked 13th on Law’s Top 100 prospects. Santana ranked 26th on Baseball America’s Top 100. And Baseball Prospectus ranked him 33rd.
If you are unaware, Santana is a catcher, and a switch-hitting one. “Switch-hitting catcher” means very little unless they can actually hit…and catch.
Apparently, Carlos Santana can do both. Quite well, too.
Keith Law excerpt:
In 2007, Santana hit .223/.318/.370 in the Midwest League, didn’t make
Baseball Prospectus’ list of the top 11 Dodgers prospects, and didn’t
crack the top 20 on Baseball America’s list. Now, after hitting a
combined .330/.435/.569 in high-A — walking more than he struck out —
he projects as a middle-of-the-order, switch-hitting run producer who,
by the way, is a legitimate big league catcher. Santana has a very
compact swing and makes a lot of hard contact, but he also has enough
strength in his upper body to generate power despite the short swing.
Behind the plate, he’s a good receiver and has an above-average arm,
but needs to work on his game-calling. Given his tremendous control of
the strike zone and above-average power, he has very little to do to
turn into an average big league catcher, but there’s a high probability
that he develops into much more.
So there was another side to that trade. The Dodgers were in serious contention in a “Wild Card” induced playoff race, where 84 wins was eventually the reason the division was won. Although the Dodgers could have lost another game and still held on to win the division (as long as the loss was not to the 2nd place D’backs).
And you have to give up something to get something, right?
Well what exactly was that “something?” Casey Blake is an okay player, nothing more, possibly even less at this point (age). Is that worth giving up what could be an above average all-around catcher? Even though Santana is blocked by Russell Martin, he could have been used to acquire another piece to the puzzle–a younger piece. Perhaps, a pitcher.
But Santana was used to bring in a veteran 3B that isn’t that good to begin with, and is declining. Not to mention, was only under contract for the rest of 2008 at the time, meaning that surrendering Carlos Santana really only brought them two months of Casey Blake. And I happen to believe that Carlos Santana is much more valuable to an organization than two months of a decent player.
Now I know that if a team has a chance to win, then they should try and give themselves the best chance possible to take advantage. And acquiring Manny Ramirez was an example of a team taking full advantage of that. But was Blake needed to? Or needed at this expense I mean? And this doesn’t even take into account that Blake was a slightly below-average hitter during his time with LA in 2008. And then the Dodgers went and extended his contract three more years. Probably a little excessive for an okay player who is also going to turn 36 before the 2009 season ends.
Maybe this is hindsight speaking, but I was unaware at the time how promising Carlos Santana was. I have made it clear that I am not a scout, and actually when the trade was made, I didn’t even research about the return Cleveland netted. All I remember thinking was that the Dodgers acquired a mediocre player. And had Blake been acquired for an “organizational player” rather than a potential “All-Star,” then the move would have made more sense.
Carlos Santana has proven little so far. But the Los Angeles Dodgers could have brought back more than just Casey Blake. I know the Red Sox were looking for a catcher, and had the Dodgers held Santana for the remainder of the year, then maybe the Red Sox would have pulled the trigger on a trade for Santana the “young, switch-hitting catcher,” since the other options fell through (Salty, Tea, Montero).