Less than a month after trading a solid prospect to get half of the Indians’ first-base platoon, the Mariners were at it again on Wednesday. Seattle acquired the lefthanded-hitting half, Ben Broussard, and cash toward Broussard’s $2.4875 million salary in exchange for Triple-A outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and a player to be named.
On June 30, the Mariners sent infield prospect Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland for Eduardo Perez. Broussard and Perez will reprise their platoon in Seattle at DH, replacing Carl Everett, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday after hitting .227 with 11 homers in 93 games. Broussard and Perez also can give Richie Sexson occasional time off at first base.
Broussard, 29, is an effective if not spectacular hitter against righthanders. He’s enjoying the best season of his career to date, hitting .321/.361/.519 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs in 88 games, including a .362 average and .982 OPS against righties. He’s a solid defender at first base and also has seen time in left field in the past, though his range and arm render him below average at that position. Broussard won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2008 season. He’s a career .269/.333/.469 hitter with 69 homers and 260 RBIs in 523 games.
Trading Broussard makes sense for the Indians, perhaps the biggest disappointment in baseball. They save money and can open playing time for up-and-comers such as Choo, Ryan Garko and Kelly Shoppach by playing defensively challenged catcher Victor Martinez or outfielder Casey Blake at first base.
On the other hand, Seattle may rue trading a pair of potential big league regulars in Cabrera and Choo to get a DH platoon. While the Mariners are just three games back in the American League West, they’re also 48-52 and in fourth place.
Choo, 24, signed for $1.335 million after winning the MVP award at the 2000 World Junior Championships for Korea. A two-way star who dominated more as a pitcher, he immediately became a full-time outfielder for the Mariners. He has plenty of tools, including the ability to hit for average, the speed to steal bases and a very strong right-field arm. The biggest question for Choo has been whether he’ll develop enough power to play regularly on an outfield corner. His inside-out swing and his approach produced just 46 homers in his first five minor league seasons, though he has made progress while spending his second straight year at Triple-A Tacoma. In 94 games, Choo has hit .323/.394/.499 with 13 homers, 48 RBIs and 26 steals. The Indians may use him in a platoon with Jason Michaels in left field. In brief major league action over the last two years, Choo has gone 2-for-29.
August 23 update: The Indians received lefthander Shawn Nottingham to complete the trade. Nottingham, 21, was a 13th-round pick out of an Ohio high school in 2003. He’s a lefthander who works with a fringy fastball, a curveball and a changeup (his best pitch). In 26 starts this year at high Class A Inland Empire, he has gone 5-12, 4.17. In 155 innings, he has a 136-52 K-BB ratio, .266 opponent average and 13 homers allowed. Those numbers are better than they might look at first glance, considering his age and the fact that the California League is a hitter’s paradise.