With no clear-cut everyday starting second baseman on the roster, the Indians made a major move without giving up a whole lot in return–acquiring Josh Barfield from the Padres for infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff and righthanded reliever Andrew Brown.
In Barfield, the Tribe fills a major hole on the right side of the infield that would have been platooned by Hector Luna and Joe Inglett. Barfield provides better defense and more pop than both of those part-time players, hitting .280/.318/.423 with 13 homers.
A fourth-round pick in 2001, Barfield steadily climbed through the Padres’ system and made his major league debut in 2006. The 24-year-old had problems hitting righthanders throughout his minor league career–hitting just .196 against them–but seemed to solve righties in his rookie season, hitting them at a .266 clip.
There were questions about Barfield’s defense at second base as well, particularly in 2004 at Double-A Mobile, and scouts thought he seemed destined for left field. But the son of former big league outfielder Jesse Barfield put considerable effort into getting better at the position, and now he grades out as at least an average defender with a plus arm.
In return for Barfield, the Padres get Kouzmanoff and Brown–with Kouzmanoff seemingly coming into the 2007 season as the frontrunner for the everyday third base job.
All Kouzmanoff has done at every minor league stop is hit–when he’s been healthy enough to play every day. The 25-year-old infielder finished second in the minor leagues with a .379 average between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo in 2006, but was hampered by hamstring and back issues that caused him to miss three weeks.
The back injury stems from a stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2004, when he was going after a foul ball along the third base dugout when he slipped and fell, hitting his back on every concrete step on the way down.
Kouzmanoff joined an elite club in his major league debut, hitting a grand slam in his first at-bat–on the very first pitch he saw. He wound up hitting .214/.279/.411 with three homers in 56 at-bats for Cleveland.
Currently in the AFL once again, Kouzmanoff was in Arizona working on his versatility by playing first base. The 2003 sixth-round pick was hitting .409 with six doubles and a pair of bombs in 44 at-bats for the Peoria Javelinas.
The Padres also get a power reliever in Brown, marking the third time in the 25-year-old’s eight-year career he’s been dealt for a big leaguer. A sixth-round pick of the Braves in 1999, Brown was part of the package Atlanta sent to Los Angeles for Gary Sheffield in 2002. He was then acquired by Cleveland from the Dodgers along with outfielder Franklin Gutierrez in the Milton Bradley deal.
Though Brown features a power arsenal, he never reached the 97 mph heat on his fastball he showed with the Dodgers during his time with the Tribe. He took a step backward in 2006 despite reaching the big leagues, constantly running into mechanical flaws in his delivery.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound righthander went 5-4, 2.60 at Buffalo in 2006, but carried a 54-36 strikeout-walk ratio in 62 innings. His command problems stemmed from not staying upright in his delivery–when Brown drops and drives, his stuff plays better. But he had a hard time remaining consistent and left a lot of pitches up in the zone.
In 10 innings in the majors this season, Brown walked eight and struck out seven.