The long, winding career of Kenny Lofton took yet another turn Friday as the Indians acquired him for the third time in his 20-year professional career. This time, it was in a trade with the Rangers for minor league catcher Max Ramirez.
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Lofton has remained a viable option and has been traded so frequently (six times now in his career, including three times in July prior to the deadline) because he remains an offensive factor. He's no longer the speed demon who dominated BA's Best Tools lists in the 1990s (he won a category 17 times in his career), but he can still run and plays with savvy. He's stolen 21 bases in 25 trips and had a 39-28 walk-strikeout ratio this season for the Rangers while batting .303/.380/.438.
Ramirez is nearly as familiar with the trade deadline deal as Lofton; this is his second. Last year, the Braves traded him to the Indians for Bob Wickman on July 20. This year with high Class A Kinston, he was hitting .303/.418/.505 with 12 home runs, one shy of his career high (13, last year). He's patient--he just won Best Strike Zone Judgment in our 2007 Best Tools survey of the Carolina League--but will strike out. Defensively, his footwork needs to improve, but he's shown better ability to receive, throw (wiping out 29 percent of opposing basestealers) and handle a pitching staff.
The Indians have not gotten much production offensively out of their corner outfielders--for example, Lofton is out-slugging veterans Dave Dellucci, Jason Michaels and Trot Nixon. He should be able to approximate Coco Crisp's 2005 season to make for a dynamic 1-2 punch with Grady Sizemore atop the Cleveland lineup. Ramirez will have to contend with Taylor Teagarden at catcher in the Rangers system, and while Teagarden should be better defensively (when healthy), he has not caught regularly this year while returning from Tommy John surgery. Ramirez might have enough offensive potential to reach the majors at either DH or first base.