Indians Swap Cory Burns For Aaron Cunningham

The Deal
The Indians and Padres completed a minor trade in which San Diego sent 25-year-old outfielder Aaron Cunningham to Cleveland for Double-A righthanded reliever Cory Burns, who tied for the minor league lead with 35 saves this year.

Cunningham has no options remaining, so the Indians cannot send him to the minors without him first clearing waivers. He hit just .243/.301/.396 over 248 plate appearances in sporadic play for the Padres and had become redundant in an organization suddenly teeming with outfield depth. Kyle Blanks, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are penciled in as Padres starters, with Chris Denorfia and Mark Kotsay in supporting roles. Blake Tekotte and James Darnell, both members of the 40-man roster, will be on call at Triple-A Tucson.

Indians Acquire
Aaron Cunningham, rf

Age: 25. Position: RF (91 G), LF (17 G), CF (7 G), 3B (1 G).

Born: April 24, 1986 in Anchorage.

Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 205. Bats: R. Throws: R.

School: Everett (Wash.) CC.

Career Transactions: Selected by White Sox in sixth round of 2005 draft; signed June 10, 2005
… Traded by White Sox to Diamondbacks for 2B Danny Richar, June 16, 2007 … Traded by Diamondbacks with OF Carlos Gonzalez, 1B V. Chris Carter and LHPs Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith to Athletics
for RHPs Dan Haren and Connor Robertson, Dec. 14, 2007 … Traded by Athletics with OF Scott Hairston to Padres for 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff and 2B Eric Sogard, Jan. 16, 2010.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Tucson (PCL) AAA .329 87 340 65 112 34 4 9 63 38 54 4 .398 .532
San Diego (NL) MLB .178 52 90 12 16 6 1 3 9 9 17 1 .257 .367

Cleveland has two righthanded-hitting outfielders on its 40-man roster, Shelley Duncan and Thomas Neal, but neither can cover center field, so that’s where Cunningham comes in. He provides a capable platoon option for lefty-hitting starters Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo, though that’s probably Cunningham’s ceiling given that he lacks the power for a corner or the range to play center field on an everyday basis. He has had trouble handling big league righties (.620 OPS in 249 PAs), but he has a strong track record against lefties at the Triple-A level, batting .313/.397/.535 with eight homers in 277 PAs over the course of the past three seasons. Cunningham’s Triple-A line versus righties: a more modest (when you consider Pacific Coast League context) .292/.361/.460 with 19 homers in 790 PAs.

Padres Acquire
Cory Burns, rhp

Age: 24.

Born: Oct. 9, 1987 in Phoenix.

Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R.

School: Arizona.

Career Transactions: Selected by Indians in eighth round of 2009 draft; signed June 16, 2009.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Akron (EL) AA 2 5 2.11 54 0 35 59.2 47 15 14 3 15 70 1.04

Burns’ name litters the Eastern League leaderboards—first in saves, first with 1.96 walks per nine innings, third with 10.6 strikeouts per nine, fifth with a .220 opponent average—but he thrives on deception and location moreso than raw stuff, but that’s a formula that has served other Padres relievers through the years. Burns patterns his windup after Hideo Nomo, complete with the pre-balance hesitation and back turn to the batter. His crossfire delivery affords him deception on his 86-90 mph sinker and slurvy high-70s breaking ball. Burns’ sinking changeup has its moments, giving him an advantage on current San Diego bullpen hopeful Brad Brach, who has a similar repertoire and funky delivery but more velocity.

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