Barfield to Indians for Kouzmanoff, Triple-A pitcher
CLEVELAND -- Just like his dad, Josh Barfield made it to the big leagues. Now, he's following his father to the American League.
Barfield, who as a rookie second baseman helped San Diego win a division title, was acquired Wednesday by the Cleveland Indians, who traded infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff and right-hander Andrew Brown to the Padres.
The 23-year-old Barfield, who played in 150 games last season, was stunned by the deal.
"I had no idea when I got the call this morning," he said. "It took me by surprise. But I know it's going to be a better situation for me."
Barfield batted .280 with 32 doubles, 13 homers and 58 RBI in helping the Padres win the NL West. The son of former AL home run champion Jesse Barfield also had 21 steals and scored 72 times.
"I grew up in the American League," said Barfield, who after being told he had been traded made his first phone call to his father in Houston. "My dad was so excited."
The elder Barfield, who led the AL with 40 homers in 1986 for Toronto, never played in Jacobs Field but coached there with Seattle. He told his son that he's headed to a hitter-friendly ballpark.
The younger Barfield showed some power last season, but some of the balls he hit in San Diego didn't carry deep enough in Petco Park. At the Jake, he could hit more homers -- though he doesn't expect to match his dad's power.
"We're two totally different players," he said. "I'm not a 40-homer guy like him."
Barfield will help Cleveland's defense, too. His .987 fielding percentage -- he had nine errors in 684 total chances -- was third best among NL second basemen. One of the Indians' biggest deficiencies last season was their horrid fielding up the middle, which should improve dramatically because of Barfield's speed and range.
Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro has quickly crossed off the top item on his offseason shopping list.
The Indians didn't have an up-and-coming second baseman in their minor-league system and would have been faced with finding one among a weak free-agent class. But in Barfield, they got a young, inexpensive player with plenty of upside in the short and long-term.
"The package that this guy brings complements our existing core of players," Shapiro said.
Last season, Shapiro traded utility infielder Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati, then dealt second baseman Ronnie Belliard to St. Louis for Hector Luna before the July 31 deadline. The Indians, one of baseball's biggest disappointments in '06 after winning 93 games in '05, used rookie Joe Inglett and Luna over the final two months at second.
Inglett will likely platoon as a middle infielder next season.
Shapiro's next target will probably be help for Cleveland's bullpen.
"It remains our biggest challenge of the offseason," Shapiro said. "There are not clear answers out there, and it will involve us exploring every alternative."
Kouzmanoff, who can play third base but has been at first during the Arizona Fall League, swung his way into the Indians' plans last season.
Called up from the minors on Sept. 2, he became the first player in history to hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw as a major-leaguer, connecting against Texas. The 25-year-old batted a combined .379 with 22 homers and 75 RBI in 94 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo before being brought up.
Kouzmanoff is expected to compete for the job at third with the Padres.
"It boiled down to we really liked the third baseman we acquired, after spending the last year looking for a third baseman," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "Second base is an easier hole to fill than third base. We feel like there are some real good options for us."
The Indians were out of options on Brown, who appeared in nine games for them in 2006. At Buffalo, the 25-year-old went 5-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 39 games.
"We traded a lot," Shapiro said. "We gave up players we liked to get a player we think is going to be a very good major-leaguer."
The Padres also hired a new manager Wednesday, picking Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Bud Black to replace Bruce Bochy.
Barfield was selected by San Diego in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. He was named MVP of the California League in 2003 after batting .337 and leading the league in doubles, RBI and hits.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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