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Transactions: Indians Trade for Juan Salas

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Traded IF Isaias Velasquez to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Juan Salas

The Rays had DFAd Salas earlier, so it looks like the Indians didn't to want risk being trumped by another club's waiver claim.

Valasquez has spent two seasons with the Indians domestic farm teams, last year playing mostly shortstop and second base with Mahoning Valley. The Panamanian is two years younger (in baseball years) than Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera, and at best a full three years away from the majors, assuming he progresses a level a year. Tony Lastoria ranked Velasquez #82 in the Cleveland organization, noting his athleticism and versatility.

So the Indians gave up a very young and marginal prospect...what did they get in return? They got a 30-year-old reliever with impressive minor-league numbers but no real major-league success. The Indians are only the second organization for Salas; he was signed by Tampa way back in 1998 as a third baseman, but he couldn't hit. Like most young third baseman, Salas had a strong arm, and because of it he remained in professional baseball as a pitcher.

His first full season on the mound was a success; he averaged more than a strikeout an inning with Visalia (A+) and Montgomery (AA) in 2004. In 2005 he completely dominated Southern League hitters in his second season with Montgomery, striking out 52 in 35 innings, and not allowing an earned run. He was promoted to Durham, continued to impress, and pitched in 8 September games for Tampa. He appeared ready to jump to a full-time role with the Rays the next season.

But after an uneven first month with the Rays in 2007, he was suspended by Major League Baseball 50 days for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He returned from the suspension in late July and finished the season in the majors, but his final line showed vast underachievement for a pitcher with his stuff; he allowed 36 hits in 36.3 innings, struck out just 26, and walked 17. In 2008 Salas encountered more off-the-field problems; he couldn't obtain a work visa until April, so he went to Durham in order to get his arm back into shape. He ended up spending most of the season with the Bulls, striking out 53 batters in 44.2 innings. He only appeared in 5 games with the Rays, performing poorly in his first two appearances. He was left off the postseason roster, and was Designated for Assignment earlier this month when Tampa signed free agent reliever Brian Shouse to a one-year contract.

The major reason the Indians were interested in Salas, besides his minor-league success and low-90s cut fastball, was that, believe it or not, Salas still has an option year left. That means the Indians can stash him in Columbus and have their pitching coaches work with him in a lower-pressure and lower-stakes environment, and if he works out, will have a very nice option in the minors to call upon if needed.