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Tribe deals Peralta to Tigers for lefty

Tribe deals Peralta to Tigers for lefty

CLEVELAND -- Jhonny Peralta was once the heir to Indians legend Omar Vizquel's throne at shortstop.

Fast-forward five years, and Peralta was deemed expendable trade bait by a rebuilding Tribe team that no longer had use for his offensive inconsistency or bloated contract.

The Indians dealt Peralta to the division-rival Tigers shortly before Wednesday's game against the Yankees, and they also sent cash to complete the deal, offsetting the remainder of Peralta's $4.6 million salary. In return, the Tribe received a 19-year-old Class A left-hander named Giovanni Soto and the opportunity to give playing time to younger options.

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Luis Valbuena was promoted from Triple-A Columbus to take Peralta's roster spot, and Andy Marte took Peralta's spot in the starting lineup against the Yanks. Jayson Nix is also on hand and will likely receive significant at-bats at third. And at some point, the Indians are also expected to take a look at Jared Goedert, who has been torching Triple-A pitching for the past two months.

"We wanted to take a look at some of our internal alternatives [at third base] for next year, because we think they can help us this year, too," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "We had come to the decision we weren't going to pick up [Peralta's] option for next year. We had multiple guys that we viewed as potential alternatives that we wanted to take a look at."

Peralta joins an injury-depleted Tigers team looking to get back into the thick of the American League Central race. The Tigers lost third baseman Brandon Inge to a broken bone in his left hand that will sideline him for at least another two weeks. Upon Inge's return, Peralta could see some time at shortstop for Detroit.

Shortstop ceased to be Peralta's domain here in 2009, when Asdrubal Cabrera took over. Long criticized for his lack of range at short, Peralta moved to the hot corner. But his bat, which once had the Indians believing him to be a core player, continued to sag.

"He's a guy who signed here as a teenager and came through our system, replaced a legend -- a potential Hall of Famer at shortstop -- and did it extremely well," Shapiro said. "Having grown up [in Baltimore] watching a succession of guys struggle to replace Brooks Robinson, I know how difficult that is. [Peralta] contributed to playoff run [in 2007] and was an outstanding professional and class individual. [Trading him] is an emotional moment."

But Shapiro had no emotion in admitting that by turning to their alternatives, the Indians can likely achieve production similar to what they were getting from Peralta.

Peralta, 28, batted .246 with 23 doubles, seven homers and 43 RBIs for the Tribe this year. Over eight seasons with the Indians, he hit .264 with 103 homers and 456 RBIs in 923 games. Cleveland signed him to a long-term extension after his first full season in 2005, when he hit .292 with 24 homers and 78 RBIs. But Peralta hit .254 with a .690 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in '09 and never got on track this season.

PROSPECT ANALYSIS: Giovanni Soto
Not to be confused with the Cubs catcher of almost the same name, Giovanni Soto was the Tigers' 21st-round pick in the 2009 Draft out of Puerto Rico. The 19-year-old left-handed pitcher was having a fine season with West Michigan in the Class A Midwest League ast the time of the trade.
A Midwest League All-Star, Soto was third in the league with a 2.61 ERA and had two shutouts. In 16 starts covering 82 2/3 innings, Soto had struck out 76 and walked 25. Opponents have hit .248 against him, and he's got a 1.96 groundout-to-flyout rate.
Soto's success comes more from pitchability than pure stuff. He throws his fastball 86-89 mph along with a 75-mph changeup. His cutter is his most effective pitch. All of his offerings play up because of his ability to command them with plenty of deception.
West Michigan had just arrived in the Cleveland area to take on the Indians' Class A affiliate, Lake County, so all Soto had to do was head to the other clubhouse before Wednesday's game. He was slated to start on Thursday against Lake County, but it was unclear whether he'd pitch against his former teammates.
-- Jonathan Mayo

Because the Indians had no plans to exercise Peralta's $7 million option for 2011 (an option that is now worth $7.25 million as a result of the trade), it made sense to seek out offers for him. The Tigers had a need, and the Indians pounced.

They pounced because Nix looked solid in a two-week stint as the regular at second base, and they believe Nix, who became a utility player when Cabrera returned from injury and Jason Donald moved to second, can make a successful transition to third.

They pounced because Valbuena has produced since his demotion to Columbus last month, batting .313 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 25 games.

They pounced because they want to see what Marte -- a former highly touted prospect gone astray -- can do with more at-bats.

And they pounced because Goedert is batting .304 with a 1.049 OPS through 45 games at Columbus and, at some point, will be worthy of a look at this level. Behind him, former No. 1 Draft pick Lonnie Chisenhall looms at Double-A Akron.

They also pounced because of Soto, who has spent this season with Class A West Michigan, going 6-6 with a 2.61 ERA in 16 starts. He has struck out 76 and walked 25 in 82 2/3 innings and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 16 starts.

Soto, listed at 6-foot-4, is headed to Class A Lake County. He owns a career Minor League record of 10-6 with a 2.10 ERA and one save in 29 appearances, including 22 starts. The Carolina, Puerto Rico, native was a 21st-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

"He's a lanky, projectable left-handed starter," Shapiro said. "There's definitely some projection involved. It's a tall, wiry frame. The velocity is not 'plus' right now, but he's got a good cutter and good feel for a curveball and changeup, as well."

Moving Peralta clearly wasn't about moving money, because the Indians will pay the remainder of his 2010 salary, with the exception of the prorated portion of the Major League minimum.

This was a move that, in the short term, was about seeing what other legit options exist at third base. More details about the plan at third are expected after manager Manny Acta has some discussions with Nix, Marte and Valbuena.

"We have a strategy for which guy is going to play the most," Shapiro said. "We'll be more explicit about strategy the next couple days."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. He blogs about baseball at CastroTurf. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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