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And the first trade of the offseason goes to...

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Indians get Barfield from Padres


CLEVELAND (AP) -- Not wanting to risk striking out in free agency, the Cleveland Indians found an everyday second baseman the conventional way, acquiring Josh Barfield in a trade with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.


The Indians sent infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff, their minor league player of the year, and right-hander Andrew Brown to San Diego for the 23-year-old Barfield, who played in 150 games as a rookie last season.


Barfield batted .280 with 32 doubles, 13 homers and 58 RBIs 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.


In addition, Barfield's .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 defense 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.


Last season, Shapiro traded utility infielder Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati and dealt second baseman Ronnie Belliard to St. Louis before the July 31 deadline for Hector Luna. 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 likely platoon as a middle infielder next season.


Shapiro's next target will likely be help for Cleveland's bullpen.


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 RBIs in 94 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo before being brought up.


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.


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, RBIs and hits.


Damn, maybe thats who the Mets should have been looking at.

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