With nearly $4 million remaining in his 2010 salary and another $2 million bonus coming his way if he was dealt, Westbrook's attractiveness on the trade market was slightly damaged in this economic climate. But after the Cardinals made a hard push for Westbrook on Friday, the Indians went to the veteran right-hander about lessening the amount of the bonus to ensure a deal got done.
And it did get done, just in time for Westbrook to be scratched before his scheduled 1:07 p.m. ET start in Toronto against the Blue Jays on Saturday. In a three-team, four-player trade, Westbrook was sent to the Cardinals along with cash, and outfielder Ryan Ludwick was sent from the Cards to the Padres, who then sent Double-A right-hander Corey Kluber to the Tribe and Class A left-hander Nick Greenwood to the Cards.
"Any way that I could help out the Indians, I needed to do that," said Westbrook, "because I didn't really feel like I honored my contract as well as I would have liked to, being hurt. It was in my best interest and the Indians' best interest to do something like that."
Westbrook, who made his return from 2008 Tommy John surgery on Opening Day this year, is the latest former core player dealt by the Indians over the past three years. The remains of the Indians' 2007 American League Championship Series team have been whittled down to a precious few.
Why did the Tribe trade Westbrook?
Well, for one, Westbrook had only two months remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2007. So while the Indians are expected to make some attempt to sign the free-agent right-hander this offseason, it made sense to seek out a return for him now, given the standings.
The Indians were willing to pay some of the remainder of Westbrook's contract (exactly how much they're paying was not immediately revealed) because they got back a Double-A prospect about whom they feel good.
"For us, it's an opportunity to get back a Double-A starting pitcher to add to our upper-level depth," said assistant general manager Chris Antonetti, who will become the Tribe's full-time GM at season's end. "Kluber is a 6-foot-4 right-hander with a four-pitch mix. He has an above-average fastball with a plus breaking ball. He could be another upper-level Major League starter that can hopefully be part of our starting rotation down the road."
|PROSPECT ANALYSIS: Three-way deal|
|In the three-team trade involving the Indians, Cardinals and Padres, San Diego gave up two Minor League pitchers. Here's some more information on Corey Kluber, who went to Cleveland, and Nick Greenwood, who is now a part of the Cardinals' organization.|
|Kluber was taken by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft out of Stetson. The 24-year-old has spent the 2010 season in the Double-A Texas League, where he led all pitchers with 136 strikeouts in 122 2/3 IP and his 3.45 ERA was 11th. He's got a 4.29 ERA in his Minor League career with a 9.5 K/9 ratio. The right-hander relies largely on a two-pitch mix, with a fastball and slider, and a good feel for pitching. He profiles as a No. 5 starter type in the future.|
|The Padres took Greenwood, a 6-foot-1 lefty, out of the University of Rhode Island in the 14th round of the 2009 Draft. Scouts aren't particularly enamored with his stuff -- his fastball sits in the 88- to 91-mph range -- giving him below-average grades across the board. Used mostly as a starter with Fort Wayne in the Class A Midwest League, he's got a 4.15 ERA in 95 1/3 IP to date. In his brief career, he's been tough on left-handed hitters -- .190 batting average against and 7.21 K/9 vs. .287 and 6.31 against right-handers -- so perhaps he has a future as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.|
|-- Jonathan Mayo|
The Padres took Kluber in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft.
"This kid turned himself from just a guy into a legitimate prospect," said Randy Smith, the Padres' director of player development. "He's legit. His slider is a strikeout pitch. He could be a middle guy or at the back end of the rotation. To me, he's a totally different guy than he was a year ago. He was 87, 89 [mph]. Now, 89-93. We've seen a jump in arm strength."
Kluber, 24, has spent the entire 2010 season at Double-A San Antonio, where he was 6-6 with a 3.45 ERA. He has struck out 136 and walked 40 in 122 2/3 innings in 22 games, including 21 starts. He leads the Texas League in strikeouts.
So, yes, Kluber is an attractive arm to add to the Minor League ranks.
But that didn't make dealing Westbrook easy, from an emotional standpoint.
"Any time you're trading a veteran guy at this point of the year, it's a difficult thing to do," Antonetti said. "With Jake, it's even more difficult because, beyond his contribution on the field for almost a decade or longer with the organization, this guy epitomizes professionalism. I'm not sure there is a classier act anywhere else in baseball. He's been that way since Day 1 and continued on through today."
The 32-year-old Westbrook was 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA in 21 starts this season. He is 69-71 with a 4.34 ERA in 221 career appearances, including 181 starts. All but three of his career appearances have been with the Indians, who acquired him from the Yankees in 2000.
With Westbrook gone, Josh Tomlin was thrust into starting duties Saturday, just three days removed from a stellar debut. Jeanmar Gomez will likely be promoted to take Tomlin's place on Sunday.
And Westbrook? He'll get a chance to chase the World Series ring that proved elusive in his time with the Tribe.
"I'm excited," Westbrook said. "I'm excited to go to a club contending for a playoff spot and pitch in some meaningful ballgames. That's why you play the game, for a chance to get into the playoffs, and I'm looking forward to doing that."
But Westbrook did admit that leaving the Tribe organization was tough, on a personal level.
"This is the organization that has given me the biggest opportunity," Westbrook said. "I have nothing but gratitude for the things they have allowed me to accomplish and the opportunity they have given me. Everybody has been just awesome and great toward me and my family. It's going to be tough leaving, but it's another opportunity for me to go pitch in some games that mean something."