We didn't know it at the time, but Wednesday's save for Bob Wickman was his last appearance as an Indian. The burly closer and Indians' career saves leader was traded to the Braves Thursday afternoon for minor-league Class A catching prospect Maximiliano "Max" Ramirez.
Ramirez, 21, was hitting .285 with nine homers and 37 RBI for the Rome (GA) Braves of the South Atlantic League according to baseballamerica.com. Chances are the Indians will assign him either to the Lake County Captains or the Kinston Indians, both Class A affiliates.
We've known for a while that this was a lost year for the Indians, but today's trade is a formal "reject" stamp on the 2006 season. August and September will be committed to giving the organization's young players at-bats and innings.
That means we're right back to 2003 and 2004, when player development, not winning, was the top priority.
But we can all sit and sulk, or make the best of a bad situation. Fausto Carmona, who has been just short of dynamite as a set-up man, will now get a chance to close some games. There's no question Carmona has the arm to be a great closer. But then again, there's no question Jason Davis has the arm to be a great closer.
The remainder of the season will give us a chance to see if Carmona has the head and stomach to close.
Wickman's exit probably paves the way for the exit of Aaron Boone, who has become an underperforming, multimillion-dollar impediment preventing Andy Marte from ascending to the Indians roster. We always talk about the proverbial "bag of balls" trade where a player gets shipped off for virtually nothing in return. In Boone's case, he might literally get shipped off for a bag of balls.
Ronnie Belliard, Ben Broussard, Guillermo Mota, Todd Hollandsworth and Jake Westbrook are also candidates to ship out if GM Mark Shapiro finds the right deal.
That's the story here in perpetually-rebuilding land. For Wickman, the sky is deservedly more sunny.
Wickman get a chance to finish his career in the heat of a pennant race instead of wasting what's left of his arm pitching for a bottom-feeder. The Braves are still below .500, but a seven-game winning streak has propelled them back into the National League wild card chase.
The Braves are in need of a closer, and Wickman didn't want to go anywhere where he wasn't going to close. It seems like a good match, and I hope Wickman gets one last taste of playoff baseball before he hangs up his spikes.