Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in 1996, Blake was claimed off of waivers twice by the Twins, and twice the front office got fed up with his poor play and let him go. In retrospect, it’s hard to blame the Twins for releasing Blake twice. He couldn’t hit, batting just .241/.338/.310/.649, and was little more than an adequate defender, while they already had a very good every day third baseman in Corey Koskie. The front office cut bait with Blake for good in October of 2002, and Blake eventually signed with the Indians. The rest, as they say, is history. Blake blossomed into a pretty solid everyday third baseman in Cleveland, spending seven seasons in an Indians uniform. He even brought in a nice haul when the front office decided to have a fire sale in 2008, fetching top catching prospect and a man bound to torment the Twins’ finesse pitchers for years to come, Carlos Santana. Meanwhile, the Twins discovered that solid everyday third basemen do not, in fact, grow on trees: they lost Koskie to free agency after the 2004 season and have struggled to find a regular third baseman ever since (though they may finally have found one in Danny Valencia).
The Twins made a push to sign Blake when he was a free agent after the 2008 season, but to the dismay of many Twins fans, were outbid by the Dodgers, who inked the veteran third baseman to a 3-year, $17.5 million deal. Blake hasn’t been terrible in Los Angeles; one could argue that he’s been worth more than what he’s been paid (though he will never be worth giving up Santana), but the Twins felt it would be better to sign a stopgap solution and cross their fingers that Valencia would develop into a decent prospect than to hand a then-35-year-old mediocre infielder a multiyear deal. So far, that gamble appears to be paying off; the 37 year-old Blake batted .248/.320/.407/.727 for $5.25 million this season, while the 26 year-old Valencia put up slightly better numbers (.311/.351/.448/.799 ) for the league minimum.
Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. You can email her at erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com.