Saturday, January 28, 2006

Coco to Bosox

The trade that outlasted the lifespan of some insects finally was consummated Friday, as Coco Crisp became a member of the Red Sox.
As with any trade, it was a give-and-take. The Indians gave up a proven .300 hitter in the big leagues to land, above all else, one of the most coveted prospects in baseball.
I remember writing in by Bowling Green days about how this was going to be the wave of the future for the Indians, like it or not. Every few years, we'd likely watch the Tribe pawn off an established player to add prospects. I wouldn't be shocked if we were watching C.C. Sabathia get shipped to a big-market team in a few years.
Having said that, the Red Sox were the impetus behind this deal. Even though Crisp was arbitration-eligible, the Indians were under no real pressure to make a trade. It was the Red Sox who were missing a center fielder and leadoff hitter, and needed to make this deal happen.
The good news is, that means the Indians were acting from a position of strength, getting Boston to pay a hefty price for a good-but-not-great player. The bad news is, the Indians just took a large piece out of the top of their order to add another piece for the future.
For the Indians, it's always going to be a balancing act between present and future. It's a difficult task, one frought with calculated risks.

Below is my breakdown, positive and negative, of arguably the biggest trade Mark Shapiro has pulled off since dealing Bartolo Colon to the Expos in 2002.


Andy Marte
One scout reportedly said Marte had the potential to be Manny Ramirez without the oddball personality. Judging from his .275 average last year in Class AAA, I doubt he'll routinely hit for average the way Ramirez does. But the 40-homer and 120-RBI potential are there. To boot, he is a third baseman with a good glove. Third basemen like this don't grow on trees. Ask the Seattle Mariners, who overpaid for Adrian Beltre last off-season. If Marte matures into the type of player many scouts say he can be, the Indians will by far get the better end of this deal long-term.

Guillermo Mota can fill Bob Howry's void
No more rolling the dice on Danny Graves or Steve Karsay to fill the all-important eighth-inning set-up role. The Indians will now roll the dice on the fragile pitching arm of Mota, who was among the best set-up men in baseball in 2003 and '04. Shapiro and his crew seem to think that, with a limited workload, a good 2006 season can be coaxed out of Mota. But manager Eric Wedge used the daylights out of Howry last year, so what are the odds of Mota being used sparingly?
Mota, 32, is a free agent after this coming season, and will likely not be back in 2007.

Kelly Shoppach adds a catcher to the fray
Shoppach will compete with aging Tim Laker and never-was Einar Diaz to back up Victor Martinez. But that might only be the beginning for the 25-year-old who has hit 48 home runs in two seasons at Class AAA.
If Shoppach can transfer his seemingly-competent bat to the majors, his presence might allow the Indians to move the valuable bat of Martinez to a position with fewer physical demands in the next few years. In the meantime, he should be an upgrade over Josh Bard as a backup catcher, should he win the job.


That huge hole in left field
Deciding whether Todd Hollandsworth or Jason Michaels -- also acquired Friday from Philadelphia for Arthur Rhodes -- will fill Crisp's void in left field is akin to throwing darts at a board.
Either could win the job. Or neither could win the job, and the Indians could be left with an undesireable platoon of scrubs. Pair that with the continued presence of Casey Blake in right field, and the Tribe's corner outfield situation has the potential to be very shaky this year.

That huge hole in the second spot of the batting order
Even worse than left field, Crisp's departure takes a .300 hitter out of the second spot in the batting order. Hollandsworth or Michaels could fill it, but open auditions are likely in spring training. Other candidates include Blake, Aaron Boone, Jhonny Peralta and Ronnie Belliard. Regardless, Crisp's departure takes a proven, capable bat out of the lineup, shoving the productive hitters one spot higher. Once you get past the quintet of Peralta, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Belliard and Martinez, it's a crap shoot. Possibly in more ways than one, I fear.

The bullpen now resembles a tossed salad
So long to last year's bullpen, the best in the American League. Gone now are Rhodes, Howry and David Riske. In their places are Mota, Graves and Karsay.
Only one lefty remains in the bullpen with Scott Sauerbeck.
It's not to say the 2006 bullpen won't be good, but Friday's trades sent it into full-scale upheaval. It will take a while for things to settle down. The Indians will be relying heavily on Mota and closer Bob Wickman to stay healthy, or they might end up with a 2004 situation where everyone is pitching out of their roles.

1 comment:

Zach said...

Casey Blake is still on the team. How has this happened? Is he married to Wedge's sister or something?
It just amazes me the Indians went into an offseason looking for a right handed bat, and came out of it with Jason Michaels and a secured spot in right for the cure for the common rally.
Someone who hits way under .200 with runners in scoring position is not having a bad year. Rather, they are just a bad player.
And yet, Coco's gone, and Blake is still here.