The Theo Epstein negotiations in October may have been the most public of this offseason for the Red Sox, but the most prolonged ones could be the ongoing talks with Cleveland regarding Coco Crisp.
Though the teams have conducted their business rather stealthily, a source with knowledge of the talks confirmed Peter Gammons's recent estimate that the Sox and Indians have had 70-plus conversations in the last month. Those conversations, according to the source, have involved innumerable permutations, with Crisp and Sox third base prospect Andy Marte being the two players always involved.
The Indians could use bullpen help after losing Bobby Howry to the Cubs and failing to sign Trevor Hoffman; that has led to Guillermo Mota's name being a part of most versions of the deal.
It appears that both teams would like to resolve this situation in the next week and a half, given that pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than four weeks. The major impediment is that Cleveland lacks a player ready to step into left field if it deals Crisp. Cleveland doesn't appear able to do a stand-alone deal with the Sox.
That has raised the possibility of a potential third or fourth team being involved. Of course, the more teams involved, and the larger the deal, the more difficult it becomes to complete.
Crisp, if obtained, would be under the Sox' contractual control for four seasons before becoming a free agent. He's likely to command about $3 million this year and probably close to $20 million over the next four seasons, vs. the $52 million Johnny Damon will make with the Yankees.
However, obtaining Crisp would cost the Sox their top prospect, a player widely regarded across baseball as an elite prospect with power who should be ready to play full time by 2007. The Indians, meanwhile, have 32-year-old third baseman Aaron Boone signed for this season, with a mutual option for 2007.
Regular-season single-game tickets, with the exception of the nine games vs. the Yankees, will go on sale via the Internet (redsox.com) and phone (617-482-4SOX) next Saturday at 10 a.m. There is a two-game, four-ticket-per-game limit.
In what it says is an effort to limit scalpers' access to Yankee tickets, the club will release those tickets at a later date through ''a random drawing process, details of which will be announced." Green Monster and right-field roof deck seats will also be sold in this manner.
Fans with disabilities should call 877-REDSOX-9 to purchase tickets. The number for hearing-impaired fans is 617-226-6644. The Fenway Park box office opens Feb. 11.