You have to wonder why the Indians would waste an entire month attempting to work out a deal like this. On Yawkey Way, however, the Yawkey Way front office is perfectly content to welcome Coco Crisp into the fold, as their offseason mission to replace Johnny Damon and get younger in the process is about to come to a superbly successful completion.
Not to discount the stellar prospects of a guy like Andy Marte, but frankly, far too many have treated him like the second coming of Mike Schmidt, even if all they know about him is whatever the stat geeks over at Baseball Prospectus told them.
While a few Red Sox fans are criticizing the potential deal -- which involves Crisp, relief pitcher David Riske, and catcher Josh Bard for Marte, catcher Kelly Shoppach, and relief pitcher Guillermo Mota -- even more Indians fans are doing the same. Who can blame them? After all, they've actually watched Crisp play the last four seasons, and know what they're giving up, a young leadoff hitter, who just so happens to be an emerging All-Star.
Would you trade Edgar Renteria for straight up for Crisp, a switch-hitter who will cement the top of any team's lineup for years to come? Of course. And that is essentially what it comes down if you consider that Marte never actually donned a Red Sox uniform. He was nothing more than a bargaining chip in the end, creating a sense of false buzz among some in the Nation who thought he would be the next Wade Boggs. In the end, he wasn't even the next Wilton Veras.
Indians fans, on the other hand, have to be looking at this deal as a major step backward.
Yes, they are getting uber-prospect Marte in return, but let's not forget this is a team that won 93 games in 2005, and missed the playoffs only by virtue of their classic choke job in the final week of the season. Now fans need to witness another apparent rebuilding move. And if Marte is such a "sure-thing" prospect, can someone explain to me why it is that he's been traded twice within the last 50 days?
Maybe because this was Boston's plan all along.
With all the Theo-Lucchino, Ben and Jed, and Johnny Damon soap operas that have been playing out on Yawkey Way in an embarrassing offseason, prompting fans to wonder if Barnum and Bailey have joined the franchise's limited partners, it can't be lost in the shuffle that the team still managed to pull off two of the offseason's most impressive deals: the riskier Josh Beckett trade with the Marlins, and this, a trade that many will see as solving a huge problem, even if said problem was created with Crisp in mind.
Look, Damon was going to cost upwards of $40 million, no matter what the Yankees swooped in an ended up awarding him ($52 million). Never mind his iconic status, Damon at 32 for $13 million a season just isn't all that enticing. Wasn't in October. It still isn't now. Instead, the Red Sox targeted a player like Crisp, picking up Marte, a player Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro had tried to acquire last season, in order to get the deal done. Four (or five, or six, depending on whom you talk to) players later, Crisp will become Damon's replacement at $10 million less. If you factor in the $11 million the Red Sox are paying the Braves for Renteria, it's nearly a wash. Crisp recently signed a 2005 deal for $3 million, and isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season, when he'll be just 30 years old.
Call me crazy, but that seems a much better option than Damon, who had a similar season in 2005 to Crisp's in Cleveland (Damon: .316, 10 home runs, 75 RBIs, .366 OBP; Crisp: .300, 16 home runs, 69 RBIs, .345 OBP). And how much higher do you think Crisp's on-base percentage is going to jump once he bats in front of guys named Loretta, Ortiz, and Ramirez? In fact, Crisp is probably about as close a player statistically as the Red Sox could have found. Weak arm and all, unfortunately.
That said, the deal is apparently far from being completed.
The Akron Beacon Journal reports that any Sox-Indians deal is contingent on the Cleveland being able to pry outfielder Jason Michaels away from the Phillies, a prospect that might not be all the difficult considering Philadelphia may want to rid themselves of a guy who was recently sentenced to serve 100 hours of community service for assaulting a police officer. Cleveland would apparently send lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies, reuniting him with GM Pat Gillick for a third time.
Different permutations of the proposed trade also continue to pop up. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Manny Delcarmen could be part of the package coming to Cleveland, a prospect that won't sit well in Red Sox Nation. Some permutations of the deal don't involve Riske coming to the Sox. Only the Globe's Chris Snow mentions Bard and Shoppach being part of the deal. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal also writes that Boston is keeping its options open if indeed Mota fails a physical this week, and breaks the back of this deal.
Meanwhile, Crisp tells the Columbus Dispatch that he'll continue his daily beach ritual -- a five-hour workout -- waiting for the solution we're all pining for this week.
"Just sit back and wait," Crisp said. "You can't stress about it. My main focus has been on my offseason -- just working out hard to be ready for the season -- not on that stuff. If I was focused on that, I probably would be stressed."
No sense in Red Sox Nation stressing out over losing what they never actually had in Marte, either. Leave that to the Indians fans, who are well aware what they're giving up in Crisp, and frankly are not happy about it one bit.
In the end, this is how one big market team can afford to retool, without blowing its cash on prized, yet aged, free agents: by paying Atlanta $11 million to help pry away Marte to get Crisp. Meanwhile, the smaller market Indians feel the need to continue rebuilding, even on the cusp of becoming one of the league's more dominant teams.
Maybe Andy Marte will look like Mike Schmidt or Matt Williams one day. But Coco Crisp looks like Johnny Damon right now. And when you're in dire immediate need for a center fielder with spring training around the corner, that look-alike contest is much more enticing than waiting to see whom Marte decides to resemble down the road.