Monday, January 30, 2006
Coco Crisp Headed for Boston.
The Red Sox appear to have finally pulled the trigger on a deal that has been brewing for more than a week. Coco Crisp will replace Johnny Damon in center field, and in the leadoff spot in Boston's batting order after a multi-player deal pried the 26-year-old switch-hitting outfielder from the Cleveland Indians. ESPN.com excerpt:
CLEVELAND -- Coco Crisp quickly became a fan favorite with Indians fans, winning them over with his catchy name, bubbly personality and solid skills. The Red Sox Nation will be tougher to impress.
Crisp is bound for Boston after being traded Friday by the Cleveland Indians to the Red Sox, finally giving them a replacement for Johnny Damon in center field and at the leadoff spot in the batting order.
Crisp's departure has been rumored for more than a week, but the deal was first held up by medical questions Cleveland had about reliever Guillermo Mota, and then was delayed by a trade between the Indians and Philadelphia Phillies.
When it all shook out, eight players -- and maybe a ninth -- were moved by three teams and the Red Sox gave the Indians at least $1 million. Commissioner Bud Selig had to approve the deal before it could be announced.
Along with Crisp, Cleveland sent reliever David Riske and backup catcher Josh Bard to Boston for Mota, third base prospect Andy Marte, catcher Kelly Shoppach,a player to be named and cash.
Before that deal was finalized, the Indians sent reliever Arthur Rhodes to Philadelphia for outfielder Jason Michaels, the probable replacement for Crisp as Cleveland's starting left fielder. Rhodes had to pass a physical with Philadelphia before the Indians could pull the trigger and trade the 26-year-old Crisp, who batted .300 with 16 homers, 69 RBI and 15 steals last season. "He's an energy player, and he can impact the game on both sides of the ball," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said.
Crisp, acquired by the Indians in 2002 from St. Louis, posted career highs in runs (86), hits (178) and homers in 2005. The Red Sox are counting on him doing even more to fill the void left when Damon signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees.
Analysis: So far, everyone is talking about the speed Crisp will bring to the Red Sox in the form of stolen bases. But in 2004 he stole 20 bags, and declined to 15 in 2005. Johnny Damon stole 31, 30, 19 and 18 during his four years in a Sox uniform. I'm not certain why everyone is so gaga over Crisp's ability to steal bases when A) It is nothing more than what Damon provided in 2004/5, and B) The Red Sox offense is built around getting two men on base for David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to drive in. The Sox will not let Crisp run wild on the bases.
The last two players the Sox got to steal bases before Damon were Tommy Harper, who stole 107 bases in three years, including a club record 54 in 1973 when he led the American League, and Otis Nixon, who stole 42 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Others who tried: Jerry Remy stole 30 in 1978 after having swiped 110 in his first three years with the Angels, but his knees went fast, and he hobbled through a few 12-16 steal seasons before hanging the spikes up. Ellis Burks stole 73 bases in his first three years, but was too good a middle of the order hitter to bat leadoff, so his steals declined. Darren Lewis had 29 in 1998 in his best overall season, but he faded quickly with the bat and dropped to 16 the following season. Jose Offerman was coming off of a 45-steal season with the Royals in 1998, the year before the Sox signed him, and his high with the Sox was 18 in 1999, so let's not get all excited that the next Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson is coming to town.
On the defensive side of the ball, Crisp played mostly left field last season, having given way to Grady Sizemore who, at times reminds me of a combination of Fred Lynn and Brady Anderson. Crisp, who came up before Sizemore in center field, has decent range, but only a fair throwing arm that will, by definition, be an improvement over Damon's arm.
As for the other players the Sox received, Riske will fit into the bullpen as a setup man, and Bard will probably be in the mix for the number two catching spot behind Jason Varitek, with the extra added bonus of trying to be knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's personal catcher. Andy Marte, the kid the Sox got from the Braves for Edgar Renteria, and Kelly Shoppach, were, given the lengths of the contracts the players ahead of them have (Mike Lowell at third and Varitek) were expendable, and almost ideal for this type of deal. If Marte is as good as everyone thinks he is, he could push Aaron Boone out of a job as soon as July. Shoppach will find himself scrambling for time behind Cleveland's fine young catcher, Victor Martinez.
So that gives the Sox this projected lineup if the season was to start tomorrow: 1B - JT Snow / Kevin Youkilis, 2B - Mark Loretta, 3B - Mike Lowell, SS - Alex Cora, LF - Manny Ramirez, CF - Coco Crisp, RF - Trot Nixon, C - Jason Varitek. There are rumors that the Sox are trying to work out a deal with the Florida Marlins for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, one of the heroes of that team's 2003 World Series champs. Stay tuned!