TRIBE TRADES CRISP TO BOSTON
It's been a long time since my last post, but nothing brings me out of the woodwork faster than a trade I don't agree with.
Mumblings about a Coco Crisp trade have been ongoing since last Sunday, and finally the deal is done. When I attended the Cleveland Indians Press Tour Monday, no representative of the team (Eric Wedge, Tom Hamilton, Fernando Cabrera, Ryan Garko or Jhonny Peralta) would comment on the deal. It was an omen of bad things to come. Photos from this event are coming, once I cool off.
Despite Guillermo Mota's unimpressive physical in Cleveland earlier this week, the Indians acquired him from Boston along with catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, cash and most notably, highly-regarded third-base prospect Andy Marte. Marte adds a lot of depth to the Indians' third-base position behind Aaron Boone, and most scouts say he has star potential. Of course, they said the same thing about Alex Escobar. For all of this, the Indians lose Crisp, David Riske and Josh Bard, who was the odd man out in the race for the 2nd and 3rd-string catcher positions.
The Indians other swap in this extravaganza was sending Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for Jason Michaels, an outfielder who may be the first option in Spring Training as the starting left fielder. Michaels doesn't look awful on paper, but he's never played a full season as a starter--platooning last year with Kenny Lofton--and he has a "colorful" off-the-field personality.
I will give you that I have doubted Shapiro before and it has turned out well. When he signed Ronnie Belliard we all thought, "Geez, who the heck is this guy?" Shapiro is the GM who has brought them back to contention, after all.
Now that I have thrown Shapiro his bone and shown "the other side," here's what I really think:
If the Indians were going to do this deal at all (and they would've been fine if they handn't) they should've left Philadelphia and Jason Michaels out of it. I would have much preferred getting Cincinnati in this deal and taking Austin Kearns. That's not just because he's a more familiar name than Micheals but because Kearns really started to play well after he was sent down to AAA last year to straighten out his swing. I have to wonder if this trade was more about "making the club better" or avoiding arbitration with Crisp. Some have said Crisp was not worth 3+ million, but I have to say I'd disagree. For an outfielder who is consistent, healthy, and "adds a spark," I don't think Coco was asking for a figure way above his market value. That, and he's 26.
Crisp hit 42 doubles last year. How many did Michaels have? 16. ESPN's scouting report describes him as "a free swinger who strikes out too much." He only played in 104 ballgames last year while Crisp played in 145. If you think Crisp's numbers are going to be replaced by Michaels, you're wrong.
Coco's presence in the clubhouse will not be replaced by this guy, either. Instead of a community leader and fan favorite, now the Tribe has a guy who gets drunk and beats up police officers. As far as baseball talent goes, Cleveland may have to wait for Franklin Gutierrez or Brad Snyder to blossom to find an adequate replacement for Coco. That won't happen this year.
But will Mota be any better than Riske? Haven't the Indians just added more question marks in their bullpen? Now, it looks like the group is Mota, Wickman, Cabrera, Miller, Rafael "Roids" Betancourt. Steve Karsay and Danny Graves may not even make the team in Spring Training. The left-handed presence is lacking. Though Cabrera impressed me earlier this week when I interviewed him and I believe he will be solid in the bullpen, it's going to take more than him to make this bullpen even a shell of the one which dominated last year.
I see Mota for Riske as probably a push and I see Rhodes for Michaels as merely a stopgap, a temporary solution for left field. The only way the Indians come out of this looking like geniuses is if:
A.) Crisp bombs in Boston
B.) Marte develops into Mike Schmidt.
The Tribe will miss Coco--in more ways than one.