The Trade That Could Impact Boston For Years

On the weekend, Fire Brand does not usually post articles. However, if someone sends in a guest article, they will be posted. If you would like to contribute to Fire Brand, simply send an email to Evan to be published. Today, Andy Lavin, Red Sox fans and Marlins … put-up-wither (who writes at Marlins Today) gives his thoughts on the trade….

My thoughts? I like the trade.

First off, we can finally put a check mark next to center fielder and leadoff hitter.

Second, we get a 26 year old center fielder that’s “trending up” on the brink of his prime, much like Johnny Damon was when we first signed him.

He also gives us roughly 80-90% of JD’s production for about 25% of the cost, assuming Crisp makes around $3M in arbitration.

Crisp also goes from pitcher-friendly Cleveland to hitter-friendly Boston. Factor that into his “trending up”, and his numbers project very well.

The Red Sox do a great job of signing guys at or before they reach their prime (Manny, Pedro, Ortiz, Damon, Coco, just to name a few). IMO this is the way to go. You get guys’ best years for usually a much more reasonable contract. Then once they hit their early to mid 30’s and hit free agency, their best years are in the rear view mirror and their price tag skyrockets by virtue of past performance.

Optimally, if you’re gonna throw money at a ballplayer, you want to make sure you get their prime years. The Sox have done a great job of that, whereas teams like the Yankees sign guys at ridiculous contracts either in the twilight or back end of their careers (Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, now Johnny Damon, are some of the notable examples). IMO this is one of the reasons why their “method of winning” has not beared fruit.

In this trade, the Sox bolstered their ‘pen as well. They traded away a pitcher in Guillermo Mota who arguably is damaged goods courtesy of pitching under Jack McKeon in Florida who is notorious for overworking his pitchers. He wasn’t the same caliber pitcher in Florida as he was with LA and Montreal and that is no coincidence. It’s also no coincidence that Florida was so willing to include him in the Beckett deal; as well as the Sox in the Crisp deal. Coupled with reports of Mota’s “failed physical” with the Tribe, and I think we can see the writing on the wall.

In return, the Sox got a HEALTHY 29-year-old reliever in return in David Riske. One only needs to look at his career numbers and numbers from last season to know what kind of pitcher he is. If he can stay even remotely close to his career numbers, he’ll be a decided upgrade to this bullpen. Anybody who posted a 0.96 WHIP, .208 BAA, and 3.10 ERA in 72.2 innings has a place in my bullpen this season.

The other player the Sox got in the deal is catcher Josh Bard. I view him as more of a “throw in” guy. He’ll probably compete for the back-up catching duties with John Flaherty. I don’t know much about Bard, but from what I have read he is decent defensively and calls a good game. He’s also 27-years-old, so hopefully this is a guy on the up swing. If he can supplant the 38-year-old, it’ll strengthen the team at back-up catcher because we’ll have a capable young guy in there rather than an old, journeyman Flaherty just vying for a major league roster spot on any team at this point.

In summation, I like the players that the Sox got in this deal a lot. They addressed critical needs, most notably center fielder and leadoff hitter, and acquired bullpen and back-up catcher depth as well. All three of the players the Sox got are at or on the cusp of their primes. All three players will probably make a little over $5M next season, which is roughly $8M less than what the Yankees are paying Damon next year.

In order to get Crisp, Riske, and Bard, the Sox relinquished 22-year-old third baseman Andy Marte, 32-year-old reliever Guillermo Mota, and 25-year-old catching “prospect” Kelly Shoppach.

Marte is the “crowned jewel” in the deal. He’s regarded as one of the top 5-10 prospects in baseball. It’s important to emphasize “prospect”, folks. Sure he could turn out great. He could also be a flop. In other words, he’s unproven.

It’s important to note that in 24 games with the Braves, Marte hit .140/.227/.211 in 57 at-bats, to go along with a whopping zero home runs and four RBI. Jeff Francoeur he was not! He was more like Darren Lewis, but that’s an insult to Darren Lewis.

He was also strugging mightily in Winter Ball. The following was cut and pasted from the Sox official site, dated December 16, 2005: “the highly-touted third-base prospect acquired from Atlanta in the Edgar Renteria trade was batting .234 in 33 games with two homers and nine RBIs. The right-handed batter is trying to cut down on his strikeouts, having fanned 18 times in 111 at-bats.”

For as highly touted as this kid is, I just don’t see it. Sure he could turn it around and become the next Mike Schmidt, but at present he’s a AAAA player with a lot of sizzle but not enough steak.

Besides, if Mike Lowell comes around and bounces back to typical career numbers, Marte would be lucky to see the field in a reserve capacity, which would likely necessitate a switch of positions, most likely to first base. But heck, Kevin Youkilis has shown more at the big league level than Andy Marte. Between his brief time with Atlanta and his Winter Ball numbers, I’d be a tad bit concerned if I was a Cleveland fan.

As for Mota, see above. He’s basically a 32-year-old pitcher who’s career was sabotaged somewhat by McKeon and will most likely not return to his dominant LA and Montreal form. He’ll likely be a servicable middle reliever with an ERA somewhere in the 4’s or 5’s with multiple stints on the DL going forward.

Shoppach is a 25 (soon to be 26 in April) year old catcher who is still considered a borderline prospect. The fact that he is still referred to as a prospect at 25 years old is a little troublesome. If it’s gonna “happen for him”, it’s gotta happen soon. As of now he is unproven. His major league career has consisted of 15 at-bats with the Sox last year in which he went “0 fer.” Not inferring in any way, shape, or form that’s an accurate judge for future performance, but the fact remains that he’s on the verge of losing his prospect label due to his age and it hasn’t happened for him yet. It was not gonna happen for him in Boston as Jason Varitek is signed for three more years, which meant that Shoppach wouldn’t have seen regular duty in Boston till 2009, so he was more than expendable. We’ll see how it works out for him in Cleveland, but best case scenario is he backs up Victor Martinez who just signed a five year extension before the 2005 season.

Overall, as a Sox fan, I don’t see how you can be anything less than thrilled about this trade. Boston received predominantly proven commodities from the Tribe, while Cleveland received predominantly question marks and risks from Boston.