Saturday, January 28, 2006

Coco and Co.

Well, the gigantic Indians deal has finally gone down. I’ve been waiting to comment on it until it happened, so now I will. Quite frankly, I think it’s a brilliant move.

First, Josh Bard for Kelly Shoppach is a winning move as far as I can tell. Bard is 28 years old and a career 238/289/370 hitter in about 530 PA. Shoppach is 26 and hit 233/320/461 and 253/352/507 in AAA the last two years. I think that at worst, Shoppach will match Bard, and I think he has the potential to be a fairly decent bat for a backup catcher. He may start in Buffalo, but Einar Diaz or Tim Laker wouldn’t be a big dropoff from Bard either; I think he’s pretty expendable.

David Riske for Guillermo Mota is not quite the slam dunk; Riske has always been one of my favorites, and I am sad to see him go. I have the unfortunate suspicion that Mota is seen by the Tribe as a potential closer based on his performance in Florida in the past, since Wickman is about as stable as a three-legged table. Riske had a 3.30 eRA last year, but also a 4.98 GRA and 4.10 G-F. Mota was at 5.52, 4.24, 4.07 and is 33 whereas Riske is 30. On the other hand, Mota was sensational in 03 and solid in 04, while Riske has always been solid. I’d rather have Riske in the end.

Then you also give up Arthur Rhodes, to get Jason Michaels from Philadelphia. Rhodes is oft-injured, but still has put up some impressive performances over the years. I love the Rhodes for Michaels swap, but I do think he is a significant loss for the bullpen. Looking at the bullpen, you have Wickman, Sauerbeck, Mota, Betancourt, Cabrera, perhaps Tadano, perhaps Miller, perhaps a real surprise like Mujica, or a non-roster invitee like Karsay or (heaven help us) Danny Graves. So the bullpen certainly looks a lot shakier then it did last year.

Coco Crisp is a nice player--he was +7 runs created compared to an average LFer in 2005, and +2 in CF in 2004. But at age 27 this year, I doubt that he will improve significantly from where he is now. And he is certainly a much more valuable commodity in CF then in a corner, and apparently centerfield has been locked down in Cleveland for some time to come. Now will Jason Michaels match Crisp’s performance from last year? I doubt it, although Todd Hollandsworth and Michaels could actually be a pretty nifty platoon. Michaels has hit 308/420/439 in 255 PA v. lefties the last two years while hitting 278/356/401in 419 v. righties. Hollandsworth, in 429 PA v. righties, has hit 262/324/427. Michaels should probably get the majority of the PAs, with Hollandsworth spelling him some against righties.

Andy Marte of course will make or break the deal. I think that a 22-year old who hit 275/372/506 at AAA last year is pretty exciting. I know he struggled greatly in the majors, but it was around 70 PA in his first go around. If Marte could push Aaron Boone out of the lineup by the All-Star break, then that would be great.

I think this trade is probably a step back for 2006, but I still think the Indians are good enough to win the Central. And I think it has the potential to be a huge boon for 2007 and beyond to have Marte in the fold. And if the Indians could somehow pull of the fanciful scenario of signing Jeff Weaver, then flipping Jake Westbrook for Austin Kearns…

One IMO silly concern about this trade I have heard is that John Schuerholz is a great judge of talent, and he traded Marte, so perhaps that means that something is wrong with Marte. First, I acknowledge that Schuerholz is a very smart guy, but nobody’s perfect. He traded David Cone for Ed Hearn. He traded away Jason Schmidt in the Denny Neagle trade. Edgar Renteria, while he has a big contract, is still a guy who a lot of teams would love to have playing shortstop for them. In order to get premium talent, you have to give up premium talent.

Secondly, Mark Shapiro by the same logic deserves some credit for the guys he has acquired in trades, like Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and…Coco Crisp.

For a little black humor, I wish I could take credit for this, but somebody on BTF (there are so many Crisp trade threads on there that I cannot remember which it was) pointed out that Baseball-Reference lists Mr. Michaels, who had an incident with a police office last year, as most comparable to Len Koenecke, a 1930s outfielder who met an early demise when he went psycho on an airplane and the pilot bludgeoned him to death with the fire extinguisher. Interesting.

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