In case you missed it in all the hype surrounding Coco Crisp going to Boston, Coco Crisp was actually traded to Boston on Friday. In the deal, Cleveland traded away MLB's best cereal along with backup catcher Josh Bard and reliever David Riske for third baseman Andy Marte, catcher Kelly Shoppach, reliever Guillermo Mota, a player to be named later, and cash. In a related move, the Indians also dealt Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for outfielder Jason Michaels.
With all the hype surrounding the deal, I was leaning towards not posting anything about it. However, Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro finally came out and spoke publicly about the deal, and was extremely defensive because most Indian fans are livid over it. I agree, the deal is lop-sided - but in the Indians favor. Let's break down the deal from Cleveland's perspective into each of the major pieces:
Kelly Shoppach replaces Josh Bard: Josh Bard was a solid reserve catcher, but Shoppach is one of the better catching prospects in the game. Kelly is ready for the major leagues and was impressive in AAA last year, where he hit for power and average and also threw out a higher percentage of runners than anyone else in the International League. Kelly Shoppach will compete with Einar Diaz for backup catching duties, but Shoppach is clearly the better of the two and should allow Victor Martinez to play some first base or DH much more often than last year.
Guillermo Mota replaces Arthur Rhodes: Mota's stock has fallen after a sub-par 2005, but he was one of the game's better relievers 2002-2004 with a career year in 2003. Furthermore, the drop is most likely due to arm troubles that have had an off-season to heal. Still, the Indians almost nixed the deal because of his health concerns, forcing Boston to add the "player to be named later" and more cash. At 32, it is unreasonable to expect Mota to revert back to his 2003 form, but the odds are he will bounce back and be a quality setup man. Considering Rhodes is in the twilight of his career, Mota should be just as good, if not better.
Jason Michaels replaces Coco Crisp: Easily the most controversial part of the deal, Michaels is much better than many give him credit for. Over the last two years, Jason Michaels has hit 14 home runs, driven in 71, and accumulated a .289 batting average in 588 at-bats. Not spectacular number, but solid. However, he is being asked to replace Coco Crisp, not Babe Ruth and last year Crisp batted .300 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs in 594 at-bats. Based on these numbers, Michaels should fill in nicely for Coco Crisp. However, digging a little further into the numbers, Michaels has a significantly higher on-base percentage and a better strikeout-to-walk ratio. So, it is very reasonable to assume that Jason Michaels can replace Coco Crisp, or even be a slight improvement.
The leftover parts - David Riske for Andy Marte, a player to be named later, and cash: The Indians did not get a replacement for Riske in the deal, but he was essentially a middle reliever last year and should not be too difficult to replace. On the other hand, Andy Marte is one of the finest prospects in baseball and maybe the best third base prospect in the game today. Based on his minor league career, Marte looks like a perennial threat to bat .300 with 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and gold glove defense once he fully develops. Even better, Marte will be ready for the big leagues very soon, probably before 2006 is over. Who would not part with David Riske for a prospect like that? Then, on top of that, the Indians will likely get another prospect as the player to be named later, and they even got some cash.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Indians got the best of the Coco Crisp swap. In the short term, the Indians should break even at the very least, but even by next year they will be the clear winners. Don't worry Indians fans; the franchise is in very good hands with Mark Shapiro. He is one of the best general managers in baseball and he proved it once again with this excellent move.