Evaluating a baseball trade is always fun, whether it's a deal that just happened yesterday or 50 years ago. Just mention "Rocky Colavito to the Tigers" to an old school Indians fan and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Shortly after the 2005 season the Indians, Red Sox and Braves took part in what was essentially a three-way trade involving seven players. When the dust settled, here's what each team ended up with:
Indians: Third baseman Andy Marte, reliever Guillermo Mota and catcher Kelly Shoppach.
Red Sox: Outfielder Coco Crisp, reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard.
Braves: Shortstop Edgar Renteria and $15 million
If you believed the spin coming out of these front offices at the time, Crisp was supposed to be a cheaper facsimile of the recently departed Johnny Damon and Marte was the next Ken Boyer. The Braves were looking for a cost-effective replacement for Rafael Furcal, who had signed a big money deal with the Dodgers.
Nearly 1 1/2 seasons later, it looks as though only one of these three teams -- the Braves -- got what they were after. Renteria has played at an All-Star level, batting .293 with 100 runs scored in 2006 and a sizzling .320 with nine home runs already this season. Not only that, but Boston is paying more than half of the $29 million remaining on his contract at the time of the trade.
Shoppach has proved to be a capable backup to Victor Martinez in Cleveland, but the centerpiece of the deal, Marte, has been a bust. The one-time hot prospect at the hot corner was sent down to Triple-A a couple of weeks ago as Casey Blake has taken over third base for the Tribe. (Maybe a demotion is what Marte needed; he's hit four home runs in his past 10 games in Buffalo.) Marte's biggest problem, as Sheldon Ocker of The Beacon Journal pointed out recently, is that he can't lay off breaking pitches off the plate. You can bet that's the first line on the Marte scouting report circulating around the league.
Marte batted .215 in 230 plate appearances in the majors, which isn't good but not much worse than what Crisp has done for the Red Sox. Billed as a capable leadoff man, Crisp has posted OBPs of .317 in 2006 and .277 so far this season. Even the declining Damon has been a much more productive hitter than Crisp, eclipsing his successor in the Boston outfield in OPS+ by a healthy margin -- 90 for Damon, an anemic 51 for Crisp (OPS+ is an index whereby 100 is average). The Red Sox blamed Crisp's poor 2006 season on a broken finger, and you have to wonder if that same injury is still hampering the speedster who batted .297 and .300 in back-to-back seasons with Cleveland, because he looks hopeless at the plate.
To Crisp's credit, he hasn't allowed his banjo act to affect his defense, which has been spectacular. He leads all AL outfielders in fielding win shares by a mile, and that's a huge reason why the Red Sox are allowing only 4.00 runs per game, the second-best run prevention in the league. But the Red Sox didn't move heaven and earth to acquire a defensive specialist and sign him to a three-year, $15.5 million extension. With a crop of star center fielders -- Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter, Ichiro -- possibly coming onto the market this winter, don't be surprised if the Coco Crisp experiment comes to an end soon.