Monday, January 30, 2006

WOULD YOU TRADE EDGAR RENTERIA FOR COCO CRISP?

That is what the Boston Red Sox off-season has become. Would you trade Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett? Doug Mirabelli for Mark Loretta (OK, not fair. Kevin Towers obviously owed Larry Lucchino a favor for making him a candidate for the Red Sox GM position and finagling a raise)? And, especially, what basically turned into Renteria for Crisp. For all the Manny Mania, the Johnny Damon second-coming and resurrection, and the wringing of the hands over Theo, the Sox basically had a hot stove winter focused around two (or three) deals.

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OK, I would answer yes, yes, and yes. Everyone who has an argument for keeping Johnny Damon around town has the wrong reasons: loyalty, Yankee-phobia, or that misguided notion the 2004 Red Sox should stay together forever (for the record, they were not exactly Bird, Parish & McHale circa 1982). As the Greatest Coach in the NFL since Vince Lombardi showed with the Patriots roster, the team can be built around a solid core, but turnover is essential as competitive teams need to be getting younger all the time and ready to turn it over to a new core within five years. Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, Orlando Cabrera, Smellhorn, and Johnny D were not the core. Manny, Papi, and Varitek are the core on offense and Schilling, Foulke, and young guns are the core for the pitching staff.

In a way, it seems silly to think that the Red Sox got Mike Lowell as a throw-in to take on some salary from Florida. Lowell should replace Bill Mueller quite easily at third base, both on the field and at the plate. Forget last season, this is no Edgar Renteria. This is a younger, healthier, better fielder than the incumbent with much more power and a swing that should fit Fenway Park like a glove. Also, it is important to note how much better Lowell has performed in situations where the team is in the race. Some guys just cannot step it up when nothing is on the line and the home stadium is empty. Lowell is good for 25-30 homers, great defense, and 90+ RBIs (or, what Trot Nixon SHOULD produce each season).

Should the Red Sox have traded Hanley Ramirez with Edgar Renteria on his way out of town? Why not? Josh Beckett, for all these nitwits at WEEI and mouthing-off online who have not figured it out yet, is a 26 year-old Curt Schilling/Roger Clemens clone. He is big, he is powerful, and he is without a doubt the ace of the staff for the next three, five, eight, ten, twelve years. He is at the age when a young pitcher puts it together and becomes that special player. Hanley Ramirez, for all his potential, could end up no more than a cannot-miss prospect like Dernell Stenson, Billy Beane, Bobby Mercer, Kevin Maas, Gregg Jeffries, Darryl Strawberry, Ron Kittle or Terry Francona. Beckett has a World Series MVP in his trophy case already (against the Yankees no less). This one was a no-brainer.

Second, the trade of Edgar Renteria for Andy Marte. Agreed, Edgar Renteria let me down along with the other 5 million members of Red Sox Nation. Renteria looked and played old. 2003 was a distant memory. Something was physically wrong and led to psychological issues. The poor guy was never comfortable, and probably never would be playing in Boston. How can you not unload him for a #1 prospect?

Trading Marte was something I still am against. Yes, Crisp fills a need and more than adequately replaces Damon. However, I wish there was a way to have somehow swung the deal with someone else supplying the intriguing young prospect. That said, centerfield is set for four, eight, ten or more years. Crisp is young and on the upside. He should be a great fit in Boston, and the Sox again grabbed a young, established star in the making. Put it this way, imagine settling for Jacque Jones (finding the worst fit and overpaying for him: and that is what being a Cubs fan is all about!).

So Boston stole Marte from Atlanta for Renteria and then turned him around for Coco Crisp. The Sox stole Loretta from San Diego for an overpaid, aging, career back-up catcher. Finally, the Red Sox got the best young power pitcher in baseball for a prospect at least two years away from Fenway who had been passed in the system by Dustin Pedroia. Not too shabby an off-season. Younger, better defensively, deeper in the rotation and bullpen, and they still have the best three-four lineup punch in baseball.

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