Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald had the scoop last night:
"According to baseball sources, the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians have agreed in principle on a deal that will bring outfielder Coco Crisp to the Sox in a multi-player trade. The deal was agreed upon several days ago under the condition that Cleveland be able to acquire another outfielder to replace Crisp, presumably Jason Michaels from the Philadelphia Phillies."
While everyone seems to agree that Crisp and Marte are the principles and the teams have been talking quite a bit, no other source that I’ve found has confirmed this trade as complete. Chris Snow of the Boston Glove indicates that talks are still ongoing.
Should the deal go down, it appears that the Indians plan to hold Marte back for one more year. According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"The Indians feel Marte will have to spend this season at Class AAA regardless of his position, which doesn’t do them much good if they’re going to challenge Chicago in the AL Central."
The Indians restructured and exercised Aaron Boone‘s 2006 option in August of 2005, apparently deciding that there was no better alternative considering the price ($3.75MM). In his age 32 season, Boone posted a .243/.299/.378 line in 511 at-bats. That performance ranked 36th offensively among third baseman in 2005. Boone spent much of the season shaking off the rust after missing 2004 because of a torn ACL. He did manage to improve to .276/.336/.394 in the second half.
Still, you have to think the Indians made the decision on Boone’s option before they realized Marte was available. Given that Marte hit .275/.372/.506 as a 21 year-old in Triple A, he would very likely approximate or exceed Boone’s 2006 production at a tenth of the cost.
Spinning Edgar Renteria, Guillermo Mota, and cash into Coco Crisp is a fine deal on the surface for the Red Sox. However, they may have opened up a new hole by solving their center field problem. The team will now be relying on a positive contribution from Mike Lowell, who is no safe bet for a rebound following a woeful .236/.298/.360 line in 2005. Lowell was, in fact, one of the few third basemen worse than Aaron Boone in 2005.
The addition of Alex Gonzalez is also probably not a good thing for Boston. Even with defense considered, the Sox would be lucky to get an Orlando Cabrera-ish contribution in 2006. (And I’m referring to Cabrera circa 2005, who hit .257/.309/.365).
The real winner in all of this is the Indians. Even if they do delay Marte’s debut, Crisp wasn’t irreplaceable as a left fielder. The average AL left fielder hit .278/.333/.437 in 2005, while Crisp hit .300/.345/.465. Marte projects to be a solid regular and has star potential.