UPDATE: O’Brien spoke to "a person who should know" with the Braves and this one’s not happening. I think we were all skeptical from the start.
There’s a rumor making the rounds: the Red Sox may offer Coco Crisp to the Braves for Kelly Johnson. Right now this is fourth-hand information – Buster Olney allegedly said it on a radio show on Wednesday, and one Braves fan heard the report and posted a comment to David O’Brien’s AJC blog. O’Brien hadn’t heard the rumor himself, but found it plausible.
This is an interesting proposal to examine, whether or not it’s legitimate. Let’s try to figure out how each team would view this.
Johnson turns 26 in February. He was a shortstop in the early minors, but had become a left fielder for the Braves when he came up in ’05. That’s an interesting conversion. It was likely tied to his elbow, on which he had arthroscopic surgery in early 2006. The elbow was still barking in May of that year, leading to Tommy John surgery. After non-tendering Marcus Giles last winter, the Braves had Johnson learn second base and used him there in ’07. Johnson responded with a breakout .276/.375/.457 line (16 HR, 79 walks in 147 games). Trading Johnson might be reason to keep Edgar Renteria. Seems more sensible to trade Renteria.
Even if the Red Sox aren’t sure where to use Johnson or even whether to keep him, this would be a nice acquisition. Could his surgically repaired elbow handle demanding throwing positions like third base or even shortstop? Does he have the range for short and would the Sox move Julio Lugo to the bench? Or maybe Dustin Pedroia could move back to short for ’08 and Johnson would remain at second base. Bottom line – Johnson is cheap, good, and could improve the infield somehow.
The Braves won’t try Jeff Francouer in center next year; they’re highly likely to acquire someone to fill Andruw’s void. Crisp is less risky than most of the free agents out there given the modest $11MM committed to him for 2008-09. His offense doesn’t add much, while his defense this year has received accolades. Still, the Braves would be adding more than $4MM in salary for ’08 with this swap. We aren’t sure yet how much the Braves plan to increase their $84MM payroll. Adding Tom Glavine would have to cost around $10MM alone, and the Braves want another starter beyond him.