I apologize for the long silence -- health concerns laid me out for a few weeks, and I'm slowly recovering. To make matters worse, that recovery involves large quantities of a nasty thing called prednisone, which means I won't even be able to pass the drug test if I get the call to join the provisional US roster for the WBC. (Heck, if Matt Holliday can get on there...)
At any rate, I'm back in the saddle now.
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As we get closer to opening the black box on Schroedinger's Deal and collapsing the quantum wave on the Coco Crisp trade, I've started to wonder... just what has Mark Shapiro been up to this offseason?
- He lost Kevin Millwood, but did an adequate job of replacing him with Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson.
- He made what I consider to be the one of the best "small" signing of the winter, nabbing Eduardo Perez. Ben Broussard had a fluky-great year against lefties in '04 (.362/.429/.652 with three home runs in 69 at bats) but has otherwise flailed away ineffectively against them in his career and needed a platoon partner at first -- Shapiro went out and got the best one possible.
At this point, the Indians moves look like the kind of moves you'd expect from a club with a young, talented core who just missed the playoffs, as they've added to the veteran supporting cast without disrupting that core. But then there's Coco...
The proposed Crisp deal (and the supposed related acquisition of Jason Michaels) would have been a seemingly abrupt 180 from that course, a full-on, Smokey and the Bandit-style bootlegger's special. Talent-wise, the deal made/makes sense -- the Indians have no third baseman of the future, and plenty of outfielders on the way up, so trading Crisp for Andy Marte works organizationally. But unless at least one of those outfielders (Jason DuBois? Brad Snyder? Jason Cooper? Ben Francisco? Franklin Gutierrez?) breaks out this spring, subtracting Crisp -- a hitter who should be entering his power prime, and who showed a classic doubles spike in '05 that could easily translate into a home run spike in '06 -- from the lineup leaves an outfield of Grady Sizemore, Casey "Captain Fungible" Blake and a bunch of question marks.
Heck, even the side swap of catchers in the Red Sox trade (Josh Bard for Kelly Shoppach) takes away a very good defensive backup for Victor Martinez and replaces him with, well, a poor man's version of Martinez -- again, seemingly not a move designed to get the Indians closer to a 2006 World Series. So what gives?
Maybe some numbers will provide a clue:
Those are the 2005 OBPs for the Indians, from Travis Hafner down to Aaron Boone. Crisp is square in the middle of that list, at .345. As a team Cleveland's .334 OBP was third in the AL, but it was a big drop-off after the top two (Boston at .357, and the Yankees at 355). In runs scored, again, their rank was solid (4th in the AL) but just average when you look at the actual totals (Texas finished third at 5.34 runs/game, while Cleveland scored 4.88 runs/game; the Indians were closer to the 11th-place Tigers than the Rangers).
Jason Michaels' 2005 OBP? .399.
The Indians have plenty of players who can hit double-digit home runs. In fact, every member of their current projected 2006 lineup hit at least 16 home runs last season. What they lack is guys who can consistently get on base for those home run hitters. Michaels isn't proven as an every-day starter, but even as a 400 plate appearance guy he'd be a big help to Hafner and Martinez's RBI totals out of the #2 hole.
At this point it all seems to be moot, of course, as Crisp is probably staying put. But as a young, cheap player on the verge of getting expensive, he's clearly the guy Shapiro would like to move.
If there's an ironic twist here, it's that Shapiro had a guy in Triple-A in 2005 who could have filled exactly the role Michaels would have filled for the Indians in 2006... John Rodriguez. But Rodriguez had no pedigree, and hit .247 through 46 games in Buffalo, before being shipped off to the Cards and "suddenly" catching fire.
Shapiro may have a clear vision of where he wants his team to go, but hindsight is always 20/20.