Stoking the Stove

The Crisp-Marte reports just refuse to die, and the latest version has Crisp and two other players or prospects going to Boston for elite prospect Andy Marte, solid reliever Guillermo Mota and one other player.  Here'ss the latest dispatch from this morning's Boston Globe:

Sox hope to work Indians to a Crisp

This follows Peter Gammons' remarks on ESPN.com (ESPN Insider members only) from just a week ago:

The Red Sox are still trying to work major deals. Coco Crisp has been their priority in center field, and Lugo at shortstop, but they have continued to talk to Seattle about Jeremy Reed, to Philadelphia about Jason Michaels and to Oakland about Jay Payton. They gave up on Dave Roberts because the Padres insist the Sox take Woody Williams. If Boston can get an offensive center fielder like Crisp, Hoyer and Ben Cherington insist they have no problem opening the season with Alex Cora at short -- while taking a long look at Dustin Pedroia ... Hoyer and Cleveland's Chris Antonetti are now over the 70 mark in telephone calls in the last month.

It's noteworthy that Gammons refers to Crisp as "an offensive center fielder," suggesting that Boston also feels that way about him.  Crisp's numbers are relatively unsensational, but the fact is that AL outfielders were at low-ebb last season. Outfielders who can hit well -- not brilliantly, just well -- and also play center field appear to be in even shorter supply than usual.  As a player, we can't say for sure whether Crisp has hit his peak value.  As a tradeable asset, however, it seems far likelier that he is at his peak, as a jump in his numbers has coincided with a league-wide shortage of comparable talent.

A deal is never done until it's done, and dozens of deals, reported and unreported, get discussed by clubs every week.  That said, there seems to be a little too much smoke here for us to believe there's no fire.  I take Shapiro at his word when he says he'd rather keep Crisp -- and why not, Crisp is valuable and cost-effective.  But like any good GM, he is open to being overwhelmed -- that is, to letting someone make him an offer that might actually justify losing Crisp -- and it looks like the Red Sox might just feel that it's necessary to go that route. Gammons provides the rationale: They don't feel they need a signature player in both spots, and they already have a stopgap/prospect platoon ready to play shortstop. On the other hand, if they trade for a quality shortstop, they don't have a comparable platoon ready in center. Thus, in their minds, Crisp ends the need for an aggressive search at both positions.

I personally am rooting for this, not because I'd like to lose Crisp, but because opportunities to make a quality trade of major significance, upgrading both clubs, simply don't arise very often.  And despite missteps early in his career as GM, I trust Shapiro to make the right deal.  More to the point, I trust him to walk away from the wrong deal.  If we lose Crisp, it won't be for something stupid.

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