Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Red Sox, Royals may both end up disappointed
This looks like the sort of trade in which both teams may end up disappointed with the results.
For the Red Sox, they save a good amount of cash by moving a superfluous player and get a cheap arm for their pen, albeit one with some red flags. Ramon Ramirez works primarily with two pitches -- a 91-93 mph fastball that he pounds to his glove side and an upper 80s splitter (or split-change) with a very sharp downward movement. He'll occasionally mix in a slider around 86-87 mph, but it's not as effective as the splitter, which he throws almost as often as his fastball. Despite some violence in his delivery, he's had around average control throughout his pro career (just 25 unintentional walks this year) and has a history of missing bats. The surprise in his performance is that he keeps the ball in the park; he doesn't have great life or sink on his fastball, and his command of it is fringe-average, yet he has given up just 9 home runs in 156 career big-league innings, half of which came in Colorado. Between that and his moderate platoon split, it seems unlikely that he's an eighth inning solution for the Red Sox. This trade could lead them to push Justin Masterson back to the rotation, but he's better suited to relief work given his arsenal and low arm slot, which leave him very vulnerable to left-handed hitters, and he's clearly a better option than Ramirez in the setup role.
For the Royals, they probably would have been better served using Ramirez to get a bat to play left field, putting David DeJesus back in center. Crisp is, at best, a slight defensive upgrade over DeJesus in center, but the Royals have said for a while that they want DeJesus in left, even though he can play a competent (if not good) center field. The acquisition of Crisp leaves them with four outfielders capable of playing every day -- Crisp, DeJesus, Jose Guillen, and Mark Teahen -- meaning one of them will end up dealt this offseason. Guillen is unmovable, and while there have been some Teahen-trade rumors recently, he's just not very good, with too little power to play a corner outfield spot. DeJesus is the most valuable and thus most marketable of their trade options, but swapping Crisp in and DeJesus out deals another OBP hit to a Royals' lineup that struggled to put men on base in 2008. (You may hear a lot about how the Royals' center fielders, especially Joey Gathright, were so inept in 2008 that this is an automatic upgrade -- but you can ignore that argument, because without this trade, the Royals would have had an outfield of Teahen-DeJesus-Guillen, with Joey Gathright out in the parking lot jumping over cars.)
That said, they're getting a good player in exchange for a relief arm who has probably already had his career year in the big leagues, and Crisp's salary isn't out of line with his actual production when we consider his defensive value. He'll probably be the best defensive player in the Royals' everyday lineup, and there's some value in having a few good defenders out there when you're running as many young pitchers out there as the Royals will be in 2009. If they manage to trade Teahen and keep DeJesus, they'll be a better club offensively and defensively as a result of this deal, and with Ramirez unlikely to repeat his 2008 performance anyway, their pen isn't likely to miss his innings as much as you might think. It's a good exchange of value, but not quite the offensive prescription that the Royals need, and eventually they're going to run out of decent right-handed relievers to deal.