At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, January 23, 2006

And Then There Were Nine

– Apparent Addition of Crisp, Gonzalez Rounds Out Red Sox –

Red Sox Nation is breathing a collective sigh of relief this morning in the wake of published reports that the club is about to land Cleveland outfielder Coco Crisp and free-agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez It’s not that anyone really thought the Sox would field only seven players come Opening Day, but it’s still nice to know just who will be wearing the home-team laundry when the curtain goes up.

It’s unclear at this point precisely whom the Sox will give up to get Crisp, but based on today’s stories, the candidates appear to be new acquirees Guillermo Mota and Andy Marte, and catcher-on-the-rise Kelly Shoppach. Reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard are expected to accompany Crisp to Boston and thus complete the transaction.

Assuming the deal happens this way, Red Sox fans should be fairly satisfied. Besides having one of the all-time great names in baseball, Crisp brings some speed and batsmanship to the top of the order and should alleviate much of the sting caused by Johnny Damon’s defection to New York. Gonzalez, meanwhile, is an excellent fielder, and with any luck, he’ll evoke memories of Orlando Cabrera before his year is through. Riske is a proven performer and can handle both left- and right-handed hitters. And Bard not only fills the organizational hole left by Shoppach’s departure, but could well contend for the major league backup spot vacated by Doug Mirabelli (as will veterans John Flaherty and Ken Huckaby).

The potential fly in this ointment is the Indians’ need to obtain an outfielder to replace Crisp before they’ll be able to trade him. By most accounts, a move is in the works that would bring the Phillies’ Jason Michaels to Cleveland in return for either Arthur Rhodes or Rafael Betancourt, proven relievers both. And, of course, all players will have to pass a physical exam before any deal can be closed. So it will be a couple of days before we know for sure that the Sox lineup card finally has been filled. But if it contains the names it’s expected to, then the outlook in Boston suddenly looks a lot more promising than it did just a couple of days ago.

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