Trade Analysis: Coco Crisp for Ramon Ramirez

In response to the Yankees acquiring Texeira (Kanekoa, that is), the Red Sox acquired Ramirez…Ramon Ramirez.

The Red Sox sent Coco Crisp to the Royals for Ramon Ramirez, in a trade that makes sense on the surface for both teams. This trade is most interesting for the what it says about the Red Sox’s opinion of Jacoby Ellsbury, and the Royals’s misguided team philosophy.

 

First, let’s discuss the players. Crisp came to the Red Sox in a blockbuster deal centered around Andy Marte (ironically, Kelly Shoppach is now the most valuable person traded in that 6-player deal). Crisp was an offensive disappointment in Boston in his first two years, however, he did play excellent defense in 2007. In 2008 his defense slipped somewhat, but his offense rebounded a little as well, as he hit .283/.344/.407. The power that allowed him to slug .465 for the Indians in 2004 appears to be gone, but it’s an excellent sign that Crisp was able to get his OBP back up over .340.

Ramon Ramirez throws a 92-93 MPH fastball, as well as a slider and changeup. Even though he throws a changeup, lefties have been much more effective against Ramirez than righties – lefties have posted an OPS almost 200 points higher. However, Ramirez is not a complete ROOGY – even though lefties have hit better than righties, they’ve still only managed a .758 OPS against Ramirez.

 

In his career, Ramirez has struck out 8.39 batters per nine and walked 3.68. He’s allowed exactly the same number of ground balls as fly balls (41.8%), although he allowed 10% more grounders than fly balls last year. Ramirez is still young and throws hard, but probably walks too many to be trusted in the most important situations.

This deal looks like it’s simply an above-average 4th outfielder in exchange for a solid reliever. Crisp may end up being a decent starting center fielder, and Ramirez may end up being a decent set-up man. On the surface, I think this trade is very fair. But let’s look at what it says about each team.

 

First of all, for the Red Sox, this deal speaks volumes about their trust in Jacoby Ellsbury. While Crisp may not be better than a 4th outfielder, he’s one of the best 4th oufielders in the game, and was an important piece in an outfield that included that frail JD Drew. His departure is a signal that the Red Sox expect Ellsbury to be their starting center fielder – an interesting statement, considering Ellsbury’s struggles throughout the second half of the season.

While Ramirez may not be a lights-out reliever, he’s pretty should make an excellent addition to a Sox bullpen that was top-heavy last year. The Sox now have four arms that they can go late in games – furthermore, Ramirez’s presence will allow the underrated Manny Delcarmen to be used in higher-leverage situations.

 

As for the Royals, this is not a bad move on the surface. Crisp may very well be good enough to be an everyday center fielder, if his defense is anywhere near his 2007 level. Furthermore, he’s signed to a reasonable contract and his offense rebounded (somewhat) this year. Crisp’s presence allows David DeJesus to move to a corner (or be traded); DeJesus is not a center fielder, no matter how many times Trey Hillman wrote “CF” next to his name on a lineup card.

The problem for the Royals is that this is yet another short-sighed move, designed to aspire to mediocrity. Dayton Moore has made a series of moves – starting with Gil Meche, leading to Jose Guillen, and most recently Mike Jacobs – that show the lack of a long-term plan. Most of these players improved the team (whether Jacobs actually improved the Royals is debatable), but they did so in a cursory fashion. Yes, the Royals won 75 games in 2008, and finished out of the basement for the first time since 2003. But their improved team isn’t necessarily leading to further improvement down the road.

 

It will be very difficult for the low-payroll Royals to ever compete with the American League’s elite teams unless they either drastically raise their payroll, or they have an infusion of young, talented players. Improvements around the margins and mid-level free agent signings can improve the team, but only to a point. The Royals do not have a particularly fruitful farm system, nor do they have a tremendous amount of high-ceiling young talent on the roster. If they are going to trade players, they should be dealing for higher-ceiling prospects, even if that means accruing some uncertainty as well. Players like Coco Crisp may improve the team, but only marginally, and with no possibility for significant or sustained improvement.

The Royals may again be an improved team in 2009, and have a chance at reaching .500. But they won’t have a particularly young roster, and they won’t have much room for improvement in the future. Unless Dayton Moore (or the ownership that is possibly forcing his hand) changes course, the Royals could find themselves adrift in the sea of mediocrity for the foreseeable future.

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