© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
CLEVELAND -- All week, as widespread reports of a possible trade sending Coco Crisp to the Red Sox raged on, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro stuck to his assertion that a deal is not a deal until it's a deal.
Finally, the Indians have a deal.
Two of them, in fact.
As had been speculated all week, the Indians shipped left-hander Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for outfielder Jason Michaels on Friday night, prompting a larger deal that sent Crisp to Boston.
The Indians received reliever Guillermo Mota, highly-touted third base prospect Andy Marte, catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and an undisclosed amount of cash in exchange for Crisp, right-hander David Riske and backup catcher Josh Bard.
While the popular Crisp moves on to become the Red Sox's center fielder and leadoff man, the Indians address one of the few glaring weaknesses in their otherwise strong farm system by acquiring Marte.
Marte is generally regarded as one of the game's top prospects, though this is the second time he's been traded this offseason. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of the Dominican Republic was acquired by the Red Sox at the Winter Meetings in the trade that sent Edgar Renteria to the Braves.
The 22-year-old Marte projects as a middle-of-the-order right-handed hitter -- precisely what the Indians are currently lacking. The problem is that the club is not yet certain he's ready for the big leagues.
At Triple-A Richmond last season, Marte hit .275 with 20 home runs and 74 RBIs. He finished third in the International League in walks with 64, despite having three stints with the Braves.
"In Andy Marte, we are acquiring a right-handed power hitter who is also a good defensive third baseman," Shapiro said in a release. "Not only is third base a position of need in our organization, but it is one of the more difficult positions to acquire a player of Andy's caliber and skill set via trade or free agency."
Marte, who was named Baseball America
's ninth-best prospect last season, appeared in 24 games with Atlanta, hitting .140 (8-for-57) with four RBIs.
It's questionable how much Marte will affect the '06 team, but the Indians are counting on Mota -- who is signed to a one-year, $3 million deal -- to help shore up the bullpen this season.
Mota, 32, has compiled a 22-24 record with seven saves and a 3.61 ERA over seven seasons with the Expos, Dodgers and Marlins. The Red Sox acquired him in the November trade that also landed them Josh Beckett.
With the Marlins last season, Mota went 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA and two saves in 56 relief appearances. His season was hampered by the significant time he spent on the disabled list, as he was forced to miss nearly all of May with right elbow inflammation and two weeks in September with shoulder tendinitis.
"Despite battling some health issues last year, when healthy, Guillermo Mota has been one of the most effective relievers in Major League Baseball," Shapiro said.
Mota, also a Dominican native, could provide insurance for the Indians if closer Bob Wickman gets injured.
Shoppach will likely compete with Einar Diaz for the job backing up Victor Martinez behind the plate. The 25-year-old Shoppach hit .253 with 26 home runs and 75 RBIs in 102 games for Triple-A Pawtucket last season. He also appeared in nine games for the Red Sox, going 0-for-15 at the plate.
"Kelly Shoppach is one of the better catching prospects in all of Minor League Baseball," Shapiro said. "He is a strong defensive catcher who will provide the club with power from the right side of the plate when he is in the lineup."
The name drawing all of the headlines in this barrage of barters is that of Crisp, the energetic outfielder who blossomed tremendously in 2005.
Fans have flooded local sports talk radio stations all week with rallying cries against trading Crisp, who was considered by many to be a key part of the Indians' young core.
Shapiro certainly recognized the 26-year-old Crisp's upside, but in discussing the player with reporters earlier in the day, before the deals were consummated, Shapiro also outlined a couple of Crisp's question marks.
"The question and the unknown on him is going to be how much more power he's got," Shapiro said. "That's an unknown. ... Last year, he was very bad against left-handed pitching. Very bad."
Crisp is eligible for arbitration. Before the trade went down, the two sides were reportedly discussing a multiyear deal.
Michaels, who avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal, is expected to be Crisp's replacement in left field. The 29-year-old Michaels has never had an everyday job in the big leagues, and he spent last season platooning in center field with Kenny Lofton.
"Jason Michaels is a hard-nosed, tough player that complements our lineup extremely well," Shapiro said. "He has always been a tough out while recording a high on-base percentage, and he has the ability to play all three outfield positions well."
Michaels hit .304 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 105 games last season. More impressively, he compiled a .399 on-base percentage along the way.
A fight with a Philadelphia police officer recently earned Michaels a sentence of six months of probation and 100 hours of community service.