The two trades made over the weekend made sense for all four teams involved. In the first swap, the Mets added some depth to their late-inning relief corps by acquiring Jorge Julio from the Orioles for career underachiever Kris Benson. Five years younger than Benson, Julio will join another newly acquired right-hander, Duaner Sanchez, in setting up free agent closer Billy Wagner, giving the Mets three high-octane relievers to work the final three innings. While Benson is coming off the better season than Julio, the Mets were able to even the swap by acquiring young right-hander John Maine, who was Baltimore’s top-rated prospect only one season ago… At the same time, the Orioles deepened their starting rotation by adding Benson, a former No. 1 draft choice who could thrive under Baltimore’s new pitching guru, Leo Mazzone. It’s a reasonable gamble for the Orioles, who are hoping that Benson’s experience will counteract the youth of a starting rotation that is heavily dependent on under-thirties Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, and Bruce Chen…
The other weekend trade was even more notable, as the Red Sox addressed two problem areas by acquiring a new center fielder and leadoff man in Coco Crisp from the Indians for third base prospect Andy Marte and reliever Guillermo Mota. Many members of Red Sox Nation think that Boston might have surrendered too much in giving up two players, but the need for a player like Crisp was so great that a little overpayment could be justified. Crisp is not ideally suited to bat leadoff because of his unwillingness to draw walks, but his combination of speed and power and his potential to grow offensively make him a better alternative than anyone else the Sox have. He’ll also be an improvement defensively over Johnny Damon; Crisp played a terrific left field in 2005 and has more than enough speed and range to return to center field… As for the Indians, the departure of Crisp leaves them a little short in the outfield (at least until they finalize a rumored deal for the Phillies’ Jason Michaels), but Marte has a higher ceiling, and plays a position where the Indians found Aaron Boone lacking in 2005. Already regarded as the top prospect in two different organizations this winter (first the Braves and then the Red Sox), Marte looks like one of the early-line favorites for this year’s American League Rookie of the Year Award. If Marte does pan out, the Indians might have the makings of the game’s best infield, with future MVP candidate Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, the underrated Ronnie Belliard at second base, and the solidly productive Ben Broussard at first base.
With two more wintertime trades completed, here’s our Fan Forum question of the week. What has been the best single transaction pulled off by a major league team? My vote goes to the Phillies’ acquisition of Aaron Rowand and two legitimate pitching prospects for an overpaid and most likely over-the-hill Jim Thome. I’m still stunned by how the Phillies were able to acquire a Gold Glove caliber center fielder while shedding one of the most monstrous contracts in the game today.
Here are some other candidates for best transactions of the winter:
*The Red Sox’ trade for Josh Beckett.
*The Twins’ acquisition of Luis Castillo.
*The Yankees’ signing of Johnny Damon.
*The Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista for Troy Glaus.
*The Dodgers’ signing of Rafael Furcal.
*The Mets’ trade for Carlos Delgado.
*Or something else.