Patience Is a Virtue: Ramon Ramirez Trade Shows Wisdom of Red Sox Front Office
In the Nation, we tend to get impatient...a lot.
This tends to escalate in offseasons following disappointing campaigns, but then again, our version of disappointing would make about 80 percent of the rest of baseball angry considering the Red Sox's run of success over the past decade.
We assume (hope?) there are going to be some massive moves made by Theo Epstein and the crew to bolster the offense and improve the team's chances of winning another World Series. It's only been a few years since we last tasted the champagne, but with the Yankees closing in on No. 27 any day now, it feels like an eternity.
So while visions of trading for Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, or Felix Hernandez dance in our heads, it's important to note that even the smallest trades can become impact moves. A one-for-one deal in December can pay dividends in July, even if it doesn't involve sexy names or big contracts.
The Red Sox have shown infinite patience when it comes to making trades, often ending up on the positive side of the ledger. I think it's even more impressive considering the furor of the fans when we seem to identify with a player that could be shipped off for good players in return. We are not patient, but the Sox front office is...thankfully.
Take Coco Crisp, for example. When Boston first acquired him from Cleveland for third base prospect Andy Marte (remember him?) prior to the 2006 season, there was excitement as he seemed to be on the brink of being an all-around standout center fielder about to enter the prime of his career.
Besides having a cool name, Crisp had steadily improved in his four major league seasons, apexing in '05 with a .300 average, 16 homers, 69 RBI, 86 runs, 42 doubles, and a .345 OBP. Put in front of that 2006 lineup, and there were high expectations for Crisp's offensive numbers—coupled with defensive play that would complete the package.
But Crisp started out his Boston career on the DL and in three seasons at the Fens never really did get it going. While the defense was there, it felt like Crisp just never came close to his offensive potential and was not good in the leadoff spot.
He became more of a frustration than anything, and with Jacoby Ellsbury's late season emergence in 2007, Crisp was deemed expendable by the fans—who were then surprised that Crisp lasted the entire '08 season with the team.
Boston did get some decent play out of their fourth outfielder, but it was Epstein's decision to hold onto Crisp that turned out to be a brilliant move. Going into his free agent year and somewhat complaining that he didn't want to platoon again in '09, the Red Sox traded Crisp to Kansas City for a young bullpen arm—Ramon Ramirez.
It wasn't treated as much, but it turned out to be a pretty damn good deal.
Then 26, Ramirez was a bright spot for an awful team, posting a 2.64 ERA in 71 games for the Royals, fanning 70 in 71.2 innings. With just three seasons under his belt, Ramirez wasn't a gamble but a young power arm the Red Sox sorely needed. There would be no NL-to-AL transition year either as Ramirez had already been through the wars of fighting AL lineups.
Why would the Royals want to give up a good player for a serviceable outfielder? There's a reason why they are the Royals, people.
Now 27, Ramirez had a good first season at the Fens (7-4, 2.84, 69.2 innings), regressing in strikeouts—dropping to 52—while staying nearly the same in walks. There were some rough spots as he allowed five more homers than the season prior and had a few stinkers, but in the first half of the season, he was near All-Star quality (2.23 ERA, 10 holds through July 31).
Granted, he had an ugly August and September (4.00-plus ERA each month, two blown saves), but perhaps some second half wear and pitching in a much smaller fishbowl got to him at times.
But given another year with John Farrell and having this past season as a big learning experience, I'm excited to see what Ramirez can do with a back end of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon there as anchors. With Takashi Saito and likely Manny Delcarmen gone, he'll have a more defined role in '10.
Crisp, by the way, played in just 49 games with the Royals after tearing his labrum early in the year. He was hitting just .228 at the time and will look to have someone give him a chance to catch on this winter, likely in the National League, where he always seem to rip it up in interleague games.
There is no way Epstein could have predicted Crisp's injury, but all in all, the Red Sox completely won this trade. If they had dealt Crisp prior to '08? Likely not as good a part as a young power pitcher. They waited, and it paid off.
So going into the cold of winter, keep two things in mind: Small moves matter, and trust in the patience of the front office. Like Pop Nason always says, patience is a virtue, even if it makes the impatient grumpy.
Josh Nason is the main writer for Small White Ball, a New England-based sports and media blog that contributes to Bleacher Report. Reach him via Twitter or josh [at] smallwhiteball [dot-com].
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