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Stud or dud? (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday December 13, 2005 12:58PM; Updated: Tuesday December 13, 2005 6:14PM
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Once Renteria made it to Boston, the Sox found a completely different player. To some, he looked overweight and slow. (He stole only nine bases, a career-low.) He might have had a back injury and other physical problems. He seemed to struggle with all the attention of Red Sox Nation, though the low-key Renteria handled the pressure of the World Series just fine the year before. (He hit .333 against the Sox in the '04 Series.)

In Boston, he started off slowly, as he typically does, but he began to heat up, hitting .354 in May. Renteria never found his way in the field, though. Seventeen of his 30 errors were on throws. He sometimes looked as if he wasn't trying for balls in the hole, leading to more speculation about injuries.

The Sox became so disenchanted with Renteria that they began having internal discussions about how to move him. And when the Braves inquired about a trade, offering up their top prospect, third baseman Andy Marte, the Sox jumped. Boston gave the Braves $11 million to offset the remaining three years of Renteria's contract, a stark indication of just how badly the Sox wanted him out of town.

"That's what it seemed like to me, too," said Renteria's agent, Jeff Lane. "There's no other way to soft-sell that."

For their part in this deal, the Braves may end up with a slow, stone-handed shortstop, but at least he'll be cheap -- somewhere around $6 million a year, after the money from Boston is figured in, or about $2 million a year less than what the Braves offered Furcal to stay. Over the next three years, Atlanta will pay Renteria less than half of what the Dodgers are paying Furcal.

"It's probably better," Schuerholz said of the trade, "than we could have expected."

It's probably more likely, though, that the Braves will get something closer to the Renteria of 2004 and years before. He's only 30. He'll be playing in the relative quiet of Atlanta, back in the NL with familiar opponents and in familiar parks. He appeared Monday, fresh off the plane from Colombia, to be slim and in shape, so much so that Schuerholz felt inclined to point it out.

And now he has something to prove.

"When you work hard, do everything you can to help the team win, you don't have to feel bad," Renteria said. "Everyone has one bad year. Maybe that's my year. I tried my best. That happens."

If it happens again in 2006, the Braves will regret ever talking trade with Boston, no matter what the savings. But if it doesn't -- if Renteria is the player whom Boston thought it had signed last winter, and whom the Braves hope they have traded for this winter -- the Sox will be left with the knowledge that they gave up too much, too quickly and at too great a cost.

We'll find out, one way or the other, soon enough.