Someone, either the Braves or the Red Sox, is dead wrong about Edgar Renteria. There's no getting around it. No front-office double talk or toothy camera-ready smiles can hide that fact.
Either Renteria is not the player that just about every team thought he was -- which would make the Red Sox absolutely brilliant for cutting their losses and unloading him last week -- or he's simply coming off a down year and is still one of the best shortstops around. That would make the Braves the smartest team in the game.
Baseball's relentless offseason has been filled with news; the Marlins' dismantling, the Mets' spending spree, the bullish market on closers. A.J. Burnett and $55 million, for crying out loud. But no deal since the season's end has been as surprising as Boston's dumping of last winter's prize free-agent shortstop, Renteria.
A lot of people knew that Boston wasn't very keen on Renteria's first season with the Red Sox, when he hit .276, struck out 100 times and committed a career-high 30 errors. But trading him, with three years left on a $40 million contract that he signed just last winter? With the soaring cost of shortstops today? With his reputation before the 2005 season? With no heir apparent in the organization?
Everybody knew, too, that the Braves needed a frontline shortstop this winter after losing Rafael Furcal, who signed a three-year, $39 million blockbuster from the Dodgers.
But Renteria? Who knew?
"We could not have acquired a more perfect player, for us, than Edgar Renteria," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said as he introduced his new shortstop to the media on Monday.
The story behind this trade a mystery. Nobody seems to remember who broached the subject. It might have been just a couple of scouts or baseball people shooting the stuff in the lobby of the Wyndham Anatole in Dallas, the site of the winter meetings last week. It might have been cocktail chatter at some official reception in Dallas. Whatever, wherever, after Furcal signed with the Dodgers, the Braves let it be known that they were interested, and the Sox let it be known Renteria could be had.
The Braves knew all about Renteria, a four-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves, from his nine years in the National League. They had played against him in the NL East when Renteria was with the Marlins, from 1996-98, and had run into him several times during his six-year stint with the Cardinals. They had positive reports on him from all over the game, including one from their public relations director, who was with Renteria in St. Louis.
The Sox had a similar book on Renteria before they signed him last winter.
"We have him as one of the top guys in all of baseball," former Boston general manager Theo Epstein said before the 2005 season. "He's very sure-handed, consistent, with good range and he's fun to watch play shortstop."