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January 4, 2012

The BP First Take

Wednesday, January 4

by Daniel Rathman

When ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the A’s had agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal that will keep Coco Crisp in Oakland, the reaction was unkind to general manager Billy Beane. Although the move does seem a bit out of left field for a team coming off a fire sale, it’s actually a sensible one.

Crisp will earn $6 million in 2012 and $7 million 2013, before the A’s decide whether to exercise a $7.5 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2014. Heading into his age-32 season, Crisp is unlikely to decline much over the course of the deal, and he was worth 3.2 WARP in 2011. Even if he averages only 2.0 WARP in 2012 and 2013, the A’s would get a fair value return on their investment.

Much of the criticism of the deal dwelled on the point that the Cardinals landed Carlos Beltran for $26 million over two years, and that Crisp is not half the player Beltran is. But Beltran—despite a .300/.385/.525 triple slash that’s far sexier than Crisp’s .264/.314/.379—contributed just 3.4 WARP to the Mets and Giants last season. Leaving aside the notion that Beltran would not have signed for the same terms with Oakland, WARP suggests that Crisp was nearly as valuable as Beltran. The only difference is that Crisp’s value was tied to baserunning and defense, while Beltran earned his money in the batter’s box.

Crisp’s peripherals also suggest a reasonable chance to improve in 2012. His .284 BABIP last season was well below his career mark of .303, even though his line-drive rate spiked from 16.5 percent to 24 percent. Both are likely to regress, and the aggregate should lead to a modest improvement in both batting average and on-base percentage.

The A’s young pitchers will also benefit from having one of the best defensive center fielders in the game manning Oakland’s pastures. With the rest of the outfield likely to be comprised of young players—including newly acquired Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill, as well as prospects Michael Taylor and Chris Carter—Crisp also gives the team a veteran presence that may ease their transition.

 Because of the A’s fire sale, Crisp is set to be the team’s highest-paid player, and will earn a considerable chunk of the payroll.  But that’s more a matter of circumstance than an indication of a bad contract. Assuming he stays relatively healthy, Crisp should be worth what the A’s will pay him, helping both on the field and in the clubhouse. And he’s got an 80-grade hair tool to boot.   

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

8 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Manprin

Your premise that the A's will see return on their investment largely skips over the fact Crisp has a definitive problem staying healthy.

Your case is also centered around the fact so much of Crisp's value is tied up in defense whereas Carlos Beltran's is in the batter's box.

An injury to Crisp takes him off the field all together as his lack of offensive production eliminates him as a DH candidate. Using your example of Beltran, an injury that takes Beltran out of the field does not mean he cannot still be productive as a DH.

Therefore Beltran can still be productive with a series of ticky-tack injuries where Crisp can be taken down by any number of leg injuries, tightness, cramps, etc.

And, didn't crisp get rid of the hair late last season? Kind of makes for a lame closing.

Jan 04, 2012 07:58 AM
rating: -3
 
Mr. Cthulhu

I think the playing in the National League will prevent Beltran from being a productive DH.

Jan 04, 2012 08:47 AM
rating: 7
 
timber

Exactly what I was going to say. The Royals were vilified for simply trading for Crisp three years ago, on the grounds that "they should know he won't stay healthy." Crisp played two months for them in 2009, then underwent surgeries to both labrums and prompting chants of "I told you so."

Coco has always had the hair, by the way. It's just that he used to keep it cornrowed most of the time, and he went back to that at the end of the year.

Jan 04, 2012 08:53 AM
rating: 0
 
Cromulent

Buster is reporting that the A's may be doing this to comply with minimum payroll requirements/expectations (I've never been sure how official that is, since there's technically no salary cap or floor). At any rate, I find that reason much more persuasive than thinking this is a baseball decision.

Jan 04, 2012 10:24 AM
rating: 1
 
Brian Oakchunas

They're going to have to sign Prince Fielder if they want to get the payroll to the point it was at last year when people argued the same thing about signing Fuentes, et al

Jan 04, 2012 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Kreylix
(389)

I think this is a really poor move on the A's part. I would rather see a random Sacramento OF than Crisp in the A's outfield.

Jan 04, 2012 13:23 PM
rating: 1
 
greenfrog

I guess he could be a semi-valuable trade chip as a versatile outfielder come July, maybe for a young prospect with upside to add depth to a rebuilding system.

Jan 04, 2012 15:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Assume for a second I think that Crisp is as valuable as Bertran (which I don't) and assume for a second that he has a better chance of staying healthy...

Is there any team that would've paid him $7 million per?

Overall, this reminds me of Beane's fetish for Terrence Long/Mark Kotsay types.

Jan 04, 2012 19:54 PM
rating: 2
 
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