First off, let me say that I really like Coco Crisp. For one thing, it's a joy to watch him run down fly balls, and for another he's the rare position player who truly seems to like playing in Oakland and backs it up with his contract-signing pen. And he's a likable, colorful personality. As a fan, I'm glad the A's have Coco and that they are bringing back a familiar face who brings some skills and some positive leadership to the party.
That being said, I was opposed to re-signing Crisp back when it happened, for different reasons than the signing is problematic now. In a contending year, I would not have wanted to bank on Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill thriving in CF, but in a rebuilding year I thought it was an ideal opportunity to see how well each could handle CF knowing that, especially in Reddick's case, the ability to stick in CF could go a long way to determining whether the player had some value or a lot of value.
Then something happened that the A's did not anticipate back when they re-signed Crisp: Yoenis Cespedes became available to Oakland and became the real "let's see if he can stick in CF -- wouldn't that be awesome!" candidate. And where Reddick and Cowgill could not unseat Coco from CF, Cespedes appears to have that kind of clout. And Crisp is none too pleased at the idea.
Crisp has told Susan Slusser, now multiple times, that he believes he should be the starting CFer. You can't blame the A's for wanting to see how Cespedes handles CF; you can blame them for re-signing Crisp if you want, but that ship has long sailed several "I wonder if this guy can handle CFs" ago. You can't blame Crisp for believing, almost certainly correctly, that of the quartet that is Crisp, Cespedes, Reddick, and Cowgill, the best defensive CFer is Coco.
How does it end (that is, how does it begin -- everything is changeable)? Very likely with an unhappy Coco Crisp in LF. And now you have a pretty darn good defensive OF of Crisp-Cespedes-Reddick, but as your LFer Crisp isn't just disgruntled. He's kind of a glorified Juan Pierre. A Scott Podsednik, if you will.
Crisp is an excellent base-stealer but he has never been exceptional at stealing 1B. For his career, Crisp has a very pedestrian OBP (.330). To say that he has "surprising power" is like saying I have "surprising contact skills" in that it is, quite frankly, a surprise that I ever hit the ball at all. Crisp, with a career SLG% of .406, may have more power than you'd expect looking at him but what he does not have is the type of power you expect from a COFer.
In LF, you're looking at an excellent defensive player with great speed and base-stealing abilities, who doesn't reach base very often, doesn't slug much, and has a terrible arm. Like I said, Pierre and Podsednik come to mind.
Without Crisp in the mix, before Cespedes burst onto the scene, the A's were looking at a 2012 OF of Smith/Gomes, Reddick, and Cowgill, with Taylor fighting for consideration, and I would have been ok with that. Without Crisp in the mix, upon signing Cespedes, the A's would have been looking at a 2012 OF of Smith/Gomes, Cespedes, Reddick, Cowgill backing up and Taylor at AAA, and I would have been more than fine with that.
But as it stands now, Crisp is disgruntled and likely to be relegated to a position where in the balance he just doesn't offer much value, and the A's are a bit hamstrung from seeing the most of what Cowgill can do, are faced with shifting Smith/Gomes to DH and leaving Chris Carter or Kila Ka'aihue in no-man's land, all to squeeze a $7M/year Pierre Podsednik into the mix.
Much as I really do, as a fan, love and appreciate Coco Crisp, as I see it an idea that looked bad before looks a lot worse now. You wonder if the two sides, if they could do it again, might both agree just to be friends.