You have surely heard by now that Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury has injured his shoulder and will miss at least a couple of months. This leaves the Red Sox with a gaping hole in center field, and according to this story from WEEI.com a couple days ago, they are actively exploring the outfield trade market. When the A's lose an outfielder, they call up Matt Carson from AAA. When Boston loses an outfielder, they hope to rent another team's starter to serve as a stopgap. Such is life in the AL East.
A quick look at Boston's current depth chart reveals that even we could provide them with an upgrade. Monday's lineup included Darnell McDonald in left, Cody Ross in center, and Ryan Sweeney in right. My first thought upon seeing those names was: Whoa, that was supposed to be OUR starting outfield this year. We all remember that there was a span of time this winter in which Sweeney was the ONLY Major League outfielder on our roster. During that same span of time, there were rumors that we might sign Ross to play center. We were never attached to McDonald, but we could have thrown a similar replacement-level player out in left (if you average his career bWAR and fWAR totals, he sits at -0.1 career WAR). Actually, we would have probably used either Collin Cowgill or Seth Smith in left. So really, Boston's current outfield is WORSE than Oakland's offseason worst-case scenario outfield (prior to our additions of Cespedes and Reddick). Think about that. Boston's current outfield is something out of Oakland's winter-time nightmares.
Did I forget to mention Jason Repko? Jason Repko is there, too. Jason Repko is 31 years old, and has a career 71 OPS+ in just over a season's worth of plate appearances. He's the kind of guy you would expect to crack the lineup in Pittsburgh or Houston, except that he actually wouldn't crack the lineups of either of those teams right now, nor even their benches. Jason Repko, who isn't good enough to play for the Pirates or Astros, started the last two games in center field for the Boston Red Sox. You probably should have sat down before reading that last sentence. I apologize for not warning you first.
That brings us to the point of this article. Boston is in dire need of a legitimate center fielder, if they hope to compete with the Big Boys in the East. Oakland happens to have an extra center fielder just sitting around, wasting his time playing in the corner and contributing far less than his abilities should allow. The obvious solution here is to send Coco Crisp back to Boston, where he racked up 5.3 bWAR (7.0 fWAR) in three seasons of play and won a World Series ring in 2007. I don't even care if Oakland gets anything in return; I'd be perfectly happy just giving Crisp to Boston, if they'll pay out his contract. Here is why everyone involved should be on board with the plan:
Why does Boston do it?
Time is of the essence. Every game counts in the AL East, and they are already falling behind in the early going. Ask Boston if one game in the standings can make a difference in a playoff race. Go ahead, find a Red Sox fan and ask him. I'll wait.
Coco would present a huge defensive upgrade over Cody Ross, and would probably hit better in a park with shorter dimensions and less foul ground. Ryan Sweeney is hitting .424 with a 1.109 OPS with the Sox so far. By my calculations, that means that Coco should hit about .650 with a 2.000 OPS if he re-joins the team. You're free to check my math if you'd like.
Not only is Coco an upgrade, but he might be the only decent option on the table. As the WEEI article points out, teams are often reluctant to trade players this early in the season. Rosters and lineups are still being evaluated, fringe contenders are still finding out if they're good enough to make the grade, and transaction logs are generally quiet until at LEAST mid-May. But then, there is rarely a situation like Coco's, in which the player was inked in as a starter, but then made obsolete just before the season without any injury to himself. Plus, since Coco holds a bad-but-not-crippling contract, Boston may have an opportunity to acquire a player without giving up any prospects of their own. If they are willing to pay Coco's 2-year salary, that might be enough to pry him away. It's really a best-base scenario for Boston: a viable MLB center fielder, available in mid-April without the need to part with any prospects. Are they really going to get a better offer than that?
Why does Oakland do it?
Short answer: Addition by subtraction.
Don't get me wrong. I like Coco. He's been a joy to watch the last two seasons, and I was pretty excited when we re-signed him (the excitement later faded for reasons unrelated to Coco). However, he has been pushed out in Oakland. Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick are locked into center and right fields, respectively, and Coco is miscast as a left fielder. He doesn't hit enough for left, and his noodle arm is an even bigger weakness there than it is in center; runners can't normally go from first to third on hits to left field, but they do so routinely against Crisp.
We have our center fielder (Cespedes), and we have our leadoff hitter (Jemile Weeks). Coco Crisp has become superfluous.
We do however, have a whole host of intriguing players who are being blocked by Coco's redundant presence. Collin Cowgill hit .354 in AAA last year, and looked very impressive in Spring Training. In a pleasant turn of events, Michael Taylor is ripping the cover off the ball in Sacramento (1.117 OPS, with power and plate discipline), and could play his way into another shot in Oakland. If Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes can continue taking their platoon act into the field, the DH spot could be freed up for Kila Ka'aihue, who has done nothing except hit (albeit, singles) when given at-bats. If Kila doesn't excite you as a DH, there is always Chris Carter, and Manny Ramirez will eventually need a spot in the lineup when he returns in 6 weeks. Don't kid yourself. Manny is going to play, pretty much no matter what.
Coco is a liability on both offense and defense right now. Removing him from the equation gives Oakland the chance to add another serious offensive weapon to the every day lineup. If he can be dealt along with his entire contract, that is an opportunity that Billy Beane needs to capitalize on immediately.
Why does Coco get on board?
Imagine you are Coco Crisp. You hate left field, and are positive that only a demigod could play a better center field than you. Now, you have two scenarios:
- Play left field for the Oakland A's, in front of 10,000 people per night, and compete for 3rd place in a weak division.
- Play center field for the Boston Red Sox, with whom you recently won a World Series ring, and compete for another title.
I love my A's, but the choice is clear from Coco's standpoint. Not that he has any say in the matter.
What do you think about sending Coco to Boston? Naturally, this is a completely speculative piece, since I have read nothing regarding Oakland and Boston working on any kind of deal. Sure would be perfect, though.