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The Coco Conundrum

Dilip Vishwanat

Coco Crisp and Mark Kotsay have a lot in common. For one, they were -- or in Crisp's case, are -- among my very favorite players in their era with the A's. Both CFers, both signed in their 30s to an extension and both riddled, as they aged, with serious chronic injuries.

In Kotsay's case, it was his back and with Crisp it is his neck. There are certain words you would prefer not to see in your medical file and I'm pretty sure "degenerative" is one of them. At 35, Crisp battles a degenerative neck condition. At ages 36 and 37 the A's will owe him a total of $22M.

Coco is signed through 2016 with a vesting option for 2017. My guess is that the 2017 option will not vest and that Crisp will retire at the end of his current contract. As recently as the first half of 2014 he was still a force, at least offensively and in the clubhouse, until his health caught up to him and he was really never the same. What will an off-season do for Coco? Well, one thing it will do is to make him six months older.

We'll see how much the A's can squeeze out of Crisp's body, and how much Coco can squeeze out of his body, going forward. It probably won't be 130 games and it probably won't be but a shell of the Crisp we got to see up through the 2014 All-Star break.

My fear is that going forward Crisp may not be any better, overall, than a CF platoon of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry. Always plagued with a bad arm, Coco now lets an awful lot of balls fall in front of him in CF. He can still go get the ball, with good closing speed, in the alleys but I think that going forward, of the three CFs Crisp is now the weakest defensively. He may be the best offensively but when both sides of the ball are weighed it is probably a wash.

This is not a good thing because a platoon of Fuld and Gentry is hardly a great player. If that's the level Crisp can offer in his later 30s, it's a pretty big liability for Oakland to be paying him $11M each of the next two seasons. And while one can hope that Coco comes back rested and strong next spring, just his age combined with his medical condition, suggests that Crisp's best days are probably behind him.

I love Coco Crisp, probably as much as any A's player in the current era of A's baseball. But that $22M could be spent so much better with Fuld and Gentry slipping in pretty seamlessly to give about the overall value Crisp is likely to offer in 2015-16.

Is he tradeable? Is he salvageable? Is he worth moving off of CF and DHing or playing in LF or serving as an expensive and glorified cheerleader? I love the guy but Father Time may have gotten him by the neck two years early.