Oakland Athletics 2016 Preview: Veteran Outfielder Coco Crisp

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Sep 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Coco Crisp (4) collides into the wall on a double by Houston Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez (not pictured) during the fifth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Coco Crisp (4) collides into the wall on a double by Houston Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez (not pictured) during the fifth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oakland Athletics Outfielder Coco Crisp: To Release Or Not To Release

Coco Crisp is on the mind of every Oakland Athletics fan. Everyone wants him to do well. He is beloved by the A’s, from the front office to each and every fan. Who doesn’t remember the beauty of his Bernie Leans? His various states of hair?  His self-deprecating iPhone game? Without him, the A’s don’t make the playoffs in 2012, a year in which he stole 39 bases and was firmly entrenched as the A’s leadoff hitter. My colleague, Mark Sigmon, included him as one of the best center fielders in Oakland Athletics history. So why is there all this nonsense about him being released from the team?

Simple. Old age and injuries have caught up to him. As A’s fans, we have to remind ourselves of last year’s season, when he hit a terrible .175/.252/.222 in 44 games. At one point or another, his neck, hip, wrist, elbow and ankle damaged him terribly last year. Crisp has been very open about not having a surgery that would insert metal rods into his neck to repair the damage he has sustained, since that kind of surgery would end his career. Instead, he is playing through everyday pain, which even in Spring Training does not bode well.

By these measures, the A’s may be a better team without Crisp this year.

Crisp has hit a petty .158/.154/.417 in March this year. Granted, he did hit a home run on Friday against the Angels. He did so against a similarly-injury riddled Jered Weaver, who threw no faster than 81 MPH in that game. He also committed a throwing error, throwing a flyout on a hop to Marcus Semien that squiggled away from the shortstop. This allowed the runner (Yunel Escobar) to take second base, and he scored on the next at-bat. He may not be a starting outfielder for the A’s any more as far as fielding goes, but one wonders what he can do even as a pinch hitter for this Oakland Athletics team. He did get six hits in 15 at-bats as a pinch hitter last year.

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One thing is for sure: he will continue to get playing time during the spring. He is on track to earn $11 million this year, and even has an 2017 option worth $13 million that vests if he can get 550 plate appearances. The A’s will squeeze every last drop that they can from Crisp, if only so they can attempt to trade him away by this year’s trade deadline of August 1. Crisp has been open to any option he is given at the major league level, saying “I’d love to get another ring, and if I have to slap butts and congratulate people, I’m okay with that…I can do other things to help the team be successful, be a good teammate. Chemistry is a big part of success and you don’t want to disrupt that.”  The A’s have had a history of taking reclamation projects and making them leaders in the clubhouse (see: Bartolo Colon, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, David Justice), and they want that trend to continue with Crisp.

But that assumes there is space in the outfield, or even in the roster at all.

Rich Paloma wrote a great analysis on Coco Crisp and whether or not he deserves a spot given the rest of the team’s outlook.  He may be fighting with guys like Andrew Lambo, Jake Smolinski, and Eric Sogard for that last space in the A’s dugout, and unfortunately each of those hitters are doing better than Crisp at the moment.

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However, Crisp may stay on this squad a while longer. The A’s will want to trade him, and they will want to prove that he can be an asset in order to do so. The Athletics may not even be able to get much from him; they may be able to get a little bit of money back, and that may be it. But Oakland’s front office will do what they can to get every bit of value they can from their beloved center fielder. If only for that reason (as well as backup outfielder Sam Fuld being injured), Crisp may be on the Opening Day roster.

Will the A’s keep or release Coco Crisp by Opening Day? Will they be able to get anything return from him in a trade? Let us know your thoughts below.

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