Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Coco Crisp...

On his blog yesterday, Rob Neyer made a great point that I really had not thought about for whatever reason. In a nutshell what he said was that the Sox would be very well served by keeping Coco around to spell Ellsbury and then some and that when you look at projections the difference in production between the two will be minimal. Before you jump down my throat and discount me completely, let me make the case for keeping Coco around.

The easiest point to make here is that Coco is a switch hitter (in more ways than one maybe, haha) and Ellsbury is a lefty. Keeping Coco allows them to sit Ellsbury against tough lefties which admittedly there are not a ton of in neither their division (can you think of any beyond Pettite or Kazmir) nor the rest of the AL (Sabathia, Bedard, anybody else?) which would probably behoove both the team and Ellsbury's confidence. Now keep in mind, I am not vouching for Ellsbury to receive the full Trot Nixon treatment of NEVER being allowed to start against lefties because I feel that will hinder his long term development as a player but splitting time in his rookie year would probably be an assist to him. Furthermore, keeping Crisp allows them to also sit JD Drew against tough lefties and insert Bobby Kielty there who can crush (relatively speaking for him) them. This will give them a pronounced RHP/LHP lineup which I think would be the best way to maximize production because let's face it we are not calling for Papi to sit against lefties, just Ellsbury and Drew.

One other boon to this situation is that the Red Sox outfield features two players who must be considered injury risks in Drew and Manny. I'm not saying they are likely to bust themselves up bad in April and miss the season but the chances of each of them missing between 15-20 games at some point during the season is pretty good. No need to further dump on JD Drew's injury history but Manny has averaged missing about 30 games per year the last two years so there is a track record there too. The bottom line here is that having two capable backup outfielders on the squad - one of which, Crisp could start for most teams - is certainly not a bad problem to have going into the season given the injury histories of two-thirds of your outfield.

And now the elephants in the room and why this (Coco as a super-sub) probably will not happen:

1) Coco wants to be as close to an everyday player as possible. Projections be damned I don't think there is a single person out there other than one Coveli Crisp who truly wants Coco to be the starting centerfielder. Granted, Ellsbury probably won't be as good as he was in his brief stint with the club last year, but he does seem to provide an energy and spark to the club that Coco does not and I really see no rational argument that anybody could make after both players 2007 exploits as to why Coco should start over Ellsbury.

(OK, one argument could be that Coco's defense is SO good that it could make up for the loss in offensive production with taking him over Ellsbury. And despite everything, Coco did seem to come up with an inordinate amount of clutch triples last year. Pretty weak I know, but I tried.)

1A) Coco wants to be as close to an everyday player as possible and if he cannot achieve that with the Sox than he'd like to get traded somewhere where he can make that happen. Sound familiar? Well the other issue here as we have already established that he probably should not and will not start is that people - the press, teammates, fans (except for the chick on the NESN ads) - do not really seem to like the guy. I don't have any definitive proof of this but I just get vibes from how he is covered in the press and how his teammates talk - or rather don't talk - about him that nobody would be heartbroken to see him go. As such, I could see him pulling a Jay Payton and throwing a hissy fit at some point early in the season to force the Sox hand in trading him. Maybe I'm crazy, but I always think it is best to avoid these situations.

2) Even if Coco sucks it up and decides he's cool with being the fourth outfielder, he is still somewhat of a luxury and he is still someone with some pretty decent trade value. Sure he's not the player he was made out to be when he came aboard, but he is an outstanding defensive centerfielder who can hit some and is signed for a few more years at a good price. He's also a guy with a skill set seemingly tailor made for the National League. If the Sox can swap him for some starting pitching insurance or even a prospect coupled with a good right handed bat for the bench, don't they have to make either of those trade? I'd say yes.

So what would I like to see the Sox do?

Honestly, I think they need to trade him. Yes having him around this year would not be horrible, but I don't think they should horde the asset just because they can. Furthermore, I don't think they should allow the Coco Crisp Situation to become even close to a distraction. Quite frankly he's not worth it.

In my perfect world, the Sox would trade Coco for either of the two needs outlined above and then in the outfield have Bobby Kielty split time between spelling Ellsbury and Drew against lefties. That maximizes the at bats for all three of them per their roles and it also should not push either of the starters too hard. Of course if they do hold onto Coco and don't trade him and he is okay with his role, accepts it, and maybe even excels in it then I am happy with that too. Bottom line here is that the Sox are dealing from a position of strength in this situation and that is always a good thing.

And for shits & giggles, Manny's personal site absolutely cracked me up.

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