Huh? The Tigers Are Interested In Coco Crisp?

It’s really hard to second guess a guy in GM David Dombrowski who had such a successful 2011 season. However, as a writer for a site like this, that is the liberty that I get to take once in a while. With the understanding that Dombrowski has likely forgotten more about baseball than I will ever know, I can’t help but question why on earth the Tigers would be interested in signing Coco Crisp. If the post from MLB Trade Rumors is accurate though, that appears to be the case.

I get the concept. The Tigers are a team that lacks athleticism, and bringing Crisp aboard would certainly add some of that to the mix. But is he a big enough improvement overall than what the present roster of outfielders offer?

The current Tigers roster already has four likely outfielders for the start of the 2012 season. Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch are pretty much penciled into CF and RF respectively. Andy Dirks did enough to warrant a roster spot as a reserve, and all indications thus far are the Tigers do plan on bringing LF Delmon Young back. That doesn’t even take into account that Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly can play the outfield as well.

With a roster that is pretty full of outfielders, I am having a hard time seeing Crisp as a fit, unless of course one of the outfielders is moved in a trade for something else. What the Tigers really lack is a top of the order hitter, and with Austin Jackson showing that he probably isn’t ready for that role, I think the assumption is that Crisp could fill that role. Well, technically, Victor Martinez could lead off too, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

Coco Crisp has a career .330 OBP. Is that good enough to be a lead off hitter? I don’t think so. His OBP for 2011 was .314 by the way, which was worse than Austin Jackson. He certainly has the speed, as he stole 49 bases in 2011. But does that really matter? Is Jim Leyland all of a sudden going to start running all over the place? I don’t think so here either. Leyland doesn’t tend to utilize the running game as a big part of his offense, as indicated by his current lead off hitter and fastest player Austin Jackson only having 60 SB attempts the past two seasons. And he is a successful base stealer. Crisp is has a good SB% as well, but there is no reason or indication to believe that Leyland would actually utilize Crisp’s best asset. When you get beyond that, there isn’t much left.

Crisp isn’t some sort of ultra productive hitter either. His career batting average is very respectable at .275, but his OPS sits at just .735 for his career, and while that isn’t terrible, it isn’t worth chasing down as a guy the Tigers need to sign…..unless of course you are the Oakland A’s and you have an abysmal offense. I’m going to take a shot here at Oakland, but Crisp hit 3rd in their order at times, and he has no business doing so. The Tigers offense isn’t abysmal, and getting a guy in Crisp who has a below average career OPS+ isn’t going to help it.

Defensively Coco Crisp is a natural CF and has been tremendous at times. For one season in Boston, he turned in some of the most amazing catches I have ever seen. However, I can see if Austin Jackson was terrible defensively, then bringing Crisp in would make some sense, but that isn’t the case. Jackson at this point in his career is a better defender in center than Crisp. I suppose the Tigers could play Crisp in LF or RF and at least get a defensive upgrade in that situation, but the offense they would lose could outweigh the defensive improvement. That being said, almost anything that would involve getting Delmon Young out of the outfield would intrigue me.

Since Crisp isn’t an appreciable upgrade over the current roster of outfielders, I am not sure I see the reason for interest here. Sure, he has speed, but he doesn’t provide the one thing that the Tigers are really looking for. A guy that gets on base at a high rate.

As I am not privy to the dealings of what David Dombrowski is working on, there could potentially be other things going on here. If this move is followed or proceeded by a deal that involved Delmon Young, I could see signing Crisp as an acceptable move. It could also be that the Tigers are a little worried about Brennan Boesch and his thumb healing. Crisp could simply be a veteran means to add some depth to the team. Maybe the Tigers are considering moving Austin Jackson in a deal. That would also make a Crisp signing make sense.

If the purpose of signing free agents is to improve your roster, I guess I am just missing something here. It’s not that Crisp is a bad player. He just doesn’t improve the roster enough for my liking.

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Tags: Andy Dirks Austin Jackson Brennan Boesch Coco Crisp David Dombrowski Delmon Young Detroit Tigers Don Kelly Oakland A's Ryan Raburn

  • Sam Genson

    Very well put. I was thinking of writing something similar (although with some vitrol) as Crisp is not, in any sort of way, a leadoff replacement for Austin Jackson as the National Media and some Tigers fans have suggested. Now, if he had a BABIP like Jackson, we might be in business, but he doesn’t. In fact, his BABIP is actually worse than Young’s.

  • sportz

    JV..I’ll provide you a few reasons.

    Crispo provides superior defense in LF, base stealing abilities, CF Insurance and upside from his mediocre 2011 hitting performance, he had an abnormally low BABIP and his OBP has been 20+ points higher in the previous 3 seasons.

    Crisp also provides flexibility if DD decides to deal an OF for a pitcher or a 2B/3B upgrade.

    Dirks proved little, Elmon is a suspect..and AJAX was frustrating..

  • garretkc

    I agree. Even if he reaches his OBP as projected by Bill James, .333, he’ll still come in below the .337 average OBP put up by the 30 most common lead-off hitters in 2011. It would put him at 17th in that group, right behind Maicer Izturis, who I would argue is best suited as a #2 hitter. His speed gives him a bit of an edge, but as you said, his stolen base numbers will decrease significantly in Detroit. Essentially, the only thing he has that Austin Jackson doesn’t is a low strikeout rate. Believe it or not, I believe that Jackson will get better in that area; his plate discipline numbers are good, he just needs to fix his swing.

  • ChrisHannum

    I’d rather have a lot of other guys than Coco Crisp. The Tigers lack speed, but it isn’t actually all that important. You want the guy to be on base way more than you want him to be able to do stuff IF he gets on base – like the infamous Brian Hunter.

  • funkytime

    Disagree completely. You say his career OPS is only .735. Delmon Young’s is only .749. Add in the speed difference and the defensive difference, and it’s clear that Crisp is a much better fit in LF than Young is.

    And why would Leyland not constantly give Crisp the green light? The Tigers don’t steal bases because they don’t have great base stealers. With a proven top notch threat in Coco, I’m sure Leyland would let him loose.

    Is he my number one choice? No, there are better players available. But he’d be a nice fit, and he’d help improve some major weaknesses for the Tigers.

  • ZachBayer

    Coco Crisp makes a ton of sense for the Tigers to sign. They don’t necessarily need to pencil him in as an everyday starter and he doesn’t have to hit leadoff at all, but there are other reasons it makes sense. By starting Crisp and Jackson at the same time, the Tigers would have superior outfield range in a big outfield in Comerica Park, he is a switch hitter, he can bunt and run, which makes him a bit more valuable offensively than his OPS; moving any hitter out of Oakland can only improve his numbers, and they would not have to pay Crisp much at all to come to Detroit.

    Yes, Crisp is pretty much a fringe player, but at least his game is multi-dimensional and matches the Tigers’ needs a lot more than Delmon Young, another fringe player does. This signing would allow the Tigers to trade or non-tender Delmon Young without any hesitation, because the Tigers would have steady, diverse options in the outfield in Jackson, Boesch, Crisp, Raburn, and Kelly. Jackson and Crisp would be comparable options at lead-off. Crisp is a mediocre leadoff hitter and Jackson has upside there but obviously strikes out too much at this point in his career to maintain a good OBP. But, getting Crisp gives the Tigers at least another top of the line-up option, and trading Delmon Young, Ryan Raburn, or even Brennan Boesch could help the Tigers in acquiring a third baseman with a good on-base percentage.

    • garretkc

      @ZachBayer All really good points.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @ZachBayer I think Crisp has basically come out and said he is looking to get paid. Could be wrong, but thought I read that somewhere. Just my opinion, but that doesn’t sound like a guy that wants to be part of an outfield mix. And a team isn’t going to pay him if they believe he is a part time guy. I am all for moving Delmon Young, and if they do, I am okay with Crisp replacing him, however, given that he isn’t an OBP guy, and that is a weakness for the Tigers at the top of their order, I feel they should explore other avenues.

      • ZachBayer

        @MCBjohnverburg I think most players want to be an everyday starter and want to get paid. That doesn’t mean that any team is going to offer him both.