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.