Coco Crisp Rumors
The A's hosted their annual FanFest yesterday with a sellout crowd of 20,000. GM Billy Beane addressed the gathering and is pleased with the moves the franchise made this winter. "I think we accomplished a lot of what we set out to in the offseason, and maybe a little more," Beane said (as quoted by MLB.com's Jane Lee). "The division itself is better. Texas is always good, and the Angels improved on an explosive club anyway, so I think they'll be a lot better. Houston's only going to get better. The fact is, I think this division, as much as any in the league, has improved itself, and I'd like to think we've been able to replace some of the guys we lost from a good team and maybe added more in addition." Let's take a look at the other news and notes involving the A's and the AL West:
- Assistant GM David Forst held court with several bloggers, including Athletics Nation, at the A's FanFest. Forst was asked whether the club has an organizational philosophy on making long-term commitments. "I think we've benefited a lot from the flexibility over the last few years," Forst answered. "We don't necessarily want to recreate the team every year because fans like the players who are here and we like the certainty of guys that we know, but that we've given ourselves the ability to (play it year by year) is a huge factor in our success."
- One long-term commitment made this week was extending Coco Crisp, but Forst isn't concerned the A's are now bound to the center fielder through his age-37 season. "We think Coco is a little bit unique in his body type. Certainly when you get to that end of the spectrum, the track record isn't good in how guys have performed, particularly where we are now in terms of hopefully being beyond (PED use). But you always are taking a risk -- I mean, we dealt with it on Bartolo (Colon), dealing with a guy who performed at 39, and 40, how far is he really going to go? So that's a question we really have to take into account every time."
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow knows his grand plan will be on display during Spring Training as several of the team's top prospects are scheduled to take part in their Major League camp, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "I do think for our fans, especially the ones that are going to come out to Kissimmee and ones that are going to listen on the radio and watch on TV, it's fun for them to be able to see, to get a glimpse," Luhnow said.
- Left-hander Nate Robertson has spoken with several clubs about an opportunity to win a bullpen spot this spring, tweets FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi. Robertson, who hasn't appeared in the Majors since 2010, spent last season with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate pitching to a 3.04 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 4.1 BB/9 in 45 relief outings covering 50 1/3 innings.
2:45pm: Crisp receives $11MM in 2015 and 2016, and his vesting option is worth $13MM with a $750K buyout, Slusser tweets.
2:38pm: John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports that Crisp's extension guarantees him $22.75MM (Twitter link). Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the option breakdown: Crisp's 2017 option will vest if any of these conditions are met: 550 PAs in 2016; 1100 PAs in 2015-16; 130 games played in 2016; or 260 games played from 2015-16 with at least 110 of those coming in 2016.
1:41pm: The Athletics have announced (via Twitter) a two-year extension for center fielder Coco Crisp that includes a vesting option for the 2017 season. The Steve Comte client had been scheduled to hit free agency following the 2014 campaign but is now controllable by the A's through his age-37 season.
Crisp, who turned 34 in November, slugged a surprising 22 homers in 2013 -- a new career-best. Those 22 homers were accompanied by 21 stolen bases (in 26 attempts) and a strong .261/.335/.444 triple-slash line, resulting in career-highs in OPS+ (119) and wRC+ (117). Ultimate Zone Rating pegged Crisp's glove in center field as slightly below average for the the third straight season, but Defensive Runs Saved rated him at +6 runs and feels he's been slightly above average in that same three-year span.
Crisp originally came to the A's on a one-year, $5.25MM deal prior to the 2010 season. Oakland exercised a $5.75MM club option for the 2011 season and then re-upped with Crisp on a two-year, $14MM contract following the completion of that campaign. Earlier this offseason, GM Billy Beane picked up his primary leadoff hitter's $7.5MM option. All told, he's earned $31MM in his Athletics career to this point (including his 2014 salary) and rewarded the team with a .264/.327/.417 batting line, solid defense in center field and elite value on the basepaths. Dating back to 2010, only four players in baseball -- Michael Bourn, Elvis Andrus, Drew Stubbs and Rajai Davis -- have added more value on the basepaths than Crisp, per Fangraphs.
Crisp should be flanked corner outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick for at least the next two seasons in Oakland. His extension weakens what already looked to be a thin market for free agent position players next offseason -- particularly outfielders. Brett Gardner and Colby Rasmus are among the top names in next year's class, which also includes aging sluggers such as Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham. Rebound campaigns from Chris Young, Grady Sizemore, Melky Cabrera and/or Nick Markakis could improve the outlook.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Athletics announced that they have exercised their $7.5MM club option on Coco Crisp as well as their $8MM club option on Brett Anderson and declined their $11MM option and Chris Young and $8.5MM option on Kurt Suzuki. Young and Suzuki will receive respective buyouts of $1.5MM and $650K.
The news comes as a $7.5MM birthday gift for Crisp, who turns 34 years old today. The switch-hitting center fielder enjoyed the best offensive season of his 12-year career in 2013, slashing .261/.335/.444 with a career-best 22 homers. He chipped in 21 steals in 26 tries and was six runs above average in center field, per The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric (he was roughly average, per UZR), making the decision a no-brainer.
Anderson, who turns 26 in February, pitched just 44 2/3 innings for the A's this season. He compiled an unsightly 6.04 ERA in that time, though metrics such as FIP (3.85) and xFIP (3.26) suggest he was the recipient of some misfortune. Indeed, his 9.3 K/9 and 69.2 percent ground-ball rate seem to indicate that he should've had better superficial numbers, though his 4.2 BB/9 rate was a drastic departure from his typically excellent control.
Anderson would have been arbitration eligible had the A's declined his option. They could've had him for less than the $8MM he will receive in 2014, but declining his option would have also negated the $12MM club option the team holds on his free agent season. Essentially GM Billy Beane decided to pay Anderson an extra $1-1.5MM with the belief that he will remain healthy and look like a bargain at $12MM in 2015, as his career numbers through 2012 indicate he would.
Young hit just .200/.280/.379 with 12 homers and 10 steals in 2013 after coming over from the D-Backs in the three-team deal that sent Heath Bell and Cliff Pennington to Arizona and prospects to the Marlins.
Suzuki was acquired in an August waiver trade that was necessitated by injuries to John Jaso and Derek Norris. He batted a strong .303/.343/.545 with a pair of homers in 35 plate appearances for the A's but hit just .232/.290/.337 overall between the Nationals and A's. With Jaso and Norris both present in the long-term, Suzuki will look for a new team this offseason, as Oakland likely doesn't have a roster spot for him even on a cheaper one-year deal.
Earlier today, Bartolo Colon told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he'd like to return to the A's next season and feels that he could pitch another three years in the Majors. At the time, it wasn't known if the A's were interested in a reunion, but in their postseason address to the media, both manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane said they are interested in bringing Colon back for a third season (via Slusser and John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group on Twitter). Beane went so far as to say it'd be "foolish" for the team not to be interested. Here's more from on the A's...
- Closer Grant Balfour isn't satisfied with only making the playoffs, he told reporters, including MLB.com's Jane Lee. Balfour said he intends to keep playing until he can win a World Series (Twitter link).
- Balfour also acknowledged to CSNBayArea.com's Casey Pratt that he wanted to make sure the inning he pitched in Game 5 last night was a good one, because he knew it may have been his last frame with the team (also on Twitter).
- Melvin said today that the A's are well-equipped to handle the potential loss of Balfour, as internal options Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle could take over as closer (via CSN California's Joe Stiglich on Twitter). As Stiglich goes on to caution, that comment doesn't mean Doolittle or Cook will close in 2014. The A's would likely explore the free agent relief market in that scenario for an additional arm to plug into the mix.
- Beane said that the A's will exercise Coco Crisp's $7.5MM option following the season and implied that they will do the same with Brett Anderson's $8MM option (via Slusser).
- Crisp said that he'd like to think the A's would want to discuss retaining him beyond the 2014 season (via Hickey).
- Top prospect Addison Russell will open 2014 at Double-A "at the lowest," according to Beane, who then added that "anything can happen" once a player reaches Double-A (Stiglich reporting).
- Beane feels that if Chris Young, whose contract contains an $11MM club option, doesn't return to the team, Michael Choice can serve as a right-handed outfielder for the team (Lee reporting). It seems logical that the A's would decline the option after Young batted just .200/.280/.379 this season.
Now that the draft is over, teams are focusing more on bolstering their rotations with one more piece, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. No one more aggressive in the pursuit of pitching than Orioles GM Dan Duquette who knows that one veteran starter could make all the difference. While they're anxious to improve their starting five, it doesn't sound as if the O's will be in the mix for someone like Cliff Lee. “We’re looking for a starter and a reliever,” said Duquette. “We’d like to solidify our pitching all around because that’s the name of the game, really. We have to look at everything. Don’t think we’re going to be in the market for a big-money pitcher, but there seem to be some guys out there that we might focus on and see where it takes us.” Here's more from today's column..
- The Astros will craft a game plan early this week for how to approach their veteran assets. Teams are already calling about Bud Norris, who has a cheap $3MM salary, but won't be cheap to acquire. The Orioles, Giants, and Pirates have kicked around the idea of acquiring Norris, but one National League exec says there will be about a dozen teams interested before all is said and done.
- It seems like a no-brainer for the A’s to pick up Coco Crisp's 2014 option for $7.5MM, but he'll be in demand if they don’t. Even though he's 33-years-old, there aren’t many top center fielder/leadoff hitter types out there. Jacoby Ellsbury will be the No. 1 guy in that department, but , one American League special assignment scout said Crisp might be a better low-cost option because “he can do everything Ellsbury can do. Neither of them have an arm, but Coco is still fast, a very good outfielder, and can still be a game-changer.”
- The Phillies believe there are at least three teams — Red Sox, Tigers, and Cardinals — that may have some interest in Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline and the Phillies are scouting those teams with a potential deal in mind. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he’s not ready to “blow up” the Phillies, but a Papelbon trade could help retool the club.
- Teams continue to nudge Javier Vazquez into coming back to pitch, but the right-hander seems to be content with staying with his family, according to a source familiar with Vazquez’s thinking.
- The Red Sox can trade Stephen Drew now that June 15th has come and gone, and they would have no problem finding a taker given the lack of shortstops around baseball. However, Boston firmly believes that Drew is their guy. One National League GM doesn't quite understand their infatuation with the shortstop. “They’re either trying to justify the $9.5MM they paid him, or they’re not sold on [Jose] Iglesias, who could start for 29 other teams.”
- If the White Sox decide to finally bolster their farm system, they could get some helpful prospects back by moving right-hander Jesse Crain. The reliever is becoming a top name on wish lists around baseball.
- While many baseball people remain focused on Giancarlo Stanton’s availability in a deal, 25-year-old Logan Morrison is now healthy and has returned to the lineup. The Marlins first baseman/outfielder is a big lefthanded hitter who will be monitored closely by scouts over the next month.
The Athletics held their A's Fan Fest today with manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane hosting a Q&A session. Here are the highlights:
- Melvin says second base will be an open competition between Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks while Grant Green, the A's fourth-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, will also receive a hard look, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee (Twitter links).
- Melvin plans to continue with the Brandon Moss/Chris Carter platoon at first base, tweets Lee.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets the A's will not use any one set lineup because Melvin has multiple options depending on matchups and who's hot.
- Melvin views Coco Crisp as the starting center fielder with Chris Young moving around all three outfield spots, Lee tweets.
- Young says being reunited with Melvin is "like a breath of fresh air." (A's team Twitter feed).
- Melvin calls Yoenis Cespedes one of most talented players in the league and Beane adds he wouldn't be surprised if the 27-year-old Cuban takes it to another level, Slusser tweets.
- Beane is confident Hiroyuki Nakajima will make a successful transition to MLB, tweets Casey Pratt of CSNBayArea.com. In fact, Beane joked he will have a tougher transition in dealing with the effervescent Japanese shortstop.
- Beane expects their top prospect, outfielder Michael Choice, to open the season in Triple-A, unless something unforeseen happens, according to Pratt (via Twitter).
- The A's are convinced shortstop Addison Russell, last year's first round draft choice, is mature enough to be invited to Spring Training even though it wasn't part of his contract, writes Slusser on Twitter. Slusser adds this is an indication of how much the 19-year-old has wowed the front office.
Happy 60th birthday to former Mets third baseman Ray Knight, whose World Series MVP performance in 1986 helped lift the Amazins to their most recent championship. Here's the latest from the NL East...
- J.P. Howell is still the Nationals' top choice amongst available left-handed relievers, reports Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. Several other teams are known to have interest in Howell besides the Nats, who missed out on another southpaw bullpen option when Mike Gonzalez agreed to sign with the Brewers today.
- The Nationals and Adam LaRoche are no closer to an agreement, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. LaRoche appears to be insistent on a three-year deal while the Nats aren't willing to offer him more than two years. The Red Sox have also shown interest in LaRoche but not for three years.
- The Mets showed some interest in Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweeted last week, though the "sense is that [Oakland] will keep him." Crisp, 33, hit .259/.325/.418 in 508 PAs with the A's in 2012 and was also 39-for-43 in stolen base attempts. Crisp is set to earn $7MM in 2013 and the A's have a $7.5MM option on him for 2014 that can be bought out for $1MM, plus he'd receive a $250K bonus if he's traded.
- The Marlins have spent much of the winter looking for center field help but haven't found a fit, leaving Justin Ruggiano as the favorite to win the job, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes as part of a reader mailbag. Frisaro believes Miami hasn't been too ardent in looking for a center fielder since prospect Christian Yelich could be ready for the majors by 2014 or even late next season.
- Also from Frisaro, the Marlins plan to keep Ricky Nolasco "at least for much of the first half of the season." Nolasco is entering the last year of his contract and has already said he'd prefer a trade out of Miami, so the right-hander is a good bet to be moved before the trade deadline. The Marlins told teams during the Winter Meetings that Nolasco wasn't available.
- Even though the Marlins aren't shopping Giancarlo Stanton, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki thinks it's a moot point for the Phillies, who don't have the minor league depth necessary to acquire the slugger even if the Fish did make him available. I'd also add that the Marlins are unlikely to deal Stanton to another NL East team, though the Fish have been known to deal stars (such as Dan Uggla) within their division if the price is right.
- From earlier today on MLBTR, the Mets were looking for relief pitching and the Marlins had only very mild interest in Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez.
WEDNESDAY, 4:25pm: The Reds are "still a little ways apart" with Ludwick, GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
9:59pm: Ludwick remains in discussions with the Reds and others, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
9:32pm: Ludwick and the Reds are getting close on a deal, hears Yahoo's Jeff Passan.
MONDAY, 5:01pm: The Reds have an offer out to free agent outfielder Ryan Ludwick, manager Dusty Baker tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). Reds GM Walt Jocketty told reporters he's optimistic, and he'll meet with Ludwick's agent tomorrow morning. A signing is possible this week.
Meanwhile, the Mets have interest in the 34-year-old, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Jocketty also cleared up rumors about the Reds' interest in Dexter Fowler and Coco Crisp, telling reporters, "We really haven’t talked to either club if that’s any indication. I’m not sure Colorado is moving Fowler." Jocketty said the Rockies have not brought up Homer Bailey's name to him, either.
Mike Napoli could bring a bit of added intensity to the plate when he faces C.J. Wilson this season. Wilson recently posted Napoli's phone number on Twitter, a response to an alleged comment made by Napoli about how he was looking forward to homering off of Wilson this season. Napoli was not amused by the joke and, though he didn't recall making the initial statement, vowed to indeed try and take Wilson yard. Eighty years after Babe Ruth hit his famous "called shot" in the World Series, if Napoli does indeed homer off of Wilson this season, can we call it the Prank Called Shot?
Some (more serious) news from around the AL West...
- Coco Crisp said he wouldn't have re-signed with the Athletics had he known he was going to be moved to left field, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Yoenis Cespedes will start the year as Oakland's center fielder, and Crisp said the promise of the center field job was one of the reasons he signed with the A's over the Rays, who couldn't promise Crisp regular time in center due to B.J. Upton's presence. Crisp did say that he was glad to be back with the A's and, in regards to the position switch, says he has to "go out here and just accept it."
- The Rangers feel Leonys Martin needs more development and are "concerned about [his] lack of instincts," tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, though the club still recognizes his talent. The Cuban outfielder signed a five-year, $15.5MM deal with Texas last May and hit .295/.362/.421 in 343 minor league PAs, going all the way from rookie ball to an eight-plate appearance cup of coffee with the Rangers in September.
- Hong-Chih Kuo was released earlier today by the Mariners, though if the southpaw clears waivers, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times believes the M's could re-sign Kuo to a minor league contract.
- Also from Condotta, the Mariners are still figuring out what to do with Lucas Luetge, a left-handed reliever taken from the Brewers in last winter's Rule 5 draft. Kuo's release could help Luetge find a spot in the Mariners' bullpen, though the M's also have Charlie Furbush, Cesar Jimenez and George Sherrill competing for roles as left-handed relief options.
- For some news about the Angels, check this compilation of Los Angeles Notes from earlier tonight on MLBTR.
Considerable uncertainty surrounds the Brewers, who don't yet know whether Ryan Braun will miss 50 games after a positive test for a banned substance. Here are the latest links from the NL Central, which will look much different than it did a year ago whether or not Braun plays a full season in 2012...
- Braun is on his way to Brewers camp and doesn’t know whether he’ll face a 50-game suspension yet, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. A decision is expected today or tomorrow.
- Brewers camp is looking different this year, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are more distractions than the Brewers would like, as Braun's possible suspension looms and the club moves on without Prince Fielder.
- Agent Melvin Roman recently met with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak to discuss an extension for Yadier Molina, Derrick Goold and Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report. The most recent round of discussions took place in the past two days and went well, the Post-Dispatch reports. Roman said Tuesday that the sides won't discuss an extension after Opening Day.
- Coco Crisp said the Cardinals offered him a multiyear deal this offseason, Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group tweets. The outfielder eventually signed a two-year, $14MM contract with the Athletics.
- The Pirates nearly signed Chris Gimenez earlier this month, the catcher told Bill Chastain of MLB.com. The Rays signed Gimenez soon after the Mariners released him.