Tuesday, February 26, 2008


If you squint your eyes really hard, you can see a small bit of controversy in Fort Myers. The Red Sox had their latest and hopefully last only semi-controversial happening a few days ago when Coco Crisp, in a disarmingly gentle manner, stated he would welcome a trade if he does not end up as the starting center fielder.


The disembodied voices on WEEI have decided that Jacoby Ellsbury will be the starter based on his stellar output at the end of last year and in the post season, so this means Crisp must be traded. However, the Red Sox have made no such pronouncement. I don't think the Sox would have a problem with Ellsbury starting, but I also don't think they'd mind if Coco ended up as the starter.

Ellsbury hit .348/.394/.530 last year, but that is likely well over his head. He'll have to keep dinking the doubles down the line to maintain that type of slugging percentage. That won't happen, at least not until his real power improves. BP's PECOTA only projects him to hit .287./346/.395 this season, with a VORP of 9.6. That's not bad, but its nothing like what he hit last season, and its not too much different than Crisp's projected .278/.338/.407 and 8.3 VORP. And when you factor in Coco's outstanding defense, the projections get pretty even.

Still, you'd think that the Sox would go with the young guy who has a chance to improve, while trading the valuable veteran. Of course, if Crisp were really valuable, the Sox would have traded him, right? Well, not really, no. Value depends on a number of things. One of those things is quality and another is scarcity. When you have both then you have a valuable trading chip. Think Johan Santana. When you have only one, well, that's when it gets difficult. (And when you have neither, you just cut the bastard.)

The problem for the Sox is that there were about ten starting center fielders on the market this past offseason, and that tends to water down value (which makes the Angels and Giants all the more stupid). If there are ten teams and only one player, that player is going to make a mint, but when its the other way around, ten players and one team, any of those players would be lucky to get a spring training non-roster invite regardless of how good they are. That's an extreme example to illustrate the point, but its a valid point nonetheless.

So, back to Crisp (who's name I keep typing as "Crips"). With few if any teams looking for center fielders, and two center fielders still left on the free agent market (Corey Patterson and Kenny Lofton), the likelihood that the Sox can find a good return for Crisp is pretty much non-existent. GM Theo Epstein isn't going to give Crisp away for nothing, so there you are. Crisp likely won't be going anywhere in the near future, whether he wants a trade or not.

This doesn't mean that Crisp won't be traded later this season. Injuries, both to the Sox and to other teams, have a way of fixing situations like this one.

What I don't understand is why this has to be a problem. From the Sox perspective, they have two good center fielders on their roster. This is injury insurance, as well as both a quality defensive replacement and an excellent replacement base runner in the late innings off the bench. These are luxuries that many teams don't have, and they are luxuries that can help the Sox win games this year.

At some point the market will turn and a good deal will come available and at that point, the Sox will be able to leverage their largess towards value in another area. But for now, both Crisp and Ellsbury can make the '08 Red Sox a better team.

See? Controversy doesn't have to be so bad.

No comments: