Dodgers Cuckoo For Coco?

I was undecided about the Dodgers potentially signing Coco Crisp until I saw this picture; now I am totally on board.

Given that the Dodgers have 12 position players locked in for 2012, it seemed like Ned Colletti's work for the winter was pretty much done. Which makes the report that the club is interested in outfielder Coco Crisp, from Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, all the more perplexing.

Dierkes reported that both the Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs are interested in Crisp to play left field. The 32-year old switch hitter hit .264/.314/.379 in 136 games for the Oakland Athletics in 2011 which an American League-leading 49 stolen bases. Crisp has stolen bases at an 84% clip over the last six seasons, topping 80% in five of those six years, while averaging 27 steals per season.

Signing Crisp would free up Juan Rivera to start in place of either James Loney or Andre Ethier against left-handed pitching, and would also mean the Dodgers will pay $4 million for a bench player in Rivera. It would also all but eliminate whatever small chance Jerry Sands had of making the team in spring training.

Crisp in his career has no discernible platoon split, hitting .271/.324/.417 as a right-handed batter and .277/.332/.401 as a left-handed batter. Though he did have a .749 OPS as a lefty in 2011 compared to .581 as a right-handed batter.

While the Dodgers' rumored interest in Crisp is to play left field, counting on him to play everyday would not be wise. He has averaged 114 games per season over the last eight years, and 2011 was just the fourth time in his career that he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Crisp was limited to 124 games combined in 2009-2010 thanks to a multitude of injuries: surgery on both shoulders in 2009, a strained right intercostal muscle and a twice-broken left pinkie finger in 2010.

Crisp actually hasn't played in left field since 2005, as he has primarily been a center fielder for most of his career. He has generally been an above average fielder in center, though he was rated below average by both UZR and Total Zone last year. A move to left could boost his defensive value.

Crisp, like Adam Kennedy and Matt Treanor, would qualify as a local boy coming home to play for the Dodgers. Crisp was born in Los Angeles, graduated from Inglewood High School, and currently resides in Rancho Mirage.

Adding Crisp would give the Dodgers more defensive flexibility at the very least. Both Crisp and Tony Gwynn Jr. can play all three outfield positions; Rivera can play the corner outfield spots as well as first base; Juan Uribe can play third base, second base, and shortstop; Kennedy can play second and third base; Jerry Hairston Jr. can play pretty much anywhere.

Then there is the issue of cost. Crisp made $5.75 million in 2011 with Oakland after the A's picked up his option. With the 2012 payroll already at roughly $114 million, it's hard to see how the Dodgers have much more to spend, and that is before considering the question of why didn't the Dodgers just sign an impact free agent this winter rather than fill up their shopping cart with the not-so-bargain bin. Not to worry; Crisp can just sign a Colletti trademarked two-year contract with a salary around $X in 2012 and roughly $2X in 2013.

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