Coco Crisp out six to eight weeks

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 1, 2015 at 11:55 PM

Aw, dagnabbit.

Susan Slusser has reported that Coco Crisp needs elbow surgery, so forget about Opening Day -- Crisp won't even be around for Opening Month.

It's a bone spur and bone chips situation, says Slusser, not that I have any idea what that means beyond her report that he'll miss six to eight weeks after the surgery, which hopefully/presumably will take place shortly so that he can get back to doing Crispy things on the field.

The effect on the roster is analyzed on the Roster page. Billy Burns will replace Crisp on the 25-man. My best guess, or maybe my wishcast, is that he'll play right field every day for the five games or so it takes Josh Reddick to come back, at which point he'll be sent down to Triple-A. Ben Zobrist now becomes the everyday left fielder. I have no reason to prefer Burns over Zobrist in right or left except that Reddick is due back so shortly that it seems best to let Zobrist settle in at left field rather than have him start the year in right only to move to left a handful of games into the year. Zobrist does have about seven times more MLB innings in right than left in his career, but he's not playing there over Reddick one way or another.

It's possible that Reddick's return will actually push out Tyler Ladendorf, with Zobrist playing second base against lefties and either shortstop or left field against righties, depending on whether Bob Melvin would rather sit Marcus Semien or Burns.

It's again, though I've said it before, worth noting that what I'm trying to construct isn't Melvin's everyday lineup but rather some notion of the base lineup from which he will build variation, rest certain players certain days, play hot hands (however dubious that notion), and so forth.

In any event, if things play out the way I see them doing, the Crisp injury means, for the first five days or so of the year, replacing Crisp in the lineup directly with Burns. PECOTA sees Crisp as a slightly above average hitter (.268 True Average) and Burns as a well below average one (.233). But over 25 plate appearances, that gap adds up to just less than a run of offensive value. Pair that with Burns's baserunning and defense and I'm not going to worry about this first week's worth of games. I'll wait to throw an estimate on the cost of the rest of Crisp's absence until we see what the A's do with the roster. There are a lot of moving pieces, and I could do guesswork on all of them, but we'll be able to eliminate a few possibilities soon enough.

The other interesting note is that Crisp has a vesting option for 2017 that is based in an alternative part on his 2015 playing time. That is, if he accumulates 1,100 plate appearances or 260 games in 2015-16, the option vests. Let's say he comes back June 1st -- he'll have missed the A's first 53 games, leaving him just 109 he could possibly play in for 2015, and 271 for 2015-16. It seems incredibly unlikely that Coco Crisp won't, somewhere along the way, miss 12 more of those games. Similarly for plate appearances: Crisp averaged 4.25 per game last year, which multiplies out to 1,153 plate appearances as his 2015-16 cap once he's back from this surgery.

None of this means that Crisp's 2017 option won't vest, however, because the 2015-16 playing time requirements are only one way for him to get there. Crisp can also vest the option with 550 plate appearances or 130 games played in 2016 alone. Crisp has reached those figures in two of his five A's seasons: 2011 (136 and 583) and 2013 (131 and 584). It'll be two of six after 2015. It's not a foregone conclusion, in other words, but the man will be 36 and fragile next year, so he may be hitting the free agent market after all.