Our friend Seth Stohs over at SethSpeaks wrote an article on Tuesday outlining his ideas for the Twins' 2008 Opening Day roster. Many of the suggestions are ones that have been tossed around elsewhere -- sign Mike Lowell, trade for Jason Bay, etc. -- but there was one acquisition that I don't think I have seen suggested anywhere else. Seth writes that the Twins should bring in Red Sox center fielder CoCo Crisp to replace Torii Hunter.
At first, this struck me as an insufficient answer to the team's center field dilemma. Since joining Boston via trade in 2006, Crisp has been a sub par offensive player. Between 2006 and 2007, he totaled just 14 home runs and 96 RBI while batting .266 and slugging .383. These numbers represented a huge drop-off from Crisp's last year in Cleveland, where he hit .300/.345/.465 with 16 home runs and 69 RBI. That season could hardly be viewed as a fluke, as Crisp had put up very similar numbers the year before, batting .297/.344/.446 with 15 homers and 71 RBI.
Crisp's decline upon leaving Cleveland was rather inexplicable. He was a 26-year-old coming off of a career year and moving into a hitter-friendly park. Yet, whatever the reason for the drop-off in numbers, we know what Crisp is capable of from an offensive standpoint, and if he could even get back to a level somewhere between those good years in Cleveland and the disappointing ones in Boston, he could be an adequate player offensively.
As long as he's hitting a bit, Crisp can be a valuable player, because he has good speed and he is a phenomenal defender. At this point in time, Crisp may have the best range of any center fielder in the majors. For a team like the Twins that likes to build on speed and defense, Crisp seems like a natural fit.
The nice thing about Crisp is that he could hypothetically be available for a relatively cheap asking price. He remains under contract with Boston for two more years (with a club option for 2010), but the Red Sox have little use for him given the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. Considering Crisp's unimpressive 2007 numbers and his struggles this post-season, his stock might be at an all-time low. And it's worth noting that while his 2007 season was a very disappointing one as it saw him post a .712 OPS while hitting just six home runs in 526 at-bats, Crisp did set career highs for stolen bases (28) and walks (50), so there are some positives can be drawn from his latest campaign.
I don't think that Crisp is an ideal candidate to take over in center field after Hunter leaves, but assuming the Twins make some significant upgrades at other positions, he could certainly be serviceable. If I had my way, I'd still rather see a guy like Matt Kemp come over in a Johan Santana trade, but I'll be the first to admit that such a move is unlikely. Crisp is a solid, young and cheap player who fits the Twins' mold. Definitely a guy worth keeping in mind over these winter months.