Finally, there’s some A’s news about a player returning rather than being shown the door. Free agent center fielder Coco Crisp will return to Oakland on a two-year deal worth $14 million, plus a $7.5 million club option for 2014, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. All indications I’m getting are that this is all but a done deal. Here’s my story on the topic. A’s officials aren’t confirming anything and neither is Crisp’s agent, Steve Comte. But Oakland GM Billy Beane had complimentary things to say about Crisp even as he declined direct comment on whether a contract was in the works.
Does this signing surprise you? I’m a little shocked that Crisp would return given the direction of the franchise. Top starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill have been traded, as have closer Andrew Bailey and fellow reliever Craig Breslow. Beane and Co. have clearly stated they don’t think it’s realistic for the A’s to contend in the AL West this season, and they’re building for a future they hope includes a new stadium in San Jose. Crisp told me in September that playing for a contender would be important to him as he entered free agency. I asked Comte how Crisp viewed the A’s given the trades that have been made this winter. “(GM) Billy (Beane) always finds a way to piece it together,” Comte said. “ … I think we’ve seen a few teams with young talent that have probably exceeded expectations.”
A two-year, $14 million deal is pretty steep for a player with Crisp’s injury history. And you figure there weren’t many teams offering Crisp as much as the A’s did on a multi-year deal. Nonetheless, this is an important signing for the A’s simply because it brings a recognizable player back into the fold after they’ve sent so many guys packing. Does it improve Oakland’s chances in the AL West? Not really. Does Crisp bring the power this team so desperately lacks with Josh Willingham’s departure? Negative. But he provides a steady glove in center field, and manager Bob Melvin is preaching improved defense in 2012. Crisp also brings a little name recognition, as second baseman Jemile Weeks was looking like the A’s only hope to build a marketing campaign around. Given how this offseason has unfolded, I’m guessing fans are chalking this up as a surprise victory.
Am I right?