Crisp: Going or Staying?

We’re not going to forget, as an organization, that he’s the incumbent.” – Terry Francona

Around 8:01 in the above video, Tito reminds us of Crisp’s value. A reminder that would seem to be well aimed, given the propensity of many – yours truly included – to regard the trade of the incumbent as something of a foregone conclusion.

Which begs the question: should he be traded? Setting aside the clubhouse dynamics for just a moment, let’s look at a few projections. First, Crisp. PECOTA sees his ’08 line as .278/.338/.407, with Bill James projecting slightly lower in the latter two categories at .335 and .400 respectively. On the other side of the ring, PECOTA projects Ellsbury to put up a .287/.346/.395 line in ’08, with James’ numbers significantly more optimistic for OBP and SLG at .374/.436.

If we go strictly by PECOTA, then, we might give a slight offensive edge to Ellsbury as the slight disparity in power is offset by a greater on base percentage. But when James is thrown into the mix, Ellsbury becomes the far more dynamic offensive force. Even allowing for Crisp’s defensive superiority then – because I’m in agreement with Tito that Crisp played the position last year about as well as you can – you’d take my Navajo brother over the incumbent.

Not that the Red Sox should allow this to play out as anything other than a straight up competition, because to anoint Ellsbury as the starter would not only push Crisp towards a Payton-like disaffection but might significantly impact his trade value. All things considered, then, I’m regrettably in agreement with Buckley that it seems likely that the Red Sox would prefer that Ellsbury win the job outright. Short sample size of spring training or no.

Bill James, remember, works for the good guys in the Red Sox front office.

What pushes me over the edge in wanting Ellsbury to win the job isn’t Crisp’s cost – at $3.8M last year he’s actually quite affordable for a Gold Glove caliber centerfielder – but rather his redundancy. With Kielty on deck, Crisp becomes an interesting trading chip, either for an interesting bullpen arm or – packaged – for a starter candidate. Not that I’m contending that Kielty or even Ellsbury is Crisp’s equal in the field – neither will be this season – but that we have the pieces in place to replace him. And Ellsbury, with the little service time he has and the potentially greater offensive upside, is clearly the piece you’d like to keep around.

Is Crisp a bad guy to have around even should he fail to win the CF job? Obviously not. Not many teams can tout throw a glove like his onto the field from the bench. But I do think that given the noise he and his agent have made to date, it might be best if he moves on. Assuming he’s not the starter.

Obviously we shouldn’t give him away, but there are certainly teams – like the Braves – in need of a centerfielder. Where we have surplus, and may be able to extract some value.

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