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Happy Birthday, Coco Crisp. Sort Of.

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Freaking out about a free-agent prediction list, even one from the sages at MLB Trade Rumors, is as useful as worrying that your office buddy's NCAA March Madness bracket will come true. The big picture might make sense, but one misguided answer or bizarre upset will send the whole exercise into a cascade of wrongness. So many moving pieces, so many factors unknown to the outsider.

But last night, when I saw the only Giant-related prediction on MLBTR's list was Coco Crisp, I admit I had a slight shiver of late-night Halloween fright. And not just because of the neck piercing. Coco Crisp can be a useful ballplayer. He steals bases with ease. He is a good outfielder, although his 2011 skills were sub-par according to the UZR metric. And he is capable of above-average batsmanship. In 2010, he had a .279 / .342 / .438 line, good for a .361 wOBA. By comparison, Andres Torres posted a .363 wOBA in 2010.

Put it all together, what's not to like?

First, his health. Those excellent numbers for 2010 were tallied in only 75 games. Crisp is not durable; he has played 10 major league seasons, and in only four has he appeared in more than 135 games. His max is 145 games. And today is his 32nd birthday. (Happy birthday! As the man himself says, "You only live once, so you mine as well live once.")

Even if he lays off the birthday cake and gets to bed early and finds a proofreader for his Twitter account, chances are high in the next few years Crisp will spend significant time on the DL or playing through injuries that impede his performance. He doesn't have a lot of margin of error, especially if he's being asked to lead off and help a becalmed offense score runs. That .361 wOBA in 2010 was his career high. His career OBP, the measure that matters most for a premium base stealer, is .330. And last year it was .314. That's simply not enough. The Giants have a guy who plays a premium center field and has a spotty track record at the plate. Andres Torres was miserable in 2011, and his OBP was .312. (Crisp's slugging percentage and stolen base output were better, though.)

Crisp will probably require a multi-year contract, and probably a premium to play his home games in San Francisco; Torres will require a one-year offer not much higher than his current salary, unless he wants to go hardball into arbitration. I would much rather take that Crisp money and risk it on Grady Sizemore, whose upside coming off injury-plagued years could be huge. (Pending a thorough medical exam, of course.)

If the Giants feel fairly comfortable that Coco Crisp would pile up 600 plate appearances, beat his career average OBP, steal bases with efficiency (career rate = 78%, but the last two years = 87%), and pop an occasional line drive into Triples Alley, sure. Might even be worth an overloaded one-year contract. I hope they don't feel comfortable about it, though, because chances are they'd be disappointed.


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