The massive $75 million deal from the Atlanta Braves for B.J. Upton has set the market for centerfielders looking for employment. With the A's recent acquisition of Chris Young for the small price of Cliff Pennington and prospect Yordy Cabrera (who went to Miami as a piece of the three-team trade), Oakland has added leverage and could be dealing from a great position of strength to any team desperate for outfield help.
The next domino to fall – Michael Bourn, who has averaged 51 stolen bases over his seven seasons and had a 6.0 WAR last year – will surely help Oakland's brass gauge the potential market for Coco Crisp. Given all of the money likely to be given out, Crisp's value could see a significant boost.
Any team on the losing end of the Bourn Sweepstakes could get a call from the A's, who might be holding the second-best option in Crisp. The asking price for Oakland's veteran will be significantly less, for instance, than what the Boston Red Sox might be asking for Jacoby Ellsbury.
Given the A's knack for selling high on key players in recent years, it would come as no surprise if they were to move Crisp for a package of players that might include a shortstop.
Upton's deal pays him $15 million for the next five seasons. Young will get $8.5 million with a $11 million option for 2014. Young could also be bought out for just $1.5 million. Despite the discrepancies in pay, the players have put up similar numbers throughout their career. In 2012, Upton amassed a 2.6 WAR against Young's 1.9 WAR in an injury-shortended season that was 325 at-bats. In the previous two seasons, Young combined to have a 9.8 WAR with 47 home runs.
The A's were able to land a comparable player at a much cheaper price, thanks largely to Arizona's desire to dump Young's contract.
But is Upton's deal representative of the level of desperation teams have for productive centerfielders? Time will tell, but the A's will likely be able paying close attention.
Considering the level of Crisp's play during the second half of the 2012 season and in the playoffs (sans his defensive mishap in game 2 of the division series), his potential value on the trade market is markedly higher than it was at any time last summer, when many believed he was on the trading block prior to the Oakland's emergence as a contender. As it turns out, the A's made the right move in keeping him.
Crisp had an 859 OPS during the second half of last season and became one of the club's most important players down the stretch. His contributions were often overlooked, but they became more obvious given the offense's lack of production when he missed time in September while dealing with pink eye. He became a barometer of the club's success, with a 917 OPS in wins and a 447 mark in losses. Crisp will make $7 million in 2013 with a $7.5 million option for the next year.
With big fish such as Bourn and Josh Hamilton still on the market, other clubs looking for centerfielders will likely wait until those players land before exploring the potential trade market. However, the A's won't likely deal Crisp without getting a great deal of value in return, per their usual tendencies.
If they don't trade Crisp, then they will be faced with the same welcomed problem they had in 2012 by having too many outfielders and not enough at-bats to go around. But the difference in 2013 would be the defensive flexibility with Young being able to play center field at a high rate compared to last season when the A's were limited to playing Jonny Gomes in a corner outfield position.