You’re the GM of a professional baseball club and you need to improve your team. One area that you’re looking to upgrade is the OF — specifically CF — and you’re trying to pick between two players. For this experiment, we’re withholding the names of each player, but we will show you the weighted (5/4/3) statistics of: plate appearances, wRC+, UZR, and a baserunning metric on each player over the past three seasons, 2009-2011.
Which player would you rather have? On the surface, both have been similar hitters over the past three years; each player is only separated by three points of wRC+, and both have been similar base-runners, even though Player B has been slightly better. In the fielding department, Player B blows Player A out of the water — or at least the defensive fielding metrics love him. Player A fielded 2,171.1 innings over the past three years. Player B fielded 2,263 innings. Both have played nearly the same amount and both have dealt with various injuries.
Which player would you choose?
If you haven’t guessed it by now — and I’m sure you already have — Player A = Coco Crisp and Player B = Andres Torres.
More and more it looks like the Giants are interested in bringing in Coco Crisp to play center field for next year’s team.
From a Susan Slusser article on SFGate.com:
Crisp, who tied for the league lead in stolen bases, could be a good fit for the Giants, who need a center fielder and leadoff hitter. “Covelli has made it clear that he would like to play for a team that is determined to compete, and he’d also like to stay on the West Coast,” Comte said, using Crisp’s first name. “I think the Giants would be a viable option for him and vice versa.”
I can’t shake the feeling that, internally, the Giants are thinking they are only “one good lead-off hitter away” from fixing their problems. Coco Crisp stole 49 bases last year. He plays CF. He’s a lead-off hitter™. He’s the perfect fit. And yet as disappointing as Torres’ season was in 2011, he still posted 2.1 wins (by FanGraphs) in the WAR department based purely on his strength in the field and on the base paths. Crisp and Torres have been almost identical hitters over the past the years, and if you’re going to dip into your free agent dollars to upgrade a roster spot, you need to find a player that does something your current options don’t. It’s hard to say that Crisp > Torres — especially when you have to consider that it’s probably going to take a two year deal to get Crisp at around $6-8 million per year.
If the Giants deem that Torres is no longer an above-average hitter (he’s probably not) then the next question becomes: “If Crisp > Torres with the bat, how much better is he? And if so, how much are we willing to spend to find out?”
Bringing in Coco Crisp would make sense if the Giants didn’t have Andres Torres kicking around (whom they can sign for around $2.75M vs. whatever it’s going to cost to land Crisp). Replacing Torres with Crisp is, at best, a lateral move that’s going to cost the Giants precious resources (money). Why pay $8M per season to get something that your $2.75M player can provide?