Has Oakland A's GM Billy Beane Gone Coco?

2011 was a big year for Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. Unfortunately, it has absolutely nothing to do with his recent performance in the A’s front office, but because of a movie where Brad Pitt was cast to play him when his performance was worthy of a movie. Beane has it tough, no doubt. He is more or less required to keep his payroll obscenely low because the A’s, while in Oakland, bring in very little revenue. With a possible move on the horizon, the A’s need to bide their time and in doing so have leapt full force into rebuild mode. They traded away their top two starters, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez and their closer Andrew Bailey. They let Josh Willingham go without a fight. Then, almost like none of this happened, they have agreed to re-sign Coco Crisp to a two-year deal, for get this $14 million. What?

Under the terms of the agreement, Crisp will make $6 million in ’12, $7 million in ’13, with a club option for ’14 of $7.5 million or a $1 million buyout. To put this in perspective, Crisp will be the highest paid player on the team. There is no reason to think they will sign anyone else to a deal remotely close in value to this one. Sign me up for season tickets! If you are going to go all out with a rebuild, why bring Crisp back? And for two years no less?

Crisp’s game is predicated on speed. He did lead the American League in stolen bases last season with 49. That’s about it. Crisp has never gotten on base enough to make his stealing ability a bigger plus. In 2011, his OBP was .314. It is .330 for his career.  His high was .345 in 2005 with the Cleveland Indians. These are not numbers one would expect of a leadoff hitter.

His fielding looks solid to the eye because he can run down the occasional fly ball. At least he did in the past. His range factor in 2011? A poor -4.2. With his speed this shouldn’t be the case. Plus, he’s got no arm. He went into negative territory in UZR/150 for the first time in his career with a -6.7 in 2011.

It is not going to take an awful lot for Crisp to provide a decent return on investment. For the duration of the contract, he’ll have to generate a total WAR of about 2.7. In 2011, he had a 2.2 WAR, so just average play will net a return for the A’s. On the other hand, he’s 32 years old and isn’t necessarily the model of health. He has never played in more than 145 games. So, this could easily turn into a bad deal if he gets hurt.

I’m not really looking at this from the standpoint of whether the deal makes financial sense. The deal in a vacuum is fairly sound. But, factor in everything else that Beane and the A’s have done so far this offseason and this signing makes very little sense. Crisp is the guy you want to bring back? If the team decided to go bare bones, I just don’t understand bringing Crisp into the fold. What exactly is it that he has to offer? Clubhouse presence? Something for the young guys to live up to? I highly doubt that.

It seems to me that Billy Beane is starting to lose it a little. The luster has worn off. Other general managers are outshining him at “his” game. He wasn’t the inventor of analytical thinking in baseball folks. I was willing to give Beane the benefit of the doubt with all of the trades and the full rebuild mode, but signing Coco Crisp goes completely against all of the moves made to this point. I just don’t get it. I’m sure Beane will put some sort of positive spin to it. If there is a Moneyball 2, I can tell you Brad Pitt wouldn’t want to play this version. Maybe, Rowan Atkinson, portrays Beane as his famous Mr. Bean character. They can call it “Screwball: How Billy Beane Lost It”.

For more on the A’s check out Swingin’ A’s. Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed. Christopher Carelli can be followed on Twitter at @BaseballStance.

Tags: Andrew Bailey Billy Beane Coco Crisp Gio Gonzalez Josh Willingham Oakland A's Trevor Cahill

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