Oakland Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp is 36 years old this season, and he’s seen a lot in a 14 seasons of MLB action. However, it could all be coming to a close for the longtime fan favorite, as Crisp will be a bench player primarily in 2016 for the A’s in the last year of a high-priced contract.
Crisp has had a steady career, despite never winning any significant awards and only once garnering MVP votes (2013). For Oakland, specifically, he has been a catalyst for three straight American League playoff appearances (2012-14), and Crisp’s seven seasons in an A’s uniform (including 2016) are the most he’s played for any team.
For the record, Crisp is scheduled to make $11 million this season, and it’s improbable the $13 million contract vesting for 2017 will happen since he played in just 44 games last season. As recently as 2014, however, Crisp was still a productive player, despite never playing in more than 136 games in a single season for Oakland.
Now, he is listed as the No. 3 center fielder and the No. 3 designated hitter on the A’s depth chart. Even a return to his 2014 level of play—.246 average, .699 OPS, 19 steals—probably won’t earn Crisp much playing time, with the Oakland roster now chock full of productive hitters. Crisp’s defensive range isn’t what it was, either, and his arm was never an asset in the outfield, anyway.
What he can offer this team in 2016 is a veteran presence on the bench—and off the bench for situational hitting. If Crisp is fully recovered from the injuries that cost him most of the 2015 season, his leadership will still have value to a team full of players that weren’t around for the 2012-14 playoff runs.
Only three of the projected starters in the batting lineup were members of at least one of the playoff teams: right fielder Josh Reddick, second baseman Jed Lowrie and catcher Stephen Vogt. Of those three, Reddick is the only one that actually was present for all three Octobers with the A’s.
This is where Crisp can help fellow OFs Khris Davis and Billy Burns grow into leadership roles on a contending team. He can lead by example in the Oakland clubhouse and the dugout even if he cannot lead in the way he used to for the A’s: on the field and at the plate.
Crisp led the AL in stolen bases with 49 back in 2011. Then, in three playoff seasons with Oakland, he hit 42 home runs, scored 229 runs and stole 79 bases. Now, in 2016, he will be a role player with a lot of wisdom to impart upon younger teammates. The A’s hope Crisp adapts well to his new role with Oakland, as it may be his last hurrah in the major leagues.