By Jason Wojciechowski on April 1, 2015 at 11:55 PM

Aw, dagnabbit.

Susan Slusser has reported that Coco Crisp needs elbow surgery, so forget about Opening Day -- Crisp won't even be around for Opening Month.

It's a bone spur and bone chips situation, says Slusser, not that I have any idea what that means beyond her report that he'll miss six to eight weeks after the surgery, which hopefully/presumably will take place shortly so that he can get back to doing Crispy things on the field.

The effect on the roster is analyzed on the Roster page. Billy Burns will replace Crisp on the 25-man. My best guess, or maybe my wishcast, is that he'll play right field every day for the five games or so it takes Josh Reddick to come back, at which point he'll be sent down to Triple-A. Ben Zobrist now becomes the everyday left fielder. I have no reason to prefer Burns over Zobrist in right or left except that Reddick is due back so shortly that it seems best to let Zobrist settle in at left field rather than have him start the year in right only to move to left a handful of games into the year. Zobrist does have about seven times more MLB innings in right than left in his career, but he's not playing there over Reddick one way or another.

It's possible that Reddick's return will actually push out Tyler Ladendorf, with Zobrist playing second base against lefties and either shortstop or left field against righties, depending on whether Bob Melvin would rather sit Marcus Semien or Burns.

It's again, though I've said it before, worth noting that what I'm trying to construct isn't Melvin's everyday lineup but rather some notion of the base lineup from which he will build variation, rest certain players certain days, play hot hands (however dubious that notion), and so forth.

In any event, if things play out the way I see them doing, the Crisp injury means, for the first five days or so of the year, replacing Crisp in the lineup directly with Burns. PECOTA sees Crisp as a slightly above average hitter (.268 True Average) and Burns as a well below average one (.233). But over 25 plate appearances, that gap adds up to just less than a run of offensive value. Pair that with Burns's baserunning and defense and I'm not going to worry about this first week's worth of games. I'll wait to throw an estimate on the cost of the rest of Crisp's absence until we see what the A's do with the roster. There are a lot of moving pieces, and I could do guesswork on all of them, but we'll be able to eliminate a few possibilities soon enough.

The other interesting note is that Crisp has a vesting option for 2017 that is based in an alternative part on his 2015 playing time. That is, if he accumulates 1,100 plate appearances or 260 games in 2015-16, the option vests. Let's say he comes back June 1st -- he'll have missed the A's first 53 games, leaving him just 109 he could possibly play in for 2015, and 271 for 2015-16. It seems incredibly unlikely that Coco Crisp won't, somewhere along the way, miss 12 more of those games. Similarly for plate appearances: Crisp averaged 4.25 per game last year, which multiplies out to 1,153 plate appearances as his 2015-16 cap once he's back from this surgery.

None of this means that Crisp's 2017 option won't vest, however, because the 2015-16 playing time requirements are only one way for him to get there. Crisp can also vest the option with 550 plate appearances or 130 games played in 2016 alone. Crisp has reached those figures in two of his five A's seasons: 2011 (136 and 583) and 2013 (131 and 584). It'll be two of six after 2015. It's not a foregone conclusion, in other words, but the man will be 36 and fragile next year, so he may be hitting the free agent market after all.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on March 30, 2015 at 9:48 PM

Susan Slusser's story today makes clear that my proposed/guessed roster has basically been correct for a while now, though I missed initially on Kendall Graveman making the rotation, with Jesse Chavez in the bullpen, but to be fair to me, I didn't predict that Ryan Cook would completely blow it, which made the decision a lot easier for the A's. Or maybe made the decision possible -- if Cook is up, it would be a choice between Drew Pomeranz, Graveman, and R.J. Alvarez heading to Sacramento. Maybe that wouldn't have been a hard call, and you use your options on relievers like Alvarez while you've got 'em. But maybe it would be because relievers like Alvarez don't grow on trees. (Except they do.) Who knows.

The other remaining open issue is whether Tyler Ladendorf actually gets to play. I see zero reason to start Eric Sogard at second base against lefties when there's a right-handed infielder standing right there, but who knows what Bob Melvin thinks and hey, guess what, what he thinks matters.

The other open question is whether, once Josh Reddick returns and pushes Ben Zobrist back to the infield, Melvin takes my suggestion and platoons Marcus Semien with Sogard, with Zobrist toggling between the two positions. Me, I think this is why you have a Ben Zobrist, but Melvin may prefer to play it more traditionally, give Semien more regular at-bats than a "vs. LHP" usage would afford, and make Sogard a traditional utility player.

You'll notice that the roster page has the starting pitchers in a different order than Slusser does, but you'll also notice that Slusser specifically says the A's arranged them due to scheduling and lefty-lefty issues, not in an order intended to reflect their quality. They're trying to have Scott Kazmir avoid the Angels (I guess he's jinxed against them) and they don't want Kazmir and Pomeranz pitching on back-to-back days. I'm comfortable leaving my mythical slots where they are, representing some notion of quality.

So, all told, if that's your roster, and noting that Reddick should be back in less than a week (counting from Opening Day, that is), how are we feeling? I'm feeling more or less fine. Not

fine

but like actually really fine. I like the lineups well enough, I love the outfield defense, I'm weirdly optimistic (weirdly in that I'm never optimistic) about Brett Lawrie, I'm ready for Phase Two of Stephen Vogt Takes Over the World, I love a youthful rotation full of hope and vim and victory, and I have a lot of confidence in the top four of the bullpen. This reads to me like a nice, solid, above-.500 team, ready to step into the AL West breach if the Angels infield is a wreck and/or if Kole Calhoun can't keep it going and/or if Huston Street shows his age and/or if the rotation adds up to Garrett Richards + four shmoes and/or if the luck zombies eat the brains of everyone in Anaheim.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on March 27, 2015 at 8:56 PM

Word today is that Josh Reddick's going to start the year on the disabled list. Ben Zobrist will play right field in his absence, according to Susan Slusser quoting Bob Melvin. I've updated the roster page accordingly. I chose Tyler Ladendorf to replace Reddick because I think that makes the most sense with Zobrist moving to the oufield. Adding another outfielder seems silly.

The other option to replace Reddick is Billy Burns, and as a switch-hitter, there's a sense in which he fits into either lineup, but here's the thing: If Melvin is already committing to Zobrist in right field while Reddick heals, then that leaves only left and center for Burns, and we know he's not playing left because he's not a demigod. Which means center, which means displacing either or both of Gentry and Fuld. But that doesn't make sense, because if Burns were better than Gentry or Fuld, he'd make the roster over Gentry or Fuld. Ladendorf, by contrast, allows Melvin to continue shielding Sogard from lefties.

So what Reddick's absence adds up to offensively is: Ladendorf over Reddick vs. LHP and Semien over Reddick vs. RHP. The latter is an obvious downgrade, and despite Reddick's flailing approach against lefties, the former probably is, too: He's hit .229/.290/.400 against them in his career, and I have real doubts about Ladendorf bettering that line, platoon advantage or no.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on March 27, 2015 at 8:26 PM

Big news out of camp today: Tyler Clippard is going to be the A's closer until Sean Doolittle comes back!

Big news!

Big

Fine, I'll stop.

Susan Slusser called it "anticlimactic" and it's hard to disagree with that assessment. The only other really legit option is probably Eric O'Flaherty, who's as liable as anyone in the 'pen to get hurt and require even further shuffling than has already gone on. Clippard's probably the slightly better pitcher, pound-for-pound and/or inning-for-inning in any event, though PECOTA, for one, claims that "slightly" slights Clippard, pegging his advantage at nearly six tenths of a run per nine.

In any event, I remain fully confident in this bullpen.1 To return to PECOTA as a guidepost, Clippard and Doolittle grade out as elite relievers, and O'Flaherty, Dan Otero, R.J. Alvarez, and Ryan Cook (sigh) are all above average. Also Evan Scribner, for what that's worth. The system doesn't love Fernando Abad, but he's adequate. Jesse Chavez is tougher to grade because I'm pretty sure the system takes role into account in figuring rate stats, as it should, given the typical bump pitchers see when they move to shorter outings. Chavez was a smidge better as a starter than a reliever in 2014, though we should factor in his stamina too -- 21 starts might well have gassed him to the point where moving to relief couldn't pull him out of the fire quite quickly enough.


  1. Speaking of which, Slusser states that the expected bullpen is the one that I've had here on my Roster page. Backslaps and hugs all around, I say. 

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By Jason Wojciechowski on March 4, 2015 at 9:57 PM

Today's big (big?) news is that Coco Crisp will be a left fielder this season for the A's as they try to keep him healthy for a full year, keeping his bat in the lineup and his legs on the basepaths. The position is also a better fit for his arm, though it theoretically "wastes" his range, assuming that at 35 and with a season of awful defensive statistics in center behind him, the range is what it was.

Still, the change doesn't wreak much havoc on the roster, which is a benefit of having three center fielders among your four (or five, if you count Mark Canha, or, hell, six, if you count Stephen Vogt, or, hell, seven if you count Ben Zobrist, but you get the point) outfielders -- the A's can just take the left field platoon they were going to run out (Fuld and Gentry) and put it in center, leaving everything else happily in place. For what I think the roster looks like now check out the roster page. If you click to the most recent prior version, the only thing this move does is swap left and center and clean up the substitution situation when Crisp needs to DH, as he'll surely need to do from time to time even if he's a left fielder instead of in center.

What's interesting to ponder is whether this lasts all year. The A's have tried this before, sliding him to left in favor of Yoenis Cespedes, but that fell apart fairly quickly and Crisp resumed his usual position after his famous "demigod" comments. Given that Fuld can't hit and Gentry might not be able to either, it's not hard to see one or both of them failing to finish the year with the A's. There's also the possibility of injury or even the acquisition of a slugger type for left field. Will the A's take themselves out of the picture for any such trade because they see Crisp as a permanent left fielder, or will they entertain the possibility that he could slide back over?

Crisp's comments on the move were Crispian, expressing the basic idea that he'd still rather play center and supreme belief in himself to do so while simultaneously basically saying he's not going to raise a ruckus about it. There's a certain amount of faith the A's are putting in Bob Melvin's player-handling and ego-massaging abilities; based on everything else we've seen from him, I certainly hope this is the strength of his managerial game it's made out to be.

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By Jason Wojciechowski on February 28, 2015 at 12:12 AM

The A's claimed Alex Hassan off waivers yesterday from Baltimore, who needed room to add Everth Cabrera to the roster. Oakland cleared room on their own 40-man by moving A.J. Griffin, who isn't due back from Tommy John surgery until something like June, to the 60-day disabled list. Hassan's a Duke product with a .396 career minor-league OBP but not much power. He's limited to the corners and has a total of nine career major-league plate appearances. He's unlikely to make an impact for the A's, but he's a nice bit of depth at a weak position for the A's: The corner outfield chart has Josh Reddick, which is a good thing to have, but it also has Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld, with Billy Burns waiting in the minors in case of injury. Hassan isn't an upgrade on any of those players, but at least gives Oakland someone to turn to if, say, Fuld eats the whole wheel of cheese.

I have updated the current roster page, the fringes of the 40-man page (where I rank Hassan fourth most likely to be DFA'd), and the generations of A's page, which also now includes Chad Smith, giving the A's a total of 19 first-generation players out of the 42 on the 40-man roster plus 60-day disabled list.

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