The Coco Crisp Trade

Batten down the hatches – I’m writing about another Royals trade. Hopefully, this thread goes better than the last one…

According to Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City, the Royals have acquired Coco Crisp from the Red Sox for reliever Ramon Ramirez. Let’s break down both players, win value style.

Crisp has a pretty well established set of skills – He’ll post a BB% around 8%, a K% around 16%, and an ISO around .120. This is the classic groundball/gap power hitter, and not surprisingly, his results are consistent with what we expect from that skillset. He turns 29 in a few weeks, so he’s in his prime, and we shouldn’t expect much of a change going forward.

The Marcel projections has him projected .269/.333/.392 for 2009, good for a .321 wOBA, compared to a league average of .332. This pegs him as a below average hitter, but not a terrible one, worth about ten runs less than an average hitter over a full season. Of course, the Royals aren’t acquiring Crisp for his bat, but for his glove.

The +/- system has Crisp all over the board the last three years: -7 in 2006, +26 in 2007, and -2 in 2008 as a CF. He’s almost certainly not the best defensive center fielder in baseball, but we can’t ignore the fact that he was universally praised as a terrific defensive CF in 2007 and the numbers backed it up. If we just average the three years, we get +5 per year, which makes Crisp an above average CF. I can buy that.

Center fielders also hit worse than league average as a group, so we have to add a positional adjustment of 2.5 runs.

-10 offense, +5 defense, +2.5 position adjustment, +20 replacement level = +17.5 runs, or about 1.75 wins. We probably need to dock Crisp a few runs because of his weak arm (+/- just covers range), so let’s call it +1.5 wins instead. That’s Crisp’s 2009 value, making him a slightly below average player, but still a decently valuable member of a roster.

The Royals didn’t get him for free, however – let’s look at Ramon Ramirez, who was one of the Royals best relief pitchers last year. He posted a 2.84 FIP in 70 innings by racking up a strikeout per inning and, more importantly, not giving up home runs. He only allowed two long balls the whole year. That’s very unlikely to continue going forward (even the best relievers can’t sustain a 3% HR/FB rate), and Marcel projects his HR rate to climb from 0.25 HR/9 to 0.71 HR/9, which is the main reason it projects his FIP at 3.76 going forward.

A 3.76 FIP is great for a starter, but just average for a reliever. You can get a 4.50 FIP from a replacement level reliever, and so over a projected 60 innings, you’re looking at a difference of 5 runs between Ramirez and a replacement level reliever. We have to multiply those five runs by 1.5 to account for the extra leverage of the situations he’ll likely be used in, but even still, that only makes him a +.75 win pitcher.

The Royals clearly got the better player here, turning a decent but not great reliever into an almost league average center fielder. The fact that Crisp is owed $5.75 million for 2009 while Ramirez won’t make much makes this trade less of an outright steal for Kansas City, but Crisp is still more of a value than Ramirez is.

That doesn’t make this a bad trade for Boston, necessarily – they didn’t have a full time job to offer Crisp, and so they turned a superfluous bench player into a solid enough cheap reliever. But this is more of a lateral move for the Red Sox and a pretty decent step up for the Royals.

I give the edge to Kansas City in this one.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

Dave, the only question that comes to my mind is this: is Ramirez an above average ground ball pitcher? If so, it would seem that, even if he’s not likely to enjoy the kind of success keeping the ball in the park that he did in ’08, he might continue to be above average at it going forward. If he is able to keep the ball in the park at an above average rate and continue to strike out a batter an inning (roughly) then the Red Sox have picked up four seasons of an excellent reliever.

Also, if Ramirez replaces Timlin on the roster, that’s a huge upgrade, even if Ramirez is only slightly above league average. Of course they didn’t need to trade Crisp to achieve that, but its worth noting anyway. Thanks for the insightful analysis.