(From "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)," Blonde on Blonde)
Back in September, Dayton Moore promised changes to the Royals' roster for 2009. He wasn't kidding, apparently. First, there was the trade of reliever Leo Nunez for 1B Mike Jacobs. Now he has dealt relieve Ramon Ramirez for OF Coco Crisp. And it seems unlikely that that will be all the moves he will make this winter.
I liked the Jacobs trade. I'm a little less convinced that this latest move is a good one. I would characterize myself as 60% in favor, where I was 90% in favor of the Jacobs trade, if that makes sense. Nunez was a little injury-prone, and trading him was a relatively small price to pay for someone who can hit 25 homers next year. But trading Ramirez makes one of the Royals' 2008 strengths (the back end of the bullpen) something of a question mark for 2009.
And for what? Well, Crisp is a good center fielder, with good speed which will come in handy in Kauffman Stadium's large outfield. Crisp's arrival means David DeJesus will play left field a lot. Theoretically, this will improve KC's outfield defense. But Joey Gathright is probably faster than Crisp, and he played 100 games in center in 2008. So I'm not sure it will improve the defense a lot.
However, Crisp is a better hitter than Joey Jumpcars. Crisp hit .285/.344/.407 last year, while Joey hit .254/.311/.272. Clearly, Crisp is an offensive upgrade. Heck, the one are where Gathright makes a solid contribution (stolen bases), Crisp pretty much equaled him last year. Joey had 21 steals and was caught 4 times; Coco had 20 and 7. The fact that Gathright will be at most a fourth outfielder and more likely a fifth outfielder or even Omaha's starting center fielder means the Royals are improved.
But there is a more intriguing possibility here: will Crisp be an improvement over Mark Teahen? In my mind, that's really who Crisp replaces. With the logjam at first base (Jacobs, Ryan Shealy, Billy Butler, Kila Ka'aihue), there is going to be spillover at the DH spot. That means Jose Guillen is probably going to be in right field a lot, even though the defense would certainly be better with Teahen out there.
Teahen is a solid player, but he has never really put up the offensive numbers the Royals needed from a corner outfielder (or infielder, back when he was a third baseman). Last year, he got 572 at-bats. Will the Royals be better with Crisp getting most of those and Teahen taking over for Gathright as the fourth outfielder?
To test this, I extrapolated Crisp's and Gathright's 2008 numbers to 572 at-bats (Crisp had 361 at-bats last year; Gathright had 279). Remember, Teahen hit .255/.313/.402; Gathright hit .254/.311/.272; Crisp hit .283/.344/.407. Yes, Teahen and Gathright had pretty much the same OBP...not good.
As you can see, if Crisp can do what he did last year for a full season (and he certainly could; those numbers are very similar to his 2007 season, when he had 526 at-bats), he would be an upgrade over Teahen. Slightly less power, but on base more often and stealing several bases. And let me just add that while some of Gathright's numbers look good, giving that many at-bats to someone slugging .272 is a terrible idea. Let me also add that Crisp's 55 walks would have been second on the Royals last year.
That leaves Teahen out of the starting lineup. But there are some good reasons to keep him on the roster: he is a versatile defender who can be plugged in at any outfield spot or either corner infield spot. He has decent speed and excellent baserunning skills, and he hits left-handed with occasional power, so he would be a valuable bench player.
Will he stay on the roster, though? Dayton Moore said after the latest trade that he knew he needed to work on the bullpen some. He's right; now the bullpen outside of Joakim Soria and Ron Mahay is a question mark. Teahen is relatively cheap (he should make $3 million or so next year) and could bring a decent relief pitcher in a trade. Or the Royals could deal him to fill the hole they have in the middle infield; they need a second baseman or shortstop and could then move Mike Aviles to whichever spot they need.
I would like to see Teahen stick around. He seems to be a good guy, and he does bring a variety of skills to the table. Let's hope the Royals can get what they need some other way.