Could the Red Sox be hunting for a replacement for Mike Lowell using Coco Crisp as the solution?
Some news came out yesterday saying that the San Diego Padres were interested in Crisp to plug their centerfield vacancy with Mike Cameron departing via free agency.
Padres GM Kevin Towers feels there is a better market out there for centerfielders in the trade market, and he’s probably right. The centerfielders on the market that could become a starter for a team are Cameron (coming off a poor season of .242/.328/.431), Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, Kenny Lofton and Aaron Rowand with “fallback” options in Jeff DaVanon, Darin Erstad, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Corey Patterson. I use the word fallback very loosely there; those options all should be viewed as bench players.
The major players will command significant dollars to join their new team, and while not old, Coco Crisp is the youngest out of the crop previously mentioned as he is age 28. He is locked up through 2009 with a club option for 2010. The money due Crisp is: $4.75 million in 2008, $5.75 million in 2009 and a $500,000 buyout if his $8 million option is not picked up. Out of all the names listed above, the only one I feel would be a viable fit are Hunter and Rowand, and the Padres probably will be outbid for them. The Padres are considering offering Jones a one year deal at a salary higher than the $13.5 million due him, but this would only delay their need a year longer and give them an overrated defender.
Coco Crisp just might be the answer for them.
The San Diego Union Tribune says:

The Padres traded for young corner infielders Kouzmanoff and Gonzalez and now will try to swap for a young center fielder. The best defensive center fielder on the trade block is Coco Crisp, a Red Sox regular who is under contract through 2009 but who has lost his job to rookie Jacoby Ellsbury. The Padres aren’t willing to trade Double-A third baseman Chase Headley for Crisp, who turned 28 Thursday.

Coco Crisp for Chase Headley may end up making the most sense when all is said and done, however. The Tribune cites Nathan Haynes and Reggie Willits of the Los Angeles Angels as additional trade targets by Kevin Towers, Milwaukee Brewers reserve Tony Gwynn, Jr. and possibly Kansas City Royals star David DeJesus. They also might offer arbitration to Mike Cameron and play him after his 25-game suspension for testing positive for banned stimulants is up.
But the best long-term answer just might be Coco Crisp. Reggie Willits is a more than solid alternative, bout would more than likely require Chase Headley, too. If Towers has to lose Chase Headley, he may opt for the fantastic defense of Crisp over the ability Willits has to get on base.
Crisp, arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game today, would be a force for the Padres in their expansive Petco Park. In addition, his speed would be a plus, especially heading to the National League where he can poke the ball in the gap and just run; something he couldn’t do in Boston. I have no evidence or reason to support this feeling I have, but I think that Coco’s swinging for the fences too often in Fenway — trying to make something happen. Going to an expansive park may cause him to back off aiming for the Monster or Pesky Pole and just concentrate on shooting the balls in the gaps.
The Padres boast Jake Peavy as their ace. His groundball ratio checks in at 45 percent, meaning he coughs up more flyballs than grounders. The number two hurler is Chris Young, who has a 30 percent ratio. The are expected to bring back Greg Maddux to act as their No. 3 starter, and he induces groundballs at a 52 percent rate. While the Nos. 4 and 5 starters are up for debate, they are projected to have Jack Cassell and Brett Tomko fill those roles, and they checked in at 46 percent and 40 percent respectively (Tomko was at 43 percent with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in the season).
Flyball pitchers need an adept centerfielder, especially with the widely-held fact that Petco Park should have three center fielders manning the outfield. Coco Crisp would be a fantastic get for them and could hit in the No. 8 spot in the order (or even lead off).
Switching to the Red Sox’s side, who is Chase Headley, and why should the Red Sox be interested?
Switch-hitting Headley, 23, is out of a job in San Diego with Kevin Kouzmanoff (theoretically, at least) entrenched at third base. Headley was impressive enough to make the jump from Double-A to the majors on June 15th. He went 3-for-17 as a bench player while Brian Giles was on the disabled list. Optioned back down on June 27, he did not return until September 26, and ended his first season in the bigs with a .222/.333/.278 line. In Double-A, he finished at .330/.437/.580.
How’s his fielding? Last year at advanced-A, Headley had a .945 fielding percentage, which was second best in the California League. He committed 18 errors and handled 329 total chances (third most in the league). In 2007, he took another step forward by bashing 20 homeruns and leading the AA Texas League in on-base and slugging percentage (OPS). He finished the year with a .963 fielding percentage, which would have tied Garrett Atkins for ninth in the big leagues in fielding percentage. Alex Rodriguez finished eighth and Lowell tied for 11th.
Baseball Prospectus was pessimistic on Headley’s chances prior to the 2007 season, which now certainly has to be reviewed after his breakthrough 2007 campaign. Prior to 2007, Prospectus pegged Headley as a .250/.324/.392 hitter in the 50th percentile of projections. The 90th percentile was .288/.369/.484, and his 75th percentile (most likely where his projections would average out now that 2007 is in the books) is .271/.348/.442 — a line similar to Kevin Youkilis (.288/.390/.453).
Is that fantastic? All-Star worthy? No. But it’s more than enough to answer any possible concerns of future third basemen in your system (assuming Jed Lowrie doesn’t move to third, which is a very realistic possibility and a topic for another day). Headley also could also turn out to be a perennial All-Star. The future of Headley is bright (which is why Towers would love to hang on to him) and there’s a reason why every GM who talks to the Padres about a trade inquires into him.
The question becomes, if this trade happens, if Headley is ready for big-league duty. He hasn’t seen any time at Triple-A and is only 23. Do you throw him in the fire to replace Mike Lowell, tremendously popular? While I plan on examining Mike Lowell and if he should return later this week, let’s assume for the moment that he does not return. Is Headley the answer? Sure, he could be. But to ask someone to step in those very large shoes when he hasn’t shown any sustained success above Double-A is, to me, something that the Red Sox would not do unless they were absolutely convinced Headley could do it.
Even if this trade happens, our answer at third base may still not be clear; but a possible All-Star in your back pocket won’t be all that bad.
[Note] Two orders of business: One, Fire Brand is now in off-season schedule mode, in which we will have an article up every weekday, but weekends will not have a new post unless there is important breaking news. We Fire Brand writers will certainly be active in the comments on the weekend, though! Two, Tito Crafts regrettably has to bow out of being a Fire Brand writer due to previous commitments that have to take priority. Happy trails, Tito, and thanks!