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Since nobody’s talking yet about the Coco Crisp trade, I will

Today the Royals traded a relief pitcher to the Boston Red Sox for center fielder Coco Crisp.

Crisp is a bit overrated, as most Boston players are, but I have to say I like this trade on several levels.For one, Crisp may or may not be a gold glove-caliber outfielder, but the Royals of recent years have had poor defense. The great Royals teams were built on George Brett’s bat, good defense, good pitching, and speed.

Crisp and David DeJesus give the Royals the best outfield defense they’ve had since the days when Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran patrolled the outfield. (Yes, the Royals had those two at the same time. Yes, they were good then. No, the Royals weren’t, because they didn’t have any pitching.)

But beyond that, Crisp can hit around .270 and steal 20 bases. It’s been years since they’ve had anyone who could do that. Crisp may even pop 15 home runs, which would be welcome, but not necessary. Maybe outside the limelight of Boston, he’s the guy who hit .300 with 15 home runs in Cleveland. But even the guy who hit .264 in 2006 to Boston’s disappointment is much better than their other options.

The knock on Crisp is that he doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but his on base percentage is close to league average. League-average is a huge improvement for the Royals, so there’s no reason not to take that.

The Royals traded a quality relief pitcher to get him, but relief pitchers are fickle. Some have long careers, some have one good year and then turn into batting practice pitchers. Ramon Ramirez looks like he should be a good one, but he’s only had one good year, so he’s not a known quantity.

But Ramirez is replaceable. The Royals have a pretty good track record of scouting and developing relief pitchers. They also have a pretty good track record of trading them at the right time. Meanwhile, they’re terrible at developing outfielders. Chances are the Royals can find a suitable replacement for Ramon Ramirez; there’s nobody in the pipeline who could outplay Crisp. So from that perspective, it makes sense.

Crisp isn’t Carlos Beltran, but arguably he’s a more valuable player than Johnny Damon would be at this stage in his career. His presence in the lineup means the Royals score more runs, and maybe with him stirring stuff up on the bases, he makes some of his teammates better hitters, which leads to even more runs.

Honestly, when I heard about this trade I was surprised. I didn’t think the Royals could get someone like Crisp this cheaply.

The Royals have traded two of their best middle relievers for bats now, but I’m more confident in their ability to locate replacements for those two pitchers than I am in their ability to locate an everyday second baseman somewhere in the system. Quality relief pitchers are a lot more useful when they have leads to protect.

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