As he approached the final season of his contract, Coco Crisp said he already knew Oakland was where he wanted to be going forward. For the A’s, the feeling was mutual.
On the eve of the team’s annual FanFest at O.co Coliseum, the A’s on Friday announced they’ve agreed to terms with Crisp, their center fielder and leadoff hitter, on a two-year extension to keep the 12-year veteran in Oakland through the 2016 season.
The two-year deal was reported at $22.75 million and includes a vesting option for 2017. Should the option be exercised, the deal would take Crisp through age 37.
Clad in the A’s new green alternate jersey at the team’s media day Friday, Crisp said the extension talks picked up recently and “just kind of progressed into something that might turn into a contract before spring training.”
“But whether it happened after the season or before, this was the place I wanted to be,” Crisp said, “so I’m happy with coming back for more than just this year.”
Crisp cited a handful of reasons for wanting to stay in Oakland, including Bob Melvin’s managerial style, his familiarity with teammates and fans and proximity to his family in Southern California. The A’s, meanwhile, retain the player Melvin calls the “igniter” of their offense, who also has had one of baseball’s best gloves in center field the past two seasons.
Crisp batted .261 for the American League West champion A’s last season, while hitting a career-high 22 home runs, scoring 93 runs and stealing 21 bases. Defensively, he led all major-league outfielders in chances per nine innings (3.03) and did not commit an error in 110 games in center field. He enters this season with a 138-game errorless streak.
Perhaps the main challenge during Crisp’s four seasons with the A’s has been keeping him on the field – he has missed time to injuries and admitted Friday to being “a little beat up last year with my legs,” citing it as a factor in his lowest stolen-base total since 2009, when he played in just 49 games.
Crisp indicated that he wasn’t as aggressive on the base paths last year in an effort to stay healthy over the full season – he ended up playing in 131 games – and that while he did not make a conscious effort to hit for more power, his home run total “kind of helped out with the lull in the stolen-base department.”
“My focus is to get on base and try to move to the next base and get in scoring position with my legs,” Crisp said. “Hopefully (this season) I can get on base and be the player I know I can be on the base paths. If the home runs come, that’ll be amazing as well.”
Staying in Oakland, Crisp added, gives him the opportunity to continue working with A’s instructor and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, whom Crisp said is his favorite all-time player. The center fielder also said he appreciated a recent gesture by owner Lew Wolff, who let Crisp use his private jet to fly home on short notice for the birth of his child.
Fellow outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who Friday said he too hopes for an extension from the A’s, said Crisp’s new deal is “great for the team.”
“He’s the real key in this team,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “He’s an inspiration to this team, he does so much for this team, and I’m very happy he got this extension.”
The 28-year-old left fielder experienced a drop-off in his second major-league season last year, batting .240 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs after hitting .292 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs as a rookie. Speaking to a group of reporters Friday, Cespedes said he struggled to adjust to pitchers who now know how to pitch to him, and felt he wasn’t “strong-minded” enough in dealing with the lack of success.
Cespedes said he spent the winter increasing his strength and worked on shortening his swing – to make better contact – something he said won’t deplete his trademark power.
Asked also about high-profile offseason moves made by the Angels and Rangers in the West, Cespedes said: “I don’t know if we’re going to be favorites, but I know this – the Athletics are going to be in the playoffs again. I don’t know how, but we are going to be in the playoffs.”
• Crisp and Cespedes are among the A’s players scheduled to be at today’s FanFest, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The A’s announced the 20,000 tickets to the event are sold out, and that events will proceed as scheduled even if it rains.