CLEVELAND -- The Indians' outfield has weathered a number of storms this season, but there is another one coming. If Cleveland reaches the postseason, it will be without the services of Abraham Almonte, eliminating an important layer of outfield depth.
On Wednesday, the Indians acquired veteran outfielder Coco Crisp from the A's, providing some insurance for down the stretch and potentially into October. Oakland received Minor League left-hander Colt Hynes and sent cash along with Crisp to Cleveland, where the outfielder began his Major League career 14 years ago.
"Over the course of the past few weeks," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said, "we looked at alternatives to try to continue to add to our team and improve our position for the balance of September and, if we're fortunate enough to get into the postseason, in October. We feel Coco helps us with that.
"Obviously, he's a guy we know really well. We're excited to welcome him back to the organization."
Crisp is scheduled to join the Indians on Thursday before being officially added to the roster on Friday. Because he was acquired ahead of Wednesday's postseason-eligibility deadline, the outfielder will be able to play for the American League Central-leading Indians if they make the playoffs.
Crisp spent parts of the 2002-05 seasons with the Indians, who acquired him from the Cardinals as part of the Chuck Finley trade in '02. Cleveland later dealt Crisp to Boston as part of a six-player trade on Jan. 27, 2006. In addition to Cleveland, Oakland and Boston, the switch-hitting outfielder has also played for Kansas City over the course of his 15-year career in the big leagues.
The A's will send the Indians just under $1.7 million to as part of the trade, according to the Associated Press.
The Tribe is currently employing a mix of outfielders at all three spots. Almonte, Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall typically start against right-handers, while Brandon Guyer, Rajai Davis and Almonte have received the bulk of the time against lefties. Jose Ramirez has also spent time in left field, but he moved to third base on a regular basis after the Indians parted ways with Juan Uribe earlier this year.
Left fielder Michael Brantley is out for the season after surgery on his right biceps. Cleveland's outfield has remained productive without Brantley, and also overcame the loss of Marlon Byrd, who received a 162-game suspension on June 1 for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug and Prevention Program for the second time in his career.
The latest issue facing the Indians, however, is that Almonte will not be eligible for the postseason if they punch their ticket to October. Almonte was suspended for the first 81 games of this season due to a positive test for a banned performance-enhancing substance, and he is not permitted to play beyond the regular season as part of his punishment.
"That was a big part of it," Antonetti said of acquiring Crisp. "It's a little bit of a complicated calculus that we haven't had to work through before, having a player that can help in the regular season, but not in the postseason. So, that was something that we had to balance."
That is how someone like Crisp became of interest to the Tribe.
Cleveland has used Naquin and Davis in center, but it could use more depth on the corners in light of Almonte's situation. Crisp, 36, has split his time between left and center with the A's this year, but he has rated much better in left field, according to various defensive metrics. Crisp has also hit better against righties (.726 OPS) than lefties (.592 OPS), making him a fit for Almonte's spot.
"He can play left and center. He can come off the bench," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I can't see any scenario where it hurts. If we're fortunate enough to move on, we don't have Abe. That's just the reality of where we are."
Crisp has turned in a .234/.299/.399 slash line with 11 home runs, 24 doubles, four triples, 47 RBIs and 45 runs scored in 102 games for Oakland this year. He has also hit .345 (39-113) with runners on base and has an MLB-leading .424 (28-for-66) average with runners in scoring position (minimum 75 plate appearances).
The switch-hitter is under contract for $11 million and has a $750,000 buyout for next season. Crisp's contract includes a $13 million vesting option for '17, but he does not appear on pace to reach the 130 games or 550 plate appearances required to guarantee that salary.
Earlier this month, Crisp told The San Francisco Chronicle that he was "extremely hurt" over how the A's had handled his playing time this season. Antonetti noted that he and Francona spoke about that situation with Crisp, and informed the outfielder that he would not reach the required plateaus to have the option vest for next season.
Crisp, who cleared waivers prior to the trade, still agreed to waive his 10-and-5 rights (10 years of Major League service, with the last five being with the same organization) to approve the trade to Cleveland.
"Coco chose to come here," Antonetti said. "Tito and I had a chance to talk with him before we completed the trade, and he seemed really excited about coming over here."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.