ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Oakland A’s have brought back defensive outfielder extraordinaire Coco Crisp with a two year contract worth a guaranteed $14 million. The deal will pay Crisp $6 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, and includes a $1 million buyout if the club doesn’t exercise its $7.5 million option in 2014.

What you think of Coco Crisp’s 2011 campaign likely depends a lot on what source you trust when it comes to numbers. His reputation for defensive excellence took a bit of a hit through UZR and DRS last season. However, according to Baseball Prospectus, he had his best defensive season since patrolling Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox in 2006.

One thing is for certain, his health was once again an issue as Crisp was listed as Day-to-Day nine separate times in 2011, and failed to register 600 plate appearances for the sixth year in a row. Despite all that missed time and putting up the second worst on base percentage of his career, the center fielder somehow managed to steal 49 bases, while only getting caught nine times.

On the surface, committing $14 million for a player who has trouble staying on the field may seem like a bit much. However, prior to agreeing to the contract, the A’s had committed less than $30 million in payroll for 2012. Such a low salary structure was bound to catch the ire of Major League Baseball’s Players Association.

Even without the incentive to keep the MLBPA from filing a grievance, Crisp only has to put up less than two wins a season for the deal to be worthwhile at that salary to Oakland. That shouldn’t be a problem for the 32 year old, who despite his injuries, has been able to put up better than average win totals according to every WAR measurement over the last couple seasons.

Assuming Josh Reddick is the starter in right field, the Crisp signing could lead to a competition between Colin Cowgill and Michael Taylor for the starting left fielder position.

Exciting times in Oakland. Exciting times. But, at least it’s better than this.