Coco Crisp is headed for free agency this winter, and he's bringing a checklist with him.
On it are all the things he finds most important when choosing a team.
"The things most ballplayers look at are a chance to win, location and the financial situation," said Crisp, who provided the game-winning RBI in Thursday's 4-3 A's victory over the Texas Rangers. "For me, it's those three in order. When you're older, you just want to go someplace where you can win."
Crisp, still just 31, believes the A's have the ingredients to be a contender in 2012, so that's a good starting point if the team tries to bring back the switch-hitting center fielder for a third season.
"We have some great players, especially the pitching staff," Crisp said. "Everybody is going to come back healthy next year. So it's a good place to play and an opportunity to win."
The A's face several important decisions on impending free agents, most notably left fielder Josh Willingham, their home run and RBI leader. But the call on Crisp also is crucial.
He ranks second in the American League with 43 stolen bases, leads the A's with 67 runs, and his .270 batting average is second among A's regulars. He's also chipped in eight homers and 52 RBIs.
But there's no one stat that defines what Crisp means to the team. Throw in the excellent range and sure hands he provides in center, and he rates as the A's best all-around player.
Thursday Crisp scored Jemile Weeks with an eighth-inning single that helped the A's avoid a three-game sweep in their final home game.
"When we play good games, he always seems to be right in the middle of it," A's manager Bob Melvin said recently.
The A's have no in-house replacement ready for Crisp, whose only weakness is a below-average arm.
Ryan Sweeney is quite capable defensively but doesn't have Crisp's power or base-stealing ability.
Grant Green, the A's 2009 first-round pick, was converted from shortstop to center field this season with Double-A Midland. It's unlikely he'll be major league ready out of spring training.
Top 2010 pick Michael Choice played center for Single-A Stockton but appears to be at least a season away.
So the A's figure to try to re-sign Crisp after picking up his $5.75 million club option this season.
Weeks, the rookie second baseman who along with Crisp provides the A's a speedy 1-2 combo atop the lineup, said he's learned from Crisp the importance of studying opposing pitchers.
"I think he's showed me a more controlled way to do things," Weeks said. "The way he does it is off of pre-knowledge. He's not out there running wild."
Crisp returning may depend on how hard he's pursued by other teams.
He has a reputation for being injury-prone, but he's played in 130 games this season, his most since 2007. He's missed time with calf and ankle injuries but has avoided the disabled list.
Crisp probably would be the top free-agent center fielder available in an overall weak outfield class unless Cleveland were to decline Grady Sizemore's $8.5 million option for 2012.
"I love playing here," Crisp said. "I love the guys. I'm a huge Raiders fan, I have family out here, and I love California. It's where I'm from. But you weigh your options and go from there."