5 Reasons Carl Crawford Would Be the Biggest Steal of the Trade Deadline

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJuly 19, 2012

5 Reasons Carl Crawford Would Be the Biggest Steal of the Trade Deadline

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    Carl Crawford just came off the disabled list on Monday, so surely the Boston Red Sox won't be trading him at any point in the next two weeks. 

    ...Right?

    They just might. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported on Wednesday that the Red Sox have called around to gauge what kind of interest there is in Crawford out on the trade market. Specifically, rumor has it that they reached out to the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Then came a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the Red Sox and Marlins went so far as to discuss a trade that would have sent Crawford to Miami for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell.

    That report was ultimately shot down by ESPN's Buster Olney, but by then it was too late. The Internet was already abuzz.

    And let's face it. Where there's this much smoke, there's usually fire. It's not out of the question that the Red Sox truly are considering trading their high-priced left fielder.

    My gut (and common sense) tell me that Crawford is not going to be traded. Not at any point in the next two weeks, anyway. This just isn't a good time for the Red Sox to part ways with Crawford, for a variety of different reasons.

    But let's say Crawford is traded before MLB's July 31 trade deadline. What then?

    He'd be the biggest steal of the trade deadline. Here are five reasons why.

Crawford's Value Is as Low as It Can Be

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    When the 2010 season came to a close, there was little doubt that Crawford was one of the brightest superstars in baseball. He had just put the finishing touches on a season that saw him hit .307/.356/.495 with a career-high 19 home runs. He also stole 47 bases and won his first Gold Glove award.

    Crawford got paid accordingly, as the Red Sox signed him to a seven-year contract worth $142 million.

    Crawford was a massive flop in his first season with the Red Sox. He hit just .255/.289/.405 with 11 home runs and 18 stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, he posted a 0.2 WAR, by far the lowest of his career.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, Crawford then had to have wrist surgery during the offseason, and his return to the majors this season was delayed by elbow discomfort and eventually a groin injury as well.

    The events of the past year-and-a-half have all but killed Crawford's trade value, which would have been sky high if the Rays had decided to put him on the block in the middle of the 2010 season. This obviously puts the Red Sox in a tough spot.

    The Red Sox would no doubt love to demand an arm and a leg for Crawford in a trade, but they can't do that for three reasons.

    One, clubs know full well how badly Crawford struggled in 2011, and he hasn't had enough time this season to prove that his problems are behind him.

    Two, Crawford's injury woes may not be in the past. His elbow is still an issue, and he's admitted that he may need Tommy John surgery at some point. This effectively makes him damaged goods.

    Three, Crawford's contract is massive, so trading for him would be the ultimate risk.

    So if the Red Sox do trade Crawford in the next two weeks, they won't get equal value for him. They also may not be able to get rid of all of Crawford's contact.

    This leads us to out next point.

Boston May Eat Some of Crawford's Contract

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    When star players find their way onto the trading block, their teams are typically looking to trade them for prospects. The idea is to sacrifice the present to build for the future. 

    The Red Sox won't be able to do that with Crawford if they decide to trade him in the next couple of weeks. They might be able to get some young pieces in exchange for him, maybe one or two, but no team is going to hand over blue chip prospects to get a fallen superstar with a damaged elbow and a huge contract.

    A trade involving Crawford would have to be a swap of bad contracts, a la the proposed trade with the Marlins. The Red Sox would take on a bad contract or two and hope that the change of scenery works out, and the team getting Crawford would hope for the same.

    It's either this, or the Red Sox could take what they can get for Crawford and just be content to rid themselves of his contract.

    Or part of it, anyway. The Red Sox will be able to jettison what's left of Crawford's contract if they do a bad contract swap, but anything other than that would likely require the Red Sox to eat a significant amount of what's left on Crawford's deal.

    It's doubtful that the Red Sox would resort to this, but it's the kind of thing that can't be ruled out either.

    You can rest assured that there are at least a couple of clubs out there that would love to bring Crawford aboard. If word got out that the Red Sox were willing to eat some of his contract, the list of suitors would grow.

Crawford Still Has Plenty of Talent

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    Crawford wasn't himself in 2011, but it had nothing to do with a sudden decrease in overall talent. His problems were more mental and mechanical than anything else.

    It was obvious from the start that Crawford's stance at the plate was out of whack. He admitted to Tom Caron of NESN that his stance was too wide open all season, and that's exactly the kind of thing that would lead to a .255 average and a .289 OBP.

    More recently, Crawford told WEEI.com that then-manager Terry Francona made it too difficult for him to get comfortable at the beginning of the 2011 season. He had a couple bad games to start the year, and the next thing he knew he had been dropped to seventh in the batting order.

    As Crawford saw it, he was "cheated out of" a "getting-used-to-type period."

    Crawford never really found a home in Boston's batting order last season. He hit first, second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

    Because he was bouncing around so much in the lineup, Crawford said he felt like he didn't have Francona's confidence. That wore on him, and he said it got "worse and worse as the days went by."

    A sudden decrease in talent is something that can't be fixed. Mechanical and mental struggles are things that can be fixed. 

    Already, you can tell that Crawford's stance is more closed than it was at any point last season. So that problem has been fixed. All he has to do now is get his head in the right place.

    He may not be able to do that in Boston, but that doesn't mean he couldn't do it elsewhere.

Crawford Is a Perfect Change of Scenery Candidate

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    One long-held baseball belief claims that some players just aren't cut out to play in New York, where the media pressure is constant and the fans demand nothing but the best.

    These days, playing in Boston is no different. Hub fans have come to expect excellence from the Red Sox now that the Curse of the Bambino is over and done with, and the Boston media is renowned for being both ubiquitous and hard to deal with.

    Crawford spent the first nine seasons of his career in Tampa Bay, a place that couldn't be more different than Boston. Rays players don't have to put up with nearly the same kind of media scrutiny that Boston players do, and they play in front of a fanbase that only shows up in droves when the Rays are in the playoffs (or if there are free tickets being offered).

    Nobody will ever get Crawford to admit that he's just not cut out for life in Boston, but that's the kind of thing one can't help but be skeptical about. He struggled mainly due to mechanical and mental problems in 2011, but it could be that he struggled because he was a fish out of water.

    All of this is reason enough to believe that Crawford could benefit from a change of scenery. 

    We can also factor in the reality that Crawford's game doesn't really fit in Boston's home ballpark. Fenway Park favors lefty hitters with opposite field power strokes more than it favors line drive hitters who love to hit balls into the gaps.

    That's what Crawford does best. He's not the kind of player who's going to pepper the Green Monster with line drives on a regular basis.

    Crawford therefore could benefit from both a new city and a new ballpark. He's the ultimate change of scenery candidate.

Marketability

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    Crawford certainly has the salary of a superstar, as he's on the books for roughly $20 million per season. But in Boston, he's more of a complementary player than he is a superstar.

    David Ortiz is the biggest star on the Red Sox, and has been for close to a decade at this point. Dustin Pedroia is a fan favorite who won the AL MVP award in 2008. Jacoby Ellsbury nearly won the AL MVP award in 2011. Adrian Gonzalez was brilliant in his first season with the Red Sox in 2011 after arriving in Boston via an offseason trade.

    On the mound, the Red Sox have one of the top left-handers in baseball in Jon Lester, who fans love because he's a cancer survivor that went on to become a World Series hero in 2007. Josh Beckett was also a World Series hero that year. Clay Buchholz is a homegrown star who pitched a no-hitter in just his second career start.

    Crawford played on some good teams towards the end of his career in Tampa Bay, but he never played on a team as star-studded as the Red Sox. Among his Boston teammates, Crawford's star power does not stand out.

    If he were to be moved to another team, this would change.

    If a team were to acquire Crawford, they would immediately start marketing him him as a must-see superstar. Think along the lines of what the Los Angeles Dodgers did after they acquired Manny Ramirez in 2008 with the whole "Mannywood" movement. A Crawford trade could generate that kind of buzz.

    Any team that acquires Crawford would therefore be getting a steal from both a baseball perspective and a business perspective. Fans tend to overlook the business side of things, but it's pretty darned important.

    Especially when it comes to players with huge salaries like Crawford. 

     

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