Carl Crawford could be on his way out of Boston in the near future.
Note the word choice. "Could" is not to be confused with "will."
In fact, the only reason "could" works here is because the Red Sox placed their disappointing (and very high-priced) left fielder on waivers on Wednesday. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that news:
Most everyone will be put on trade waivers over the next few weeks. Today it was Nick Punto and Carl Crawford.— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) August 1, 2012
As MLBTradeRumors.com pointed out in their rundown of MLB's waiver rules, placing players on waivers is oftentimes just a means for teams to gauge what kind of interest there is in their players. Many players are placed on waivers every August. Few are moved.
Crawford's situation is particularly complicated. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote on Wednesday, Crawford's $100 million-plus contract is a huge hurdle, and his elbow is a ticking time bomb. To put it lightly, his contract is a burden that no club wants to deal with.
So he could be moved, but he probably won't be going anywhere. For what it's worth, I'd put the odds of him actually going somewhere at roughly 100-1.
But there's bound to at least be some interest in Crawford. Here's a look at five teams that will probably kick the tires on him at some point in the next few weeks.
Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (L) and manager Eric Wedge (R).
The Mariners just got rid of one veteran outfielder, shipping Ichiro to the New York Yankees for a pair of mediocre pitching prospects. With him out of the picture, they're moving headlong into a youth movement that will hopefully translate into a few more wins in the near future.
I bring the Mariners into the Crawford discussion because fewer teams have gotten worse production out of their left fielders than the Mariners. Their left fielders have hit .219/.296/.363 with a weighted on-base average of .294 that ranks 25th in the league, according to FanGraphs.
Crawford would be a better fit in Seattle than in Boston, and this has everything to do with Safeco Field being more perfectly suited to Crawford's offensive game than Fenway Park is. Fenway is not a good park for gap hitters. Safeco is one of the best parks for gap hitters.
Granted, Casper Wells looks like a decent outfielder, and the Mariners just made a move to acquire Eric Thames from the Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Saunders is a decent young player.
But among the three, it's hard to see any star potential. The rest of Seattle's lineup could do with a little star power as well.
That's why the Mariners could be kicking the tires on Crawford, and they could rationalize their interest in him by telling themselves that Crawford needs to go back to playing in a small market.
And indeed, he could flourish playing at Safeco Field.
The only issue would be the money. Crawford would have to go back to being a star attraction for him to be worth the Mariners' trouble, and that makes dealing for him a calculated risk.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson
Slowly but surely, the Mets have faded out of the postseason picture in the National League. They are quickly approaching "Better luck next year" territory.
If they're not already there, of course.
Still, it became apparent throughout the course of the season that the Mets have a solid foundation in place for success in the immediate future. If they add a few pieces here and there, they'll be able to contend in the NL East next season and beyond.
They're a team that could use some help in left field. They've gotten decent production out of their left fielders this season, but the two guys who have logged more time than anyone else in left this season are Jason Bay and Scott Hairston.
One of those guys is on his last legs. The other guy is essentially a career backup, and a pending free agent to boot.
So why not go for a guy like Crawford and secure a star-level left fielder for the rest of 2012 and beyond?
The money isn't as big an issue now as it would have been a year ago, as the worst of the organization's financial crisis is over. The team will be able to steadily increase its payroll in the coming years if it wants to. If that's the route the organization chooses to pursue, Crawford's contract conceivably could fit into their plans.
The bigger concern, perhaps, would be the fact that Crawford would be moving from a big market in Boston to an even bigger market in New York. That could be a recipe for disaster.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski
When Crawford was looking for a contract back in the winter of 2010, the Tigers had some interest in him.
Their interest apparently died once they found out that Crawford was looking for $20 million annually. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told MLive.com that "those were the type of dollars we were not prepared to go in that direction.”
A little over a year later, Dombrowski inked Prince Fielder to a nine-year deal worth $214 million. That's an annual average of just under $24 million.
Well, Dombrowski had a need to fill and money to spend. If that's all it took for him to sign Fielder, maybe he'll consider making a move for Crawford.
And why not? The Tigers could use a boost in left field, as their left fielders have managed just a .257/.308/.382 line with a .304 wOBA. Quintin Berry has given the Tigers some stability in left field, but he's started to struggle at the plate and doesn't look like much of a long-term answer. He'd be better off as a fourth outfielder.
The notion of the Tigers making a run at a big-money risk in Crawford may seem absurd at first mention, but keep in mind that these Tigers have their hearts set on winning now. That's why they gave up a top prospect in Jacob Turner to get Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. The future just isn't as important as the present.
Crawford could help the Tigers in the present. Not unlike Safeco Field, Comerica Park is a great fit for Crawford. His .809 OPS in 27 games there dwarfs his .720 OPS in 147 games at Fenway Park.
Detroit's payroll would become even more bloated if Crawford were to come aboard, but keep in mind that Jose Valverde and Delmon Young are set to come off the books, and Jhonny Peralta has a $6 million option that could be declined.
Reds GM Walt Jocketty
The Cincinnati Reds are a scary team. They have great pitching, and they're playing their best baseball of the season now without the help of 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto.
There are few things the Reds don't have, but they are a team with an Achilles heel.
The Reds need a leadoff hitter. Badly.
Reds leadoff hitters are hitting .201/.246/.311 this season. They rank dead-last in the majors in average and OBP and second-to-last in slugging.
It's been a while since Crawford was featured primarily in the leadoff spot. In fact, the last time he logged a significant amount of at-bats hitting leadoff was in 2005. Since then, he's evolved into more of a middle-of-the-order hitter.
But Crawford definitely still has the skill-set to handle leadoff duties. And frankly, anybody would be better than what the Reds have been using in the leadoff spot this season. They shouldn't rule out any options, especially not high-reward options like Crawford.
Naturally, the financial aspect of a Crawford acquisition would be a problem for the Reds. They tend to be careful with their money, as they tend to operate with a payroll well under $100 million. Adding Crawford would compromise the way they do things.
The Reds would have to win the World Series in order for Crawford to be worth it. That would justify the acquisition itself and would open the door to additional revenue to help ease the burden of Crawford's annual salary.
But that's just the thing. If the Reds were to acquire Crawford, they'd have everything they need to go win the World Series.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (C)
This one should be obvious.
After all, there's only one team in baseball that has actually shown a willingness to take on Crawford and his contract, and that team is the Marlins.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, it was the Marlins who pitched the idea of trading Crawford in mid-July. At the time, their offer was Heath Bell and Hanley Ramirez for Crawford.
ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the proposal died immediately.
Still, it makes sense that the Marlins were so interested in Crawford. They haven't gotten good production out of their left fielders this season, nor do they have any long-term solutions in place for left field.
With Ramirez's contract having since been sent to the Dodgers, the Marlins do have some payroll flexibility to play with. Crawford should appeal to them as a good way to spend that money because his speed would fit well in a lineup that already features Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio. And indeed, his game would play well at Marlins Park, which is as spacious as they come.
It all depends on what the Marlins want to be going forward. Do they want to keep playing at being rich, or do they want to go back to being penny-pinchers?
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