Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said he would make the infamous Josh Beckett/Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Nick Punto deal with the Red Sox from 2012 all over again, even after Crawford was designated for assignment last week after four disappointing years in Los Angeles, the last two in particular.
“Absolutely,” said Kasten about the trade, in which the Dodgers assumed $265 million in salary. “At the time it was good for us given what was going on at the time with new ownership and negotiating a new TV deal. Carl gave us a couple of good years. He contributed and enabled us to develop our young outfielders, which we were always going to do.”
The Dodgers were willing to eat the $35 million remaining on Crawford’s seven-year, $142 million deal. The likely outcome is that Crawford will not be claimed after he’s put on waivers, and he’ll be released.
In this space in February, I wrote, “Don’t be shocked if the Dodgers part ways with Carl Crawford and eat the remaining $42 million on his contract. There comes a point of diminishing returns — and a time to fill his roster spot with a younger, more productive player — and it seems the Dodgers are getting closer to that point.”
Well, it finally happened.
Crawford, arguably the worst free agent signing in Red Sox history, was in the sixth season of that horrible deal. For all the things Theo Epstein did here, this was among the worst. At the time, many of us in the media were on board with the signing. Crawford was a Red Sox killer with the Rays. He was a dynamic player who could run. The feeling was he’d be a doubles machine at Fenway Park.
In 147 career games against the Red Sox — just three coming with the Dodgers, in 2013 — Crawford is a .301 hitter with 12 homers, 61 RBIs, a .774 OPS, and 64 stolen bases in 68 attempts. Crawford wasn’t even a fraction of that player in his last two stops.
The biggest fear when the Red Sox signed Crawford was that, as a speed-based player, he would eventually wear down and not be the effective player he was in Tampa. That fear was realized as a combination of injuries and general decline eventually made Crawford a disposable player by age 34. He did have stretches of productivity, but they didn’t last very long.
Crawford is hitting just .185 with a .464 OPS in 81 at-bats this season, after being limited to 69 games last year.
It was a dream come true for the Red Sox when the Dodgers came along and wanted Gonzalez. The Sox made them take on the hefty contracts of Beckett and Crawford, and Punto was a useful player thrown in at the Dodgers’ request. The Dodgers certainly knew of Crawford’s decline, but they had to take on his contract to secure Gonzalez, whom the Red Sox did not want to deal.
Gonzalez remains an everyday contributor in Los Angeles. But besides Crawford’s limited contributions, Beckett went 8-14 with a 3.39 ERA before retiring after the 2014 season, and Punto spent parts of two years with the Dodgers before leaving in free agency.
The deal didn’t do much for the Red Sox, either.
They obtained veteran first baseman James Loney, but he played only 30 games with Boston.
Pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were also part of the return package. De La Rosa was eventually flipped to Arizona for lefty Wade Miley and he remains part of the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation. Webster is now pitching in Korea. Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus rounded out the Red Sox’ take in the deal. Sands was recently DFA’d by the White Sox, and De Jesus is a utility infielder with the Reds.
Crawford was definitely a creature of his comfort zone in Tampa. There were few media and a mostly empty stadium, so he never had to worry about an intense fan base. He could basically hide in the background.
When he got to Boston, he became a whiner and blamed his lack of success on everything and anything but himself. One of the least accountable people I’ve seen come through Boston in the 32 years I’ve been around the team. Even in LA, he often blamed the Boston media for making his Red Sox experience uncomfortable, when in fact the local media was extremely fair with him through his injuries and unproductive seasons.
“I don’t know what it was,” Kasten said about Crawford’s decline, “but this year he was not the same, so rather than continue with it, and with our young guys coming, we decided on this move.”
Will someone take a chance on him? The answers have been mixed. One veteran scout said, “He’s got nothing left. I can’t see it, but it only takes one team to give him that chance.”
Perhaps a change of scenery could revive Crawford’s career, maybe even a return to Tampa Bay.
There have been rumors about the Giants taking a chance. The Giants have been successful with reclamation projects (Pat Burrell, for instance) and sometimes will go that route before spending on a big-name guy.
There’s also a question of how motivated Crawford is to want to play at a high level again. With $35 million awaiting him, maybe he’s had enough. We’ll soon find out.
Rangers using the whole roster
The Rangers have been one of the top teams in baseball this season, having overcome some serious obstacles while certain players have really stepped up.
They lost Josh Hamilton to knee surgery, costing them arguably their second-biggest power bat for the season. They have also received poor production from Prince Fielder (.302 slugging percentage), who was recently benched.
“Sometimes, you just get to a point where you’ve got to put the bat down and exhale,” manager Jeff Banister said. “Prince is in a good place mentally. He’ll be back doing the same things he did for us last year. He’s going to be a force for us. He is a quality hitter. There are times when the game is a challenge.”
Yet they have received great work from Ian Desmond, the former Washington shortstop who was signed to a one-year deal to play the outfield. Desmond started out in left field, but now he’s the starting center fielder and performing well offensively and defensively. Desmond is hitting .305 with eight homers, 38 RBIs, and an .829 OPS.
In addition, the Rangers have a star in young outfielder Nomar Mazara, who has taken over the third spot in the lineup and was hitting .320 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs through his first 200 big league at-bats. Desmond and Mazara have made up for the losses of Hamilton and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (limited to six games) and the subpar performance of Fielder.
The other player who has stepped up is former top prospect Jurickson Profar, who was called up while Rougned Odor served his seven-game suspension for punching Toronto slugger Jose Bautista. Profar not only hit in all seven games, Banister had no choice but to keep him on the roster. Profar has become Texas’s version of Brock Holt.
The Rangers have also received good pitching from Cole Hamels, who has been a consistent ace. The Rangers got a scare during Yu Darvish’s third start since returning from his Tommy John surgery when he experienced some shoulder stiffness. But he seems to be OK and is scheduled to make his next scheduled start Monday vs. Oakland. The Rangers will try to add a bullpen piece before the trading deadline.
Apropos of nothing
1. “Spaceman,” the movie about Bill Lee, will be released by FilmBuff on Aug. 19 in select theaters. The film, written and directed by Brett Rapkin, stars Josh Duhamel as Lee. Academy Award nominee Ron Shelton and former Cy Young Award winner (and former Red Sox) Eric Gagne are listed as executive producers. The film will also be available on all major On Demand platforms.
2. Just as the Dodgers did with Carl Crawford’s contract, shouldn’t the Phillies do the same with Ryan Howard’s? I understand there’s more history with Howard and it’s an emotional issue in Philly, but he has been replaced by Tommy Joseph and the situation is drawing attention that will become, if it hasn’t already, a distraction. It’s time to cut ties and eat the remainder of his $25 million salary.
3. The White Sox may be at .500 after a strong start but they’re trying to position themselves for a run. On Friday they DFA’d veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins and called up shortstop Tim Anderson, 22, who was hitting .304 with 11 steals at Triple A Charlotte. They recently signed Justin Morneau, hoping he can complete his rehab and contribute later in the summer, and acquired James Shields, who had a tough debut. They also suffered a blow by losing Austin Jackson for two months. That means they could use another lefthanded bat, and that should put Jay Bruce, Nick Markakis, and Carlos Gonzalez in play. The White Sox were 23-10 on May 9 with a six-game lead in the AL Central, but lost 20 of their next 26 to drop to .500 and 3½ games behind the Indians through Thursday.
4. The A’s have had at least three players on the disabled list every day of the regular season since July 30, 2011, a span of 1,776 days.
5. Tough break for Oakland lefty Rich Hill, who’s on the 15-day DL with a groin injury. Hill was one of baseball’s top pitchers and also a top trade chip. His curveball has been virtually unhittable. The A’s have had tough luck with both of their major trade chips, Hill and Josh Reddick, who is also a free agent at the end of the season. Reddick (thumb) should return before the trade deadline but suitors will need to see that he’s healthy.
6. Hitters have seemed to forget that they’re not supposed to wander out of the batter’s box after a called ball or strike. But after a few warning letters and fines were issued by the league, the practice has been reduced quite a bit. A new rule that has been mostly adhered to is the 30-second rule for mound visits by the pitching coach.
Updates on nine
1. Matt Kemp, LF, Padres — After trading James Shields, the Padres would love to move Kemp, according to a major league source. The Padres are willing to absorb some of the remaining money on his deal ($21.5 million per year from 2016-19). Kemp has been productive offensively with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs, but has been a liability defensively. The Giants would love a righthanded hitter with power, especially with Hunter Pence out, but whether Kemp is the answer remains to be seen. Some baseball execs are pointing to Melvin Upton Jr. as perhaps a better trade target on the Padres because he has the defensive component to his game and has hit better than he has in a few years.
2. Daniel Hudson, RHP, Diamondbacks — As a pending free agent, Hudson is starting to become a hot name in the trade market. Hudson, 29, is a reliever now following two Tommy John surgeries, and he has a 1.52 ERA and 0.761 WHIP in 24 appearances this season. The D-backs say they’re not going to sell off parts just yet.
3. Mat Latos, RHP, White Sox — When you think something is too good to be true, it usually is. Latos started out like gangbusters for the White Sox — a 0.74 ERA in his first 24⅓ innings this season — and he simply couldn’t sustain it. He was DFA’d last week. Latos’s fastball velocity has dropped each of the last two years, and even at age 28 it appears he’s lost his stuff. “He had one decline after another and he couldn’t stop it,” said one AL scout. ‘That’s pretty alarming and certainly a red flag.”
4. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers — The fact that Lucroy is still with the Brewers is shocking to some baseball executives, given the dearth of catching in the majors, especially one who hits as well as Lucroy. One NL executive thinks the Brewers may be asking for an unrealistic return, and that Lucroy could be moved closer to the trade deadline.
5. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers — “That’s the name I’m waiting for,” said one AL executive about the trade market. Two things are keeping Braun from being moved: the five-year, $105 extension that began this season, and Braun’s PED history. But Braun is back to being an impact player, and $20 million per year is about right for a slugger of his magnitude. It’s all about how much money the Brewers are willing to take on; a higher amount would demand a deeper prospect package in return.
6. Shane Victorino, OF, free agent — Victorino’s agent, John Boggs, says he’s still actively looking for a new team for the veteran outfielder after the Cubs released him a couple of weeks ago. Victorino hasn’t been able to get over the hump physically, but feels he’s close. The Cubs recently reacquired Chris Coghlan from the A’s to fill an extra outfield spot that they had earmarked for Victorino.
7. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Marlins — At this writing, he was 27 hits short of 3,000 for his 17-year major league career. As the Marlins’ fourth outfielder, Ichiro is hitting .333 this season with an OPS of .764. It’s been a remarkable career, and he’s still relevant at age 42 as an extra player who can run and play defense. Ichiro also had 1,278 hits in Japan to go with his 504 steals and 10 Gold Gloves in the majors.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs did a great breakdown of Ichiro’s season, where he has the lowest strikeout rate of his career and in all of baseball. He has struck out only six times in 125 plate appearances.
8. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves — The Braves will listen on Teheran, who is 2-6 with a 2.85 ERA in 13 starts, but it will cost a small fortune to get him. Teheran is 25 and reaching the peak of his career. There’s split opinions within the Braves organization on whether it’s better to trade Teheran or build around him, since he can’t become a free agent until 2020. Teams have already approached the Braves, but no one has met the caliber of package it would take to pry him away.
9. Joey Gallo, 3B/1B, Rangers — The guy known for his prodigious home runs is becoming a good all-around hitter in Triple A, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s up with the Rangers, especially with Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder struggling. Gallo has a 1.077 OPS with Round Rock and is taking far more walks than before. The Rangers have been waiting for the finished product for a while. Yes, he’s blocked by Adrian Beltre at third, but he could always move to first base.
From Bill Arnold’s goodie bag: For the first time in franchise history, the Rays faced a starter with the surname of Ray when they took on Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks last Monday; the club had faced reliever Chris Ray 29 times from 2005-11 . . . Happy birthday, Damon Buford (46).
Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran may not make it to Cooperstown — he never led his league in any major offensive category in 19 seasons — but the eight-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year has been as consistent as they come. His 162-game averages are .281/.354/.492 with 28 homers and 102 RBIs. He also became a member of two very select groups this season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.