Is It Time To Trade Carl Crawford?

During the down years, the Rays often had just a single bright spot, and his name was Carl Crawford. He was the star toiling in obscurity, putting up +4.5 to +5.0 win seasons for three straight years on terrible teams. He combined electrifying speed with gap power and terrific defense, making him one of the game’s truly consistent five tool players.

However, while the Rays boomed last year, Crawford’s bat went bust, and it hasn’t recovered through the first several weeks of April. His power has gone south while he’s simultaneously making less contact, and that’s never a good combination. He still chases too many pitches out of the strike zone, but he could get away with it when he was punishing pitches over the plate.

While they’re certainly contenders again this year, and Crawford has plenty of time to rebound and return to previous form, I have to wonder if the Rays aren’t beginning to think that now might be a good time to explore trading their left fielder. After all, the organization isn’t really hurting for outfielders.

Ben Zobrist‘s early season surge has pushed the planned Gabe Gross/Gabe Kapler platoon to the back burner. Zobrist showed some legitimate skills last summer, and his defense in the outfield has been much better than expected after making the transition from a poor defensive infielder. If Tampa feels that Zobrist can continue to make strides and play at a level worthy of regular playing time, the Gross/Kapler platoon is a ready-made Crawford replacement already on the roster.

The team isn’t hurting for depth beyond those guys, either. Matt Joyce, acquired in the Edwin Jackson trade, is hanging in Triple-A waiting for a chance to get back to the majors after an impressive rookie campaign. Behind him, 22-year-old top prospect Desmond Jennings is destroying the Double-A Southern League, and showing the tools that make him one of the most exciting young players in the minors. If Fernando Perez is able to return from injury, he’d add yet another outfield option.

The Rays are flush with outfielders to the point that they don’t have playing time for the talent they have on hand, much less the talent they have waiting for a promotion. Dealing Crawford might not seem like the most usual move for a team trying to win now, but it might be worth exploring the market to see if a deal is out there that makes sense. The marginal hit they’d take in replacing him could be significantly less than the improvement they’d be able to make elsewhere.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


41 Responses to “Is It Time To Trade Carl Crawford?”

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  1. Not to mention the budget relief gained.

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  2. Josh says:

    Certainly makes some sense. As a Giants fan, I would like him patrolling the OF in AT&T. What would you expect the Rays would want in return (obviously this is all speculation, but I’m curious)? The Rays have talented arms in their system, talented young OF replacements, and talent literally littered all over the diamond. Just thinking out loud, but I would love to see the Giants move Randy Winn in a deal and/or Nate Schierholtz if he’s just going to be a 4th OF. The Giants also have a wealth of young pitching in the minors Bumgarner, Alderson, Sosa and Barnes and in the majors Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and maybe eventually Noah Lowry again. The Giants seemingly also have depth at C with Bengie and current 3B Pablo Sandoval as well as Jackson Williams (certainly an offensive liability, but a defensive whiz) and Buster Posey. Any chance if Crawford were on the market you could see the Giants as a player for Crawford?

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  3. Jacob Jackson says:

    Great topic, Dave. Very insightful and timely – it really got me thinking about teams that might be interested.

    Like R.J. pointed out, Crawford is just about to get much more expensive, and on top of that, the outfield FA market next year might not look too pretty by October.

    If Holliday’s Oakland experience dampens his value, Bay re-ups in Boston, and Vlad’s injury ends up being serious (several “ifs” I know), suddenly the opportunity to acquire Crawford would look even more attractive.

    You could make an argument at that point that he’d be the best available outfielder, via FA or trade (if he were to become truly available).

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    • whitty says:

      A serious injury for Vlad isn’t that much of a stretch. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if he continues to show signs of breaking down.

      As for Crawford… I think the phrase is “eminently tradable”.

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  4. theraysparty says:

    If Desmond Jennings was the real deal, I wouldn’t mind Crawford leaving for DJ. But that won’t happen until at least a year. There would be some serious back lash from the Rays fans.

    Crawford has a lot value in defense, whihc he should have a gold glove. And he can’t be put down the order with his salary which is a little high for his current production. But I say last year was just one of those years and we should see him pick up his game in a month like he always does (usually in Toronto but that is in late June).

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  5. Jeff Nye says:

    Dave, you had to know this question was coming but…any chance the Mariners could put together a package for Crawford that’d make sense for both teams?

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  6. Rome says:

    Last year with CC, he just didn’t pick up any steam. You have to think if Crawford doesn’t injure his wrist he would have improved his production considerablely.

    With that said, if CC were to be traded the Rays are looking for you talent to restock there minors. They could use an answer in catcher, if Navi doesn’t return to ’08 form, and a closer would be another ideal choice for the Rays.

    Finally, is it possible to trade CC for a better ballpark?

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  7. Tone says:

    I love Carl, as a fan that trade would be a knife to my gut. I’m hoping that they will somehow re-sign him, but I know the harsh realities of greedy wall street guys such as the Rays’ owners. The more in their pocket the better ;so I’m sure we can kiss him goodbye. The DJ’s and Joyce’s are very cool to say the least but Carl has been PROVEN for years.

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  8. David says:

    I don’t think the Mariners have enough minor league depth to be interesting here. I see Clement, Aumont, and Morrow as the main possibilities, but why would Seattle want to trade away any of these guys (except Clement) in this stage of rebuilding?

    The Giants? It’s a slightly better possibility. Bumgarner and Posey are pretty much untouchable. I could see Villalona headlining a deal – as far as I can tell, Tampa Bay doesn’t have an in-house replacement for Carlos Pena. Randy Winn? Maybe. Tampa Bay is so deep, it’s hard for me to make realistic trade scenarios involving them.

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    • Jeff Nye says:

      I’d trade any of those three at this point in a Crawford trade, honestly; now that Aumont and Morrow are relievers they’re a lot less valuable in my mind, and I see Clement only ever blossoming elsewhere (similar to the Adam Jones situation, although he is much less talented than Jones), plus Adam Moore is waiting in the wings.

      Crawford/Gutierrez/Ichiro would still be one hell of a defensive outfield, and Crawford would give some badly needed left-handed hitting as well.

      If Clement/Aumont and a minor piece would get it done…man, I’d have to think awful hard about it.

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      • Marlowe says:

        If Jack Z can’t extend Beltre and/or Bedard, who is going to be standing in the infield besides Felix and Lopez? Branyan is winning some hearts (including mine) at first, and I suspect we’ll see what Cedeno can do at short soon, but on the mound and at third there is quite a void. I’d gladly trade Clement or new relievers Morrow and Aumont at this point, and Crawford would further solidify our awesome outfield, but we may need to save those guys for trades covering other gaping holes.

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      • Scott says:

        Trading for one or two year players is what led to the 101 loss season in the first place. All the M’s should be doing is trying to clear the horrendous contracts they have on the books and developing young talent. Crawford won’t help do that, resigning Bedard and Beltre definitely won’t do that.

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      • Jeff Nye says:

        No, horrible talent evaluation is what led to the 101 loss season.

        There is no reason for the Mariners to do a Cleveland-style rebuild.

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  9. Johnson says:

    If I were a general manager, I’d be reluctant to acquire any power/speed guys whose performance has inexplicably tanked the past two years. There’s no “innocent until proven guitly” when you’re doling out million dollar contracts.

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    • Ray says:

      He hasn’t tanked. He is 27 this year, and you can expect reasonable consistency in the ages of 28-34, barring injury.

      Crawford is coming into his prime people.

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  10. Dan says:

    Wild idea…possibly a three way. I would send kazmir and niemman to the pirates for nate mclouth. This would entice them seeing as they have little pitching and they always deal away what talent they do have. Mclouth can impact right or center and Jennings WILL produce IF he is healthy. If Price is supposed to be the ace down the road and wade davis having such a high ceiling, I wouldn’t see it as a risk. Crawford would go to the rebuilding M’s and round out a nice out field while Seattle sends…oh I don’t know…michael saunders to Pittsburgh. You guys probably think this is crazy and unlikely but like I said it’s a wild idea.

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    • David says:

      The general idea actually makes a good amount of sense. Something like this maybe?

      Tampa Bay sends Kazmir + Niemann to Pittsburgh and Crawford to Seattle
      Pittsburgh sends McLouth to Tampa Bay
      Seattle sends Aumont to Tampa Bay and Saunders to Pittsburgh

      Doesn’t look all that implausible to me.

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    • LukeW says:

      If you replaced Kazmir with Sonnasatine you might have a plausible idea. Kazmir has struggled recently, but there’s no reason to dump him for pennies on the dollar.

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      • tom s. says:

        dollars is exactly the issue. trading kazmir and crawford makes excellent sense, though I don’t know if this package would tempt the rays. They are two of the most expensive players on the team, two who would fetch the most on the trade market, and two in areas of great depth for the rays (outfield, starting pitching).

        if I were tampa i might demand pittsburgh’s closer, since they desperately need more bullpen help.

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  11. Dan says:

    responding to bikozu: While Kazmir infamously struggles in the first inning and from start to start on top of that, he still has strong trade value. Niemman is a 26 yr old rookie who got the 5th spot only because he is out of options and Tampa wanted to polish Price. Remember Edwin Jackson’s above 5 era out of ST last year? He was out of options too and made the roster. It comes down to who is replacable in my eyes, which both Kazmir and Niemman are considering the prospect talent we have at pitching. Crawford is in his final contract yr and there is no guarantee he will be resigned, plus he will have a 10 million dollar tag next yr. Would you want to pay him 15% of this budget minded team’s salary or would you try to get the most for him? Mclouth is an allstar caliber outfielder with a bigger left handed bat than crawford and has a better arm. Shipping out Kazmir would make salary space too. I can see why you would disagree, two starting pitchers for an outfielder sounds prodigal, but more lavish trades have been made.

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  12. Slurve says:

    Most of the trade ideas have Aumont/Morrow as a reliever if they stayed as reliever I’d be okay with a trade but they probably will not once they get traded most teams will view them both as a starter and then the deal will look very lopsided after that once they become TOR starters.

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  13. Big Oil says:

    Pagining Kenny Williams….? Not a Sox fan or follower, but what can they put together?

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    • Big Oil says:

      Eer…paging*

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    • Newcomer says:

      I don’t think the White Sox would want to take on Crawford’s contract, but they’d definitely would listen. I don’t know that we’d have much to put together that the Rays would find attractive. Our best prospects are probably almost untouchable right now, and the farm system is very poorly rated in depth. I’ll list a few possibilities, but I can’t see the Rays pulling the trigger for anyone.

      C Cole Armstrong
      1B/DH Brandon Allen
      RHP Johnny Nuñez
      OF John Shelby
      IF Jayson Nix

      They won’t send away Beckham, Poreda, or Viciedo any time soon.

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  14. Rex says:

    Why shouldn’t Crawford be traded? I don’t buy into the “face of franchise” argument. The Rays are in very good shape for years to come. As long as they can put together a winner with their relatively finite resources, they will be fine and dandy.

    1. He’s a “big name.” Increases his perceived trade value.
    2. He’s expensive for the Rays.
    3. There is, without a doubt, a market for him.

    Iwamura (~4+ MM option for next year) and Bartlett (goes to arbitration for 2 more years) should also be prime trade candidates.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Besides, wouldn’t Longoria be the “face of the franchise” the Rays want? Him or Price or Upton…

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    • Scott says:

      If the Rays were a Cincy or even Baltimore stage of development I might agree, but this team is the real deal and should compete for a title this year. Winning a world series this year is a short-term goal, and short-term goals come at the expense of long-term ones.

      What would you rather have, 4 playoff appearances or 1 world series? I’d take the ring in a heartbeat.

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  15. LukeW says:

    How about trading Crawford to the Yankees? They have a gaping need… and the $$$ to straight out buy him from the Rays.

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  16. JeffM says:

    This is an interesting discussion to me because I’m an Angels fan and ever since I realized that Crawford could be available after this season I’ve been dreaming of the Angels picking him up. Imagine how dangerous the Angels high-pressure offense would become with Figgins and Crawford hitting 1-2?

    Obviously, the issue becomes: what does Tampa Bay need? The lineup and pitching staff have very few holes. Some people here have mentioned a need at the catcher position, and the Angels are pretty deep at catcher – though I would hope that Napoli is off limits (Hank Conger is a very promising C at AA who may have Napoli-like power).

    The Angels also have a lot of depth up the middle, but Tampa Bay doesn’ tseem to need any help there. Anybody see anything in the Angels worthy of moving Crawford?

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