Friday, September 30, 2011

An Ideal Change of Scenery: Jason Bay for Carl Crawford

I find that most proposals for 'change of scenery' trades are silly.  Most fans of teams think that an opposing club will pay full value for their failed prospect in hopes that they may regain their former luster.  Fans clamor for their General Manager to pry struggling players from opposing teams for pennies, when no such deal is on the table.  (Think I'm kidding?  Take a minute to google a guy like Alex Gordon and see what you come up with... here is an example of how he was hotly pursued last year: link)

However, not all proposals to get a player a change of scenery are bad ones -- in fact, there are plenty of scenarios where getting a player out of town might benefit both parties.  However, the price for the team dumping the loser or receiving the once-hyped prospect will be steep.

Enough beating around the bush.  My idea?  The Mets trade Jason Bay to the Red Sox for Carl Crawford and a little cash.

The match could not be better, and I am amazed that it took me so long to see this.  Let's start with the basics on the two players.

As you know, Jason Bay has struggled as a Met.  He posted a .259 average with 6 HR and an 749 OPS in 2010, and followed that up with a .245 average, 12 HR, and a 703 OPS this year, missing time both years with injuries.  Factoring in defense and baserunning, Bay was worth an astoundingly terrible 0.7 WAR this year.

Carl Crawford's welcome to Red Sox Nation may have been even worse.  Crawford this year put up a .255 average and 11 HR, but drew almost nothing in the way of walks and posted an OPS of 694.  Crawford made up some of the gap with superior defense, but also posted an awful 0.4 WAR.

Jason Bay is owed $16MM in 2012, $16MM in 2013, and has a vesting option for $17MM in 2014 for a total of $49MM over the next three years (or $35 over two years).  Crawford is owed the outrageous sum of $122MM over the next six years.  Both contracts look like horrible albatrosses.

Why would these teams make the swap?

Why The Red Sox Will Do It
1.  Carl Crawford is a dead man walking in Boston.   His horrible season for the Sox, combined with his horrific play on the last hit of Boston's season, seals his fate.  The gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands in Boston is audible all the way here in Queens.

2.  Carl Crawford is not a good fit for Fenway.  Why on earth did Boston sign this guy in the first place?  In addition to the above, and generic concerns that he may not be cut out for a big market, the Sox took a player who derives a TON of his value from his speed and defense and put him in the smallest left field in the entire baseball universe.  They added him to a lineup which already had bona-fide top of the order hitters in Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez.  Crawford is an afterthought.

3.  Jason Bay has already THRIVED in Boston.  Maybe Bay is a different player now, but wouldn't it be worth it for them to see if they can roll the dice and at least get some value from Bay, rather than with a guy like Crawford who has been placed in a position where he can do nothing but fail?

Why The Mets Will Do It
1.  Jason Bay is a dead man walking in Queens.  Back to back terrible seasons.  Ending the season on the bench with a "sinus infection," in addition to huge chunks of both seasons.  And now the pressure on Bay will become even worse -- all hope for a bounce back is gone, and with back to back losing seasons, the fans will begin to turn on the player with the largest contract.

2.  Bay is a terrible fit for Citi Field.  The spacious left field, the high fences, and the low-run scoring environment have conspired to make this the worst case scenario for Bay.  Granted, Bay did not hit well on the road this season either, but the change of scenery back to Boston may help him.

3.  There is HOPE for Carl Crawford, where for Bay there is little to none.  As has been pointed out, Carl Crawford was bad, not terrible, for the Sox since starting the season horrendously.  After beginning the start of play on May 23rd batting .215/.249/.298, Crawford hit a poor but improved .280/.313/.474 from then until the end of the season, over 352 plate appearances.

Bottom Line?

Both players have enormous contracts and have underperformed greatly.  Both players are bad fits for their current clubs, and have worn out their welcomes. And it just so happens that both players play left field.

"But Brian, why would the Sox trade for a player who is older and just as horrible?"  The Red Sox, as we all know, are further along on the success cycle right now.  If they had Jason Bay in left field instead of Carl Crawford, they may well have won an additional game and made the postseason this year.  With that in mind, taking a chance on Jason Bay, with the shorter contract, with the potential that he may regain some of his prior Boston success (where he posted OPSes of 897 and 921), makes sense.  It helps, also, that Bay fits comfortably down in the order as opposed to the speedy Crawford.  And remember - Bay will only be 33 next year.

"But Brian, why would the Mets take on the longer contract for the player who was worse last year?"  A few reasons.  As I mentioned above, there is hope that Crawford may succeed in Flushing while there is no such hope for Bay.  Furthermore, Crawford is a fantastic fit for Citi Field -- he might even be able to play center field and give the Mets the answer they are looking for at that position so they can open up left field for someone like Lucas Duda, Nick Evans, or someone else.  Even moreso, Crawford can hit toward the top of the Mets lineup, where his few talents would not be as wasted as they are in Boston.  And he'll fit perfectly in the low scoring National League East... not to mention distract a little from the flurry of negativity that will occur when Reyes departs. 

You know you've struck a good deal when people on both sides find it hard to pull the trigger.  The one thing that I think the Mets would require to execute this deal is a little financial assistance in years 2014-2017 when Jason Bay's contract is expired and Crawford is still on the books.

Proposal:  Mets trade Jason Bay to the Red Sox for Carl Crawford and $5MM in each of the years 2014-2017.  The Mets end up with Crawford on a 6/$107MM deal and the Sox get Bay for 3/$49MM plus a future payment of $15MM.

Each team takes on some risk, each team gets an asset from the other that is more likely to succeed for them than for their current team.  Neither team wants anything to do with these guys -- so why not put them in a position where they may be able to succeed.

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this:  Is this deal a good match?  Would one team love this idea and another team hate it?  Are there other factors that I haven't considered?


Anonymous said...

I don't think the Mets can do this. Bay's contract is bad at $16, $16, and $17m each of the next three years, but Crawford's is worse at $19.5, $20, and $20.25 over the same period. Even with a $5M made to the Mets, the Mets end up paying more for Crawford over the next three years than they would for Bay.

(And that assumes Bay's option vests.)

And then -- the Mets would have a 34 year old OF (In Crawford) making $47.5 over the three year period 2015-2017.

There's a very good chance that Crawford's offensive struggles are BABIP (i.e. luck) driven, but the risk isn't worth it.

Anonymous said...

I´m a Mets fan, and I like the deal. My only thought is that the Mets would prefer the $5mil per year for the first 3 years of the deal, as that would offset other big contracts they have (Johan Santana, whose contract expires after 2013), and alleviate well-documented short term financial problems.
I wonder if the deal could be expanded to include Mike Pelfrey for John Lackey and cash. Similar reasons to the Bay-Crawford swap. Pelfrey has talent, but was put in the position of being a substitute ace with Santana down and failed miserably. The fans are sick of him. Lackey may be coming off a horrible year, but at least he has shown in the past that he knows how to pitch and can provide innings. Maybe he´s just not a Fenway/RSNation pitcher.