Bad Contract of the Day to Swap Jason Bay With: Carl Crawford


After posting his second consecutive subpar season for the Mets, Jason Bay proved his lucrative $66 million, four-year deal was a complete bust. And even though Bay did see his homerun total double (from 6 homeruns to 12 homeruns), he also saw a decline in batting average (from .259 to .245), on-base percentage (from .347 to .329), slugging percentage (from .402 to .374), and ISO (from .144 to .128).

Bay has a guaranteed $35 million over the next two seasons (including his $3 million buyout for 2014), which makes him an incredibly difficult person to trade. However, despite how bad Bay’s contract is, there is a good chance the Mets could swap him for today’s “Bad Contract of the Day to Swap Jason Bay With,” outfielder Carl Crawford.

Almost a year ago (a year and 19 days, to be exact), the Boston Red Sox signed Carl Crawford to a 7-year, $142 million deal. Considering Crawford was the premier free agent–mostly due to his rare power/speed combo, excellent defense in left field, and clean slate of health–many people felt the contract, while monstrous on the surface, was fair by the market’s standards.

Crawford was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the second round of the 1999 draft. Quickly excelling through the Minor Leagues, the speedy outfielder graduated to the show in 2002, at age 20. But it was his first full-season, in 2003, when Crawford started illustrating his rare gifts. The 21 year-old smacked a .281/.309/.362 line with 5 HR, 54 RBI, 80 R, and 55 SB in 661 PA’s. The Rays hoped that at some point in the future, the speed demon would eventually develop some power to parallel his blazing speed. That hope came to fruition the following season. In 2004, Crawford smacked a .296/.331/.450 line with 11 HR, 55 RBI, 104 R, and 59 SB in 672 PA’s. He also led the league with 19 triples.

From that point onward, Crawford become one of the most feared top-of-the-lineup hitters in baseball. In fact, from 2004 through 2010, the outfielder owned an average of a .301/.344/.461 line with 14 HR, 73 RBI, 95 R, and 49 SB. During that span, he would led the league in triples four times and stolen bases three, hit double-digit homeruns seven times (including a career high of 19 HR in 2010), take four trips to the All-Star game, and win a Gold Glove too. Crawford would do all of this before the age of 29–the very age he became a free agent, and an expensive one at that.

Yet even though fans, scouts, and fantasy owners salivated at the thought of Crawford playing his home games at the hitter-friendly Fenway Park, the usually-consistent hitter completely faltered. The 29 year-old posted one of his worst career months during April 2011, producing just a .155/.204/.227 line in 104 PA’s. But while Crawford enjoyed a prosperous May (.304/.328/.482 line in 116 PA’s), he owned just a .269/.303/.434 line the rest of the way. On the season, his .255/.289/.405 with 11 HR, 56 RBI, 65 R, and 18 SB in 538 PA’s was more or less his worst season as a veteran player.

Crawford’s two finest assets–speed and defense–suffered the most. After averaging a whopping 50 SB from 2003 to 2010, the speedster stole just 18 bags in 2011. He also went from a guy who averaged a 20.96 UZR/150 (from 2008 to 2010) to a mere -2.8 UZR/150 in 2011. Granted, Crawford’s .299 BABIP (versus career .328 BABIP) was a bit “unfair,” but the outfielder’s 4.3% BB% was his lowest rate since 2003, and his 19.3% K% was his worst ever. Perhaps the most grounding valuation of Crawford’s 2011 season was his paltry 0.2 fWAR–which was equivalent to just a $900,000 season. Considering the outfielder made $14 million in 2011, and will make an average of $21.33 million in each of the next six seasons, his 2011 season was and is a tremendous cause of concern.

On the surface, the Boston Red Sox are “confident” Carl Crawford will bounce back, and produce like the player they assumed they signed–but in their heart of hearts, they probably know the guy has declined more rapidly than they anticipated. So that brings up the question: “Would you trade Jason Bay for Carl Crawford?” Even though Crawford could hypothetically slip into the vacant lead-off position and play a superior left field to Bay, the mere thought of watching a quickly-declining Carl Crawford for the next six seasons–as opposed to a quickly-declining Jason Bay for “just” two (or possibly three) more seasons–doesn’t sound enticing.

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