It seems crazy to suggest that the Werth signing was better than the Crawford signing but, as reader Jack Marshall pointed out to me over the weekend, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post does:
With the $142 million deal they gave to Carl Crawford, who has spent nine seasons proving that Fenway Park damages every part of his game, the Boston Red Sox just made the Washington Nationalslook smart. Or, at least, the Nats now look a lot less dumb for giving Jayson Werth $126 million … in lopsided Fenway Park, which works against all his tendencies as a hitter, Crawford has only hit one home run every 85 at-bats. In 338 career plate appearances in Fenway, a large sample over many years, he has an ugly .275/.301/.406 line.
There’s a name for speedy, weak-armed left fielders with those numbers. They’re called AAAA players.
Crawford’s line in Fenway Park is weighed down pretty heavily by his first three years in the league when he couldn’t do a damn thing there. He was up and down in Fenway between 2005 and 2008. In 2009 he posted a line of .342/.350/.500 in Fenway. In 2010 it was .324/.350/.432. Shocker: as Crawford has become a better hitter, he has become a better hitter in Fenway. And all of that, we must remember, comes against what have been very good Red Sox’ pitching staffs. I don’t think he’ll have a problem there.
Boswell also notes that Crawford’s defense is not suited to Fenway Park in that he has great range which will be wasted in that small left field. Probably worth noting that the Red Sox play 81 games on the road. Probably also worth noting that range goes side to side and not just forward and backwards. Again, this seems like a nit that Boswell is picking here.
Carl Crawford is a better all-around player than Jayson Werth. He’s younger. The Red Sox have more money to spend than the Nats. The Red Sox, unlike the Nats, are capable of challenging for the pennant in the short term, thereby justifying a deal that is more likely to pay dividends in the short, rather than the long term. I mean, yes, Crawford’s deal is long and expensive and may turn out to be bad, but I can’t see any way that it’s worse than Werth’s, and nothing Boswell writes here changes my mind about that.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.