The Los Angeles Dodgers have designated veteran outfielder Carl Crawford for assignment and recalled catcher/infielder Austin Barnes from Triple-A, the team announced on Sunday afternoon. The move ends Crawford’s mostly disappointing three-and-a-half year stint in Dodger blue.
With a surplus of outfielders, including Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke, Howie Kendrick, and Enrique Hernandez, and Crawford’s 0.185/0.230/0.235 batting line this year, he had no upside to remain on the Dodgers’ roster. Dodgers vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes told MLB Network Radio that Crawford “got caught in the numbers game.”
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) June 5, 2016
As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes, there’s about $35 million left on Crawford’s deal (which runs through 2017) and the Dodgers will likely have to pay most of it. He is making $21 million this season and another $14 million next season.
The Dodgers acquired Crawford as part of a late-season mega trade in 2012 that also sent Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, and Josh Beckett, and $11 million in cash to Los Angeles for James Loney, Iván DeJesús, Jr., Allen Webster, and two players to be named later (Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa).
At one point, Crawford was considered the fastest player in baseball, playing for a mediocre Tampa Bay Devil Rays team. He led the American League in stolen bases four times from 2003-2007 — stealing at least 46 bases in each of those five seasons. After making four All-Star teams and setting several franchise records in Tampa Bay, Crawford left in free agency after 2010, signing a lucrative seven-year, $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.
However, after leaving the Rays, Crawford’s skills and ability to stay health deteriorated. He failed to produce with the bat and steal bases at the prolific rate he once did. Earlier this season, Crawford spoke to the L.A. Times and attributed his decline in skills to the fact that he played on AstroTurf for nearly a decade with the Rays.
“I played real aggressively on turf for nine years. I’m lucky I’m still walking the way I’m walking now. I’m still walking, at least.”
As Shaikin notes in the article, Crawford averaged 147 games in each of his full seasons with the Rays and just 90 games since then.
“I played through a lot of stuff,” Crawford added. “You’re young. You don’t think about it. You’re 24, 25 years old. Your body can hold up a little better than at 34, 35.”
Taking Crawford’s spot on the roster is Barnes, a 26-year-old right-handed hitter who has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors with the Dodgers. However, he has accumulated just 44 at-bats during that time. In 37 games for Triple-A Oklahoma, Barnes has been tremendous, posting a 0.306/.0.413/0.375 with 11 home runs and 24 runs batted in (RBIs) in 37 games.
— OKC Dodgers (@okc_dodgers) May 31, 2016
As for Crawford, despite his struggles over the past several seasons, he figures to draw interests from teams in need of outfield help. The San Francisco Giants recently lost their team leader in RBIs, Hunter Pence to a torn hamstring. He’s expected to miss at least two months. Crawford could be a solid stopgap option until the Giants’ quirky right fielder is healthy.
The Cleveland Indians recently lost veteran Marlon Byrd to a 162-game suspension after he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs for the second time. With All-Star Michael Brantley injured, Crawford could possibly provide some steady defense and offense during this time.
Crawford was a productive player as recently as 2014, hitting 0.300/0.339/0.429 with eight HR and 46 RBIs in 105 games for the Dodgers. If he can recapture some of that magic, Crawford will be a worthwhile investment on a budget (if he goes unclaimed on waivers).
[Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]