Four years ago, Carl Crawford was run out of town by the Boston Red Sox, thanks to a severe lack of productivity and an enormous amount of money on his contract.
In 2010, Crawford made his fourth All-Star Game appearance as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and posted the best season of his career, a 7-WAR season that saw the left fielder win both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. His breakout was rewarded by the Red Sox with a massive seven-year, $142 million contract. Eighteen months later, the Red Sox were willing to do whatever it took to get him off of their roster. Hence, the Nick Punto trade, which saw the Red Sox were willing to surrender star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with Punto and Josh Beckett, just to get Crawford and his salary off of the team.
Now, four years after that trade, the Dodgers have come to the same conclusion that the Red Sox did: Crawford is not good enough to carry on their roster.
On Sunday morning, the Dodgers designated Crawford for assignment, a man who is owed $20.75 million this year and $21 million next year, and recalled catcher/infielder Austin Barnes from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
With the Dodgers offense struggling to put up runs, and with a logjam of options in the outfield, Crawford was clearly the odd man out. His weak arm and poor reads on fly balls limited him to left field, and his current wRC+ of 27 made him an unbearable addition to the lineup. With two of the team’s biggest offensive threats being young outfielders (Joc Pederson and Trayce Thompson), the return of Scott Van Slyke, and with Howie Kendrick and Kiké Hernandez finally starting to heat up a bit, Crawford was the odd man out.
Crawford struggled to escape the stigma of his time in Boston, and Dodgers fans are unlikely to remember Crawford in a positive light, but that doesn’t mean it was all bad. At the very least, he allowed the team to pick up Gonzalez, who has been a mainstay in the middle of the Dodgers’ order since his acquisition, and at most, Crawford was a more than serviceable left fielder in 2013-14. Crawford also played some of his best baseball in Dodger blue when it mattered most, in October. In 2013 and 14, Crawford hit over .300 in the playoffs, including a multi-homer game in the 2013 NLDS clincher against the Atlanta Braves. The first half of his Dodgers career should bring about thoughts of success, but between the contract and injuries, Dodgers fans never truly accepted what Crawford was: not a superstar as he was being paid, but an above-average left fielder nonetheless.
In the last two years, though, it was clear that Crawford had completely lost what had earned him that contract in the first place. He was no longer a fit with the team. He was never higher than the fourth-best outfielder on the depth chart, sitting behind names like Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Andre Ethier, and his lack of defensive flexibility drastically hurt his value. While he put up above-average offensive numbers in each of his first two years, by 2015 he had fallen so far that he was providing negative value to the team.
For two years, Crawford wasn’t the massive burden the Red Sox seemed to think that he was, but when the calendar turned to 2015, suddenly it seemed as though the Red Sox were right all along, and that is likely all that fans will remember. Crawford was never worth the absurd contract that he got, but he was also better than many people gave him credit for.