This face is not likely to be heading back to Boston any time soon. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Bob Nigthengale of USA Today reported a potential blockbuster trade involving the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox that would send third baseman Hanley Ramirez and reliever Heath Bell to the Red Sox for left fielder Carl Crawford and a prospect. The deal would be a blockbuster in the sense that many large contracts would be traded; Crawford is in his second season of a seven-year, $142 million deal that would span into 2017, while Ramirez and Bell are locked into the Marlins franchise until at least the end of 2014 at around $16 million and $9 million annually, respectively.
ESPN's Buster Olney immediately shot down rumors that the trade discussions were ongoing.
Sources:There is no current discussion involving Crawford and Hanley Ramirez/Heath Bell. Was brought up briefly as concept,immediately died.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 18, 2012
That sounds appropriate. I am certain one of the teams brought it up, and I am certain they discussed this trade for a time. But for the Marlins, the deal makes little sense for the Marlins and a whole boatload of sense for the Boston Red Sox. In the end, the trade ends up being bad contracts for bad contracts, and the Marlins would be getting the worst of the deal.Consider where Carl Crawford currently is right now. He was injured for most of 2012 after the worst season of his career in 2011. He was not a positive neither at the plate nor in the field and was essentially a replacement level player last season. He returned just this past week and has started red-hot, but ZiPS projects him to hit a respectable .282/.326/.441 for the rest of the year. If he is still the elite +10-run outfielder he was in Tampa Bay, he would be worth a decent 3.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in a full-season.
Essentially, Crawford is in the same boat as Ramirez, who has been awful in his last two years. Since the start of 2011, Ramirez has hit .246/.330/.408 and has been worth between one and three WAR in the last two seasons (in 768 PA). Given his current ZiPS hitting projection and a very negative outlook on his third base play (-10 runs per season), we can reasonably expect 3.2 WAR from a full season of him.
So Crawford and Ramirez are similar, and the team would be handing away Heath Bell in return for receiving a prospect of some kind. The problem is that, as much of a money sink as Bell is, the team's contract situation still is not as bad as it would be if the team took on Crawford's deal. Bell and Ramirez will make a combined $25 million per season through 2014 (with a possible extra year for Bell at $9 million), but Crawford will make $20 million annually for the next five seasons starting in 2013. The Fish would be committing to be on the hook for an above average starter making 20 percent more than he should be making now, when he is still reasonably close to his prime. By as early as 2014, Crawford may very well be a Todd Helton-like money sink, whereas Ramirez and Bell would have likely been off contract.
The prospect would have to make up for significant value, but it would have to be an elite prospect to make up for the losses incurred from 2015 onwards. The bottom line is that a potential Crawford / Ramirez / Bell deal would simply involve the Marlins taking on a worse contract and getting similar on-field value in return. They would sacrifice the flexibility the team initially built when the club entered free agency this season. Previously, the Marlins could have rebuilt their team after 2014 if this current core failed to produce a championship. If Crawford came aboard, the Marlins would commit to yet another long-term contract without getting back requisite on-field value. It would have been a bad move all around, and that is why the Marlins are unlikely to consider this any further.
Pay no heed, Marlins fans. Smoke, but no fire.