The Boston Red Sox placed catcher Kelly Shoppach on waivers Friday, giving life again to clamoring by fans of the New York Mets to deal for the righty-hitting catcher they targeted before the trade deadline.
Let’s be clear about things here. This is not a trade for talent; this is a trade about money, change of scenery and risk. I’m not here to pretend Bay’s .150 batting average and 7 extra base hits in 2012 are better than Crawford’s .267 average and 10 extra base hits. Rather, it’s a question of Crawford’s future, and if he is poised to become the next Jason Bay.
Bay signed a four-year/$66 million deal in December 2009. That includes a $17 million vesting option for the fifth year if he has 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 plate appearances in both 2012 and 2013, or a $4 million buyout if he doesn’t. The Mets paid him $8,625,000 in 2010 and $18,125,000 in 2011. He’s owed $16 million each for 2012 and 2013.
Crawford signed a seven-year/$142 million deal in December 2010 to man left field at Fenway Park. His contract has no options, but it is slightly back-loaded. After being paid just under $15 million in 2011, he will earn $19.5 million in 2012. That goes up to $20 million in 2013, and then by increments of $250,000 every year until it maxes out at $21 million in 2017.
And out of respect since he’s the catalyst for these discussions to take place, Shoppach is signed to a one-year/$1,135,000 deal for 2012. He will be a free agent at the end of the season.
As I wrote earlier this summer, Bay has established himself as an everyday left fielder – and emergency center fielder – through 10 years in major league baseball. A typical Jason Bay year involves a .270/.365/.486 slash line, 28 home runs and 99 RBI driven in. Too bad his numbers fell off a cliff as soon as he donned a New York uniform. He hit .267 with 29 doubles and 36 home runs during his only full season with the Red Sox in 2009. In 2010, he hit .259 with 20 doubles and 6 home runs for the Mets. During his tenure with the Mets, Bay sports a .231 batting average, hit a combined 23 home runs and driven in 115 RBI.
Through his career, Crawford also sports above average numbers. An average year during his 11-year tenure includes a .292/.332/ .441 slash line, 14 home runs, 50 stolen bases 99 runs scored and 77 RBI driven in. But like Bay, his numbers dropped after donning a new uniform. As a Red Sox player, his average is just .257, has stolen a combined 21 bases and hit 14 home runs between the two years.
Both left fielders have also suffered through injuries with their new clubs, forcing them on the disabled list and cutting into their production. Bay missed half of the 2010 campaign with a concussion against the Dodgers in late July. He was out from late April until mid-June this year with a broken rib, only to suffer a concussion shortly after his return that kept him out until the all-star break. Theoretically, he is finally healthy again. Crawford suffered through a wrist injury in 2011, finally having arthroscopic surgery in January 2012. While recovering from that surgery, he was shut down in April with elbow pain, later discovered to be partially-torn. His first appearance this season finally came on July 16. But he is still just coping with the injury and limiting his playing time to reduce the pain; at some point he needs Tommy John surgery. Fortunately for him, position players tends to recover a lot faster than pitchers do – 8 months compared to 15 months.
The question now is risk and comfort levels. The Mets clearly have less risk as Bay has just one full season as an albatross, assuming he doesn’t clear 600 plate appearances next season, but have to assume they will get almost no production from their left fielder. The Red Sox have gotten very little bang for their buck in the first two years from their probably-overpaid left fielder, but there is a possibility he could return to All-Star form after recovering from surgery. Do the Mets make the switch in hopes of rejuvenating their lackluster outfield? Do the Red Sox agree to a deal in hopes of escaping an overwhelming contract?
Such a deal has some promise for Boston, as Bay finds success hitting to center field and pulling the ball. While center in Fenway is deep, the Green Monster could provide some cheap singles and doubles for the former Red Sox.
On the other hand, Mets GM Sandy Alderson may be hesitant to pull the trigger because of Crawford’s style of play. His career on-base percentage is less than 40 points higher than his batting average, although he did surpass that benchmark in his last five years with Tampa Bay.
And as far as Shoppach goes, he’s hitting .250/.329/.478 with 5 home runs in 154 plate appearances. His 2012 splits slightly favor right-handed pitching, although he does sport a .250 average against both. What makes him more interesting is his potential to hit double-digit home runs and above average numbers against southpaws during his career. Obviously he’s not someone to fret about signing a huge free agent deal somewhere else this winter, but he does look more appealing than David Ross, Brian Schneider, Gerald Laird and the rest of the potential 2013 catching class.