The Angels’ potential savior
He is the one player who could turn around what suddenly seems like a dismal Angels’ season.
He comes to town Monday night with the powerful but financially limited Tampa Rays, a quiet, under-the-radar, All-Star free agent-to-be who is likely to be either traded sometime this summer or let go at the end of the season.
His name is Carl Crawford, and the question is, will Arte Moreno put up the kind of mega-money that could bring him to Anaheim?
My guess is no, because like Roy Halladay and Mark Teixeira before him, there will be a huge bidding war for someone as multi-talented as Crawford, and the Angels’ owner never wants to get into a high-priced auction with the likes of the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox.
Well, let me explain why this time he should:
More than anyone else in baseball, Crawford is the quintessential Mike Scioscia player. He hits for a high average, he steals bases, he is terrific defensively and, maybe most important now, he can be a catalyst at the top of a lineup.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Angels don’t have anyone like that anymore. One of the reasons the club is struggling is that it has become a non-Scioscia type team. It features no pure leadoff hitter with too many heavy-legged, non-speed people in the middle of the order.
The swift Crawford (with his .380 on-base-percentage and .526 slugging percentage heading into Sunday) could change all that. He could hit first or second and provide the manager a chance to play his kind of game, manufacturing some offense when the long ball isn’t there.
Why would the Rays give him up? Because they basically have no choice. Crawford is in the final year of his current contract, and already there is speculation he will be seeking a new deal that will be in the $15 million to $17 million-a-year range, or basically what the Cardinals gave to keep Matt Holliday.
The low-income Rays can’t pay that kind of money. Besides, they have a tremendous young outfield prospect of their own named Desmond Jennings waiting in the minor league wings. So they have the option of keeping Crawford, hoping to win the World Series this season, then letting him go for nothing. Or trading him at some point this summer and getting a dugout full of young, promising prospects, the way Toronto did with Halladay.
Most people are betting they trade him. The hitch, of course, is that if some team like the Angels were interested, they’d have to a) Cough of most of their best prospects, and b) Have some assurance Crawford would sign an expensive extension to make it all worthwhile.
Can it actually happen? Well, a team would have be really bold to do something like this, and despite Moreno’s public persona, it’s not really his style. To pull this off, the Angels probably would have to give up, among others, their No. 1 prospect.
That is now, unequivocally, 18-year-old Mike Trout, the 2009 No. 1 draft pick who is hitting .358, slugging .525 with a .426 on-base-percentage and 18 stolen bases at Single-A Cedar Rapids. The young center fielder, in his first pro season, has been so impressive, some scouts now say he is among the top ten prospects in all of baseball.
To get the 28-year-old Crawford, already a three-time All-Star, you’d probably have to send the Rays not only Trout but probably Trevor Reckling, the club’s No. 1 pitching prospect, or Hank Conger, the good-hitting catcher.
Or maybe GM Tony Reagins could get creative, trying to keep Trout out of the deal while offering the Rays one of their two closing relievers (Fernando Rodney or Brian Fuentes), and maybe Juan Rivera to go with a Reckling and/or Conger.
None of this speculation will matter if Moreno won’t consider it. And I’m still guessing he won’t. The Angels’ payroll already is high, and soon there will be Kendry Morales (aided by his dreaded agent Scott Boras) to worry about re-signing.
But what you have to know here is that Crawford would change everything about this team. With his high average and speed to go along with Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter at the top of the lineup, Scioscia could go back to managing at his best.
The club that so far has shown little, if any, offensive chemistry suddenly would have a whole batch of new test tubes available.
Crawford is that talented. Just watch him these next three games in Anaheim, and you’ll see.
Whether it’s trying to deal for him before the trade deadline or going after him in the off-season, this is the one big-money free agent the Angels definitely should consider.
— Steve Bisheff