There is an overwhelming feeling that Epstein will almost forego the 2012 season to perform a minor rebuilding effort and take a shot at 2013 and beyond. If that happens, Cubs fans can kiss goodbye to Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, and possibly Marlon Byrd while bidding a fond farewell to the aforementioned Zambrano and Soriano.
I, for one, think Epstein can put a solid team out there in 2012 while doing a minor rebuilding effort at the same time and I think his first move should be to acquire Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox. That’s right, the same Carl Crawford that is due $122M over the next six seasons.
Acquiring Crawford from the Red Sox would fill two potential agendas at the same time. The first would be the acquisition of a top talent that can help now and in the near future. The second would be the trading of Alfonso Soriano.
I believe that the Red Sox would not mind unloading Crawford’s contract. It is common knowledge that Crawford’s talents are being wasted in 81 games at Fenway park and the financial flexibility added by trading him is something that would make the new GM look good and give him freedom to make some moves.
Freeing up Crawford’s contract would allow the Red Sox to pursue big named free agents much more easily. Even with acquiring Soriano the Red Sox would be on the hook for $54M per year over the next three years. Crawford would have cost $59.75M over the same amount of time.
The immediate savings along with the savings from expiring contracts in J.D. Drew, Jonathan Papelbon, Trever Miller, Tim Wakefield, Conor Jackson, Jason Varitek, and possibly Dan Wheeler, would allow the Red Sox to go after bigger names and re-sign free agent slugger David Ortiz if they wish to do so. If they do not wish to re-sign Ortiz then they just freed nearly $50M from their books and that includes paying Soriano $18M next year.
And it’s not like Soriano is going to be awful in Boston. His mediocre range is fine in Fenway and his arm is above-average and will keep runners at bay. The short porch in left is an added bonus to this slugger who loves to pull the ball and he hits left handers very well, something Crawford did not. Why is that important? Oh, because the Red Sox have to face David Price, Matt Moore, C.C. Sabathia, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and other tough left handers in their own division.
Theo Epstein will get an immediate upgrade and a player that he can build a club around and add to young guys like Starlin Castro, Matt Garza, and Andrew Cashner. And the additional cost over Soriano is negated by letting Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, and John Grabow walk. Also, by trading Marlon Byrd and giving the center field job to top prospect Brett Jackson, another young player to build around, Epstein would get a decent prospect and more financial flexibility in return.
Crawford’s talents would not go to waste in Wrigley where his elite range and speed can allow him to convert potential hits into outs that Fenway’s Green Monster never gave him the chance of doing. Crawford’s bat would be a great addition to this team. Can you picture him hitting those Wrigley gaps and busting the corner at second, turning mundane doubles into exciting triples? If you are a Cubs fan you can. Crawford also has impeccable work ethic and is a leader in the clubhouse, something that was, again, wasted in Boston.
Epstein signed Crawford in Boston because he knew the kind of player Crawford was and is. Trading Soriano for Crawford would be a win-win for Epstein, the fan base, and both the current and future team.