That was one expensive Sunday brunch for the Dodgers, who made the difficult but necessary decision to cut ties with Carl Crawford and eat the remaining $34.6 million left on the underachieving and oft-injured outfielder’s contract.
Crawford, 34, was designated for assignment to make room for versatile catcher/infielder Austin Barnes, who was recalled from triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Dodgers have 10 days to trade, waive or release Crawford. Given the 14-year veteran’s declining skills and the chunk left on a seven-year, $142-million contract that runs through 2017, that period is expected to end with Crawford’s release.
“Carl’s entire career, he’s worked really hard and played really hard, and ultimately that takes a toll on your body,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “We just felt we had gotten to a point where this made the most sense for all parties involved.”
Crawford, acquired from Boston in the nine-player trade that netted first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in August 2012, played in only 30 games this season, batting .185 with a .230 on-base percentage, .235 slugging percentage, no home runs and six runs batted in.
“It’s one of those things where Father Time gets everyone,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. “This game is about performance. If you’re not performing now, and as an organization, we don’t see that changing, then we have to go in a different direction.”
Crawford was a four-time All-Star and one-time Gold Glove-Award winner in nine years at Tampa Bay, where he compiled a slash line of .296/.337/.444 with 104 homers, 592 RBIs and 409 stolen bases from 2002-2010.
But playing on the unforgiving artificial turf of Tropicana Field took a toll on Crawford, who in late April said, “I’m lucky I’m still walking the way I’m walking now.”
Crawford suffered back, wrist, elbow, hamstring and rib-cage injuries and has been on the disabled list seven times in the past six years. He averaged 147 games in each of his full seasons with the Rays; he has averaged 90 games since then.
“Carl was one of the most dynamic players in baseball,” said Friedman, a Rays executive from 2006-2014. “He was an elite athlete with really good bat-to-ball skills and a tremendous defender.
“It’s something that’s inevitable for every player. As they get on in their career and things start to slow down a little bit, it has an effect. It’s definitely not from a lack of work ethic. He’s among the hardest-working players I’ve been around.”
Crawford spurned a huge offer from the Angels to sign his massive contract with the Red Sox before 2011 but was never really embraced in Boston, where he slashed .260/.292/.419 in 161 games and was traded in his second season.
Crawford had two full seasons for the Dodgers, slashing .283/.329/.407 in 116 games in 2013 and .300/.339/.429 in 105 games in 2014, but he was limited to 69 games because of a rib-cage strain in 2015, when he slashed .265/.304/.403.
The Dodgers informed Crawford of the decision late Saturday night, after their win over the Braves. Crawford was not available Sunday.
“As an aging player who has a lot of miles on his body, he did everything he could to get ready to play and contribute,” Roberts said. “He was frustrated that he was not performing, that his body was not firing the way it’s used to.”
Kenley Jansen let his emotions get the best of him Saturday night. After walking Freddie Freeman to start the ninth inning with a 4-0 lead, the Dodgers closer angrily tossed the baseball to his dugout before asking for another ball.
One problem: Timeout was not called. Freeman took second on Jansen’s error, but Jansen retired the next three batters.
“Walking a hitter with a 4-0 lead is unacceptable, and I got angry,” Jansen said. “That’s never happened to me. I was being a little stupid, immature, and I let my emotions take over. Thank God, I didn’t get hurt by doing it.”