According to general manager Ben Cherington, the Boston Red Sox are not looking to shop outfielder Carl Crawford. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Marlins don't care about that, and are trying to convince the team to unload him anyway, in what would be one of the largest trades in terms of dollars in the history of the game.
The current rumor: the Marlins would take Carl Crawford and the remaining six years of his contract, along with a prospect, in exchange for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell, the latter of whom the Marlins just signed this past off-season. That is, if the Red Sox let this happen:
"We have not offered Carl to a single team," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told USA TODAY Sports. "We have not pursued anything on Carl Crawford. Carl is our left fielder."
But the Marlins, based on the sources Nightengale talked to, very much want Carl Crawford to be their left fielder. The Red Sox are open-minded enough to at least listen for offers on their players, especially if there's a chance of improving the club through it.
Ramirez, as you well know, is a former Red Sox prospect who exploded onto the big-league scene after he was dealt along with Anibal Sanchez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, back before the 2006 season. He's hitting .249/.326/.437, after an off-season in which rumors that he was unhappy with being shifted off of shortstop were abound. and has been a league-average offensive contributor since the start of 2011, after a combined .313/.385/.521 line from 2006 through 2010.
Ramirez is owed the last of the $15 million of 2012's contract, as well as $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in the final year of his contract in 2014. That's essentially a two-year deal for $31.5 million, not counting the last two months of 2012.
Ramirez, you can dream on -- there have been far more than rumors over the years that he needed a big stage, and he's been portrayed as a fairly dramatic player who isn't at his best when he's not getting his way. Pop him back at shortstop where he wants to be, in a bigger market than where he is, and maybe he rebounds. Or, maybe you overpay for a league-average shortstop for two years, but that deal would be over in short order. There's upside, with not much in the way of harmful downside here, especially if it gets you out of the longer Crawford contract.
On the other hand... there's Heath Bell. Bell is owed $18 between 2013-2014, and has a vesting option for 2015 that comes into play with 55 games finished in 2014, or 100 between those two years. Of course, that's easily sidestepped by not using him to close out games.
The larger issue is that he hasn't been very good in 2012, after some signs that maybe there was some decline happening back in 2011. Moving to a tougher league, division, and park wouldn't exactly fix that, and Boston's bullpen isn't in need of help, either. This sounds like the Marlins trying to pawn Bell off in exchange for the difference in years between Crawford's and Hanley's respective deals, and would likely be the reason to kill off negotiations between the two teams.
And, according to Buster Olney, that's just what's happened, as these talks of a mega-deal were ended as quickly as they began. If Bell is a required component, then I'm absolutely with the Red Sox here in stopping any talks. That's not going to help make the team better, neither in the present-day nor the future. There is, however, something intriguing about a Ramirez and Crawford swap, but it's tough to move such expensive pieces around in a way in which both clubs are happy. And that's likely what will simply make this one of July's largest rumors, rather than trades.
That being said, if there's any more word of the deal, you'll hear about it here.