Links 12-14-2010: More about Crawford, Lee signs with the Phillies, Blanton?, Rule 5

The Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford was a pleasant surprise for the Nation. After telling reporters that he was done with his major acquisitions, Theo Epstein went and snatched Crawford, who was all but ready to sign with the Angels. Hard to remember that just a week ago, we were trying to decide between Josh Willingham and Magglio Ordonez. Here are his contract details. Maybe the happiest Red Sox is Jason Varitek, who doesn’t have to pretend to try to throw him out on the bases anymore. The Sox could do this deal because of all the money coming off of the books, and because they have the young talent and draft picks to remain sustainable for the years to come.

Red Sox Beacon thinks that the infield grass at Fenway will hurt Crawford’s ability to get infield hits. I think it will lessen the number of grounders that make it through, but I think it might actually help him on balls that roll dead in no man’s land.

Where will Crawford hit? He doesn’t really like to lead off, but he’s willing. If Jacoby Ellsbury can return to form, my guess is he’ll hit either third or fifth, since Dustin Pedroia is locked into the two hole (and Terry Francona likes going lefty-righty at the top).

I’m actually excited about Crawford playing next to Ellsbury in the outfield. That’s the fastest outfield in baseball. While people say that playing him in front of the Green Monster is a waste, it allows Jacoby to shift over towards right-center. It makes everyone better out there; not too many balls will fall in either alley as a result.

And then seemingly out of nowhere, the Philadelphia Phillies came in and swooped up one Cliff Lee yesterday, leaving the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers open-mouthed and empty-handed. Lee signed for less guaranteed money then either the Yankees or Rangers were offering, so perhaps he wasn’t psyched about playing in either place (count the option, and it’s actually better). And this is yet another piece of good news for the Red Sox. For a team that is loading up on left-handed hitting, it’s a godsend that Lee, one of the top lefties in baseball, will not be playing in our division or even our league. The Rays lost Crawford to us (plus half their bullpen), and the Yankees have few options with which to boost their rotation. This is a huge shift in the balance of power in the AL East.

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Links 12-7-2010: State of the Sox, bullpen, right-handed bat, Gonzalez, Miller, depth signings

Theo Epstein delivered his yearly “State of the Sox” address yesterday, and noted the need for relief pitching and possibly adding a right-handed bat. He didn’t mention catcher, though I’m sure he’ll pick one up if the right opportunity presents itself.

I still think Scott Downs is the top option available, primarily because he’s pitched successfully in the AL East for a long time. He’s also a solid lefty who can get righties out as well, a la Hideki Okajima, ca 2008. Other names that have been mentioned include Koji Uehara, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Ron Mahay. Notice there are a lot of lefties named here. I think two quality lefty relievers is a must in this division.

The Red Sox are indeed showing interest in both Magglio Ordonez and Josh Willingham, right-handed hitting outfielders who could handle left field and fill in for J.D. Drew when he is out.

As we surmised, it seems the Sox have an agreement in place with newly-acquired 1B Adrian Gonzalez which would extend him for 7 years and $154M. For those of you who just can’t get enough Gonzalez Kool-Aid, here’s an interesting post featuring Katron.org’s batted ball park projector.

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12-6-2010: Gonzalez announced, who’s next?

Adrian Gonzalez was introduced at a press conference this morning, and he gushed all the usual things from a free agent who’s just signed a fat deal: it’s his (second) dream to play here, etc. He seems like a smart player, and knows that he needs to hit the ball in the air to be successful in Fenway. It seems that the Sox have an extension agreement in place with Gonzalez already, and it will likely be announced just after Opening Day. His agent says they’re finding a nice compromise, so I’d expect something along the lines of 6 years with a vesting option worth $130-150M.

Theo Epstein mentioned in his comments that he would like to add a right handed outfielder. But with Jayson Werth signing a massive deal with the Washington Nationals yesterday, the question is who? Carl Crawford, the top free agent outfielder, is left-handed and his signing would arguably tilt the lineup too far to the left, making us vulnerable to strong lefties, like CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, who could be teammates again next year. Also, we have to be thinking about the future, as players like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz start earning real money. I’m not sure we can absorb another 6-7 year maxed out deal without letting everyone start walking in a couple of years. So maybe we want to shoot for a short-term option or a second-tier target (after all, we do have Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish, who look just about Major League ready).

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Hot Stove 2010: Options to fill LF

The offseason is all about choices, especially for a big market team like the Red Sox. What choices give you the best chance of winning, while preserving value and organizational depth? Filling a hole by getting the best available player now may not be the best move, because it could leave you hamstrung somewhere else. As a team with a number of needs this offseason, let’s take a look at some of the options to fill left-field and compare them.

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23-14: Sox take 3 of 4 in Detroit

The Red Sox kept the momentum going from the sweep of Tampa, and really took it to Detroit this series. We are beginning to put some distance between us and the rest of the Division. Whoa, deja vu. The Tigers have an elite offense when healthy, but it sure doesn’t look healthy to me. Gary Sheffield and Miguel Cabrera are nursing injuries; that and an underperforming pitching staff has ensured their poor start.

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5-5: Sox outslug Detroit, 12-6

Yesterday was Japanese Day at Fenway. The AP writes that two ninjas sparred as part of the festivities. Uh, that looks more like kendo to me. A 10-second trip to Wikipedia could have avoided that cultural faux pas

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