Links 11-10-2010: Sox contact every free agent, offseason predictions, Crawford vs Werth
November 10, 2010 1 Comment
We should clear up something: just because the Sox have contacted Jayson Werth doesn’t mean they’ve targeted him as THE acquisition for the offseason. In fact, Theo Epstein tends to work like a shrewd hedge fund manager and plan for contingencies, diversifying his free agent portfolio. Basically the Sox have many possible plans of action, and which one they take is determined by the market. If the price for Werth climbs too high, they default to another plan with someone else. Accordingly, the Sox have contacted just about every major free agent already to try and gauge who would fit well and what their expectations are. This serves the double purpose of masking our true intentions, in case someone out there wants to bid us up.
The writers at MLB Trade Rumors have taken a stab at predicting where this year’s free agents will end up. Their consensus is that the Yankees will land Cliff Lee, and the Angels will nab Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre. I agree about Lee; after re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to pricey deals, I think the Yankees will land him (at over $20M per season) and basically be done. The Halos need to make a big splash, and while they love speed and are in dire need of the outfield defense Crawford would provide, they have other big problem areas, most notably third base and the rotation. I find it unlikely that they will land both Crawford and Beltre, who will command upwards of $30M/year between the two of them. The Angels featured the worst third base production in the Majors last year, and they have no internal options there. They love their Hispanic players, so my guess is Beltre goes with them (he likes the West Coast anyway).
Why not re-sign Beltre? I think it has to do with the future. It’s going to take 4-5 years to get Beltre, and the Red Sox are eyeing a big pickup at first base over the next year or so – Adrian Gonzalez (or Prince Fielder, or *gasp* Albert Pujols). With Kevin Youkilis already signed long-term, it doesn’t make sense to commit to an overpriced contract for Beltre. Where will you put one of them, or how will you move their money? The most tradeable contract would be Youk’s.
Crawford versus Werth
I think this scenario leaves Crawford to us for the taking. The announcement that the Yankees are not seeking a left fielder, and the presence of Werth further makes corner outfielder market more flush, so I’m fairly certain we will pick up one of these guys. There is the tendency to think of Crawford as the speed and defense guy, and Werth as the slugger, but the picture is not that black and white. Crawford has some decent punch in his bat; I have him down for a .294/.349/.450 slash line if he plays in Fenway next year, with 13 HR and 53 XBH. That would put him ahead of Victor Martinez and just behind Dustin Pedroia in terms of power. Add to that the glove and the speed, and you’ve got quite a good player with plenty of productive years left. Crawford could slide into that third spot in the order very nicely (Ellsbury-Pedroia-Crawford-Youk-Ortiz). Werth has better power, yes. But he also has problems making contact at times; I have him at .258/.346/.467 in Fenway. So his expected OPS is just 15 points higher than Crawford. He is older, but is an athletic player who should continue to be good for some time. I see him as a number five-type hitter (Ellsbury-Pedroia-Youk-Ortiz-Werth).
In the end, the choice between these two outfielders may hinge on which side of the plate they hit on. Crawford is a southpaw, and so are the first basemen I’ve listed above. If you’re building towards a balanced lineup, you’ve got Youk, Pedey and Marco Scutaro on the right side, and David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and unnamed first baseman on the left. It seems like we could use another quality right-handed bat. But both Papi and Drew figure to be gone after this year, however, so you have to take that into account as well. I think if we sign Werth, it seems like the better long-term fit; he provides the right-handed power bat to replace Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay/Beltre and he can take over in right field after Drew leaves. There is the additional benefit of not giving our first-round pick to our division rival Tampa Bay. But you can’t go too wrong either way.