12-9-2010: Sox sign Carl Crawford!

Not a bridge year indeed. Peter Abraham reports that the Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a 7-year, $142M contract. Ken Rosenthal confirms this too. If this is what Theo Epstein means by a complementary player… There go the theories about shrinking the payroll.

Wow. Just wow. It has long been known that the Sox coveted Crawford, but I did not expect this. The Sox are opening up the vaults in their best imitation of the Yankees. There’s one major difference, however. Epstein is locking himself into long-term deals, yes. But he is locking up players who are still in their prime and play defense as well as hit, providing value in more than one dimension.

As MLB Trade Rumors points out, scooping up Crawford is a major coup in a division where they are taking him from the Rays and keeping him from the Yankees. Perhaps drinking his own Kool-Aid on Brett Gardner’s excellent 2010, Brian Cashman was a bit late to the Crawford party, and it cost him big.

Although I still think the Sox would have preferred to sign Jayson Werth first, Crawford is very similar in value, though he does it in a very different manner. Here’s a look at what we might expect out of Crawford over his 7-year deal, at the end of which he will be 35. That’s a pretty good bet he’ll be productive at least until year 6.

2011 620 573 170 29 9 14 96 77 43 90 41 0.296 0.350 0.451 0.801 0.372
2012 621 575 169 28 9 14 96 78 42 90 39 0.295 0.347 0.447 0.794 0.369
2013 614 570 167 27 9 13 94 76 40 88 37 0.293 0.344 0.441 0.784 0.364
2014 600 558 162 26 8 13 91 74 38 86 35 0.290 0.339 0.433 0.772 0.358
2015 579 540 155 24 7 12 86 70 34 82 32 0.286 0.333 0.424 0.757 0.351
2016 550 516 145 22 7 11 80 65 31 77 30 0.282 0.326 0.414 0.740 0.343
2017 515 486 134 19 6 10 73 59 26 72 28 0.277 0.318 0.402 0.720 0.335

The Red Sox will be adding some bullpen help in the coming days, but they are just about set with this move. Consider that an outfield of Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew should rank as one of the best in baseball. Add to that a strong infield of Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkilis, and whatever Jason Varitek does at catcher doesn’t really matter.

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Carl Crawford, LF
  4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
  5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  6. David Ortiz, DH
  7. J.D. Drew, RF
  8. Jason Varitek, C
  9. Marco Scutaro, SS

That is a strong lineup with on-base ability, decent power and a ton of speed. You could argue that this lineup is a bit lefty-leaning, but you have to figure that Mike Cameron will get playing time all over the outfield. players like Gonzalez are still pretty good, even against southpaws. This lefty bias will only last until next year, when both Drew and Ortiz will likely walk (netting us more draft picks, hopefully). In retrospect, Gonzalez earning just $6M in 2011 is what allowed the Red Sox to make this deal, since those two big contracts are coming off of the books for 2012.

Also consider that the Sox will have two of the best backup players in baseball in Jed Lowrie and Cameron, and you’ve got one heckuva team. I can’t wait to see them in action.


2 Responses to 12-9-2010: Sox sign Carl Crawford!

  1. Pat says:

    Yay! I got my wish!

    I think your 7 year projection is a fair one. Does walk% really fall that linearly?

    This lineup is intense!

    • redsoxtalk says:

      I have to admit, you nailed this one Pat. You called for the Sox to get Crawford from way back, if I remember correctly.

      The average player loses out on walks when pitchers no longer pitch around them or intentionally walk them. However, I think that Crawford’s walk rate will probably do better over time than the average player. The reason is that speedy players are not issued walks at nearly the same rate as an average or slow player. Not only do you want to avoid putting speedsters on because they will take second base, but with one out, are you really going to walk Crawford or Ellsbury to try to double them off? Not a chance.

      Crawford has gotten some criticism for his low OBP (it’s not that THAT low) reflecting poor plate discipline, but I don’t believe that’s true. I think the Ellsbury effect above makes sure that he gets something to hit on three-ball counts.

      So in conclusion, I think Crawford’s walk rate is artificially low relative to his plate discipline. As he ages and becomes less of a stolen base threat, pitchers will treat him more normally and his walk rate will not fall as quickly as most players.

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