In a display of ninja-like stealth that would make even Brian Cashman proud, the Boston Red Sox made a big acquisition today. Our old friend Peter Abraham broke the news, reporting that the Sawx have signed Rays OF Carl Crawford to a 7-year 142 million dollar contract. This is a big signing for Boston, and somewhat of a surprise, as I’m sure many people were expecting Boston to be done with handing out big paychecks after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez (and his reported Teixeira-esque extension demands).
Crawford will be a nice addition to the Boston lineup, likely hitting in the 2-hole behind Jacoby Ellsbury, and ahead of Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Youkilis. His speed and on-base ability will allow him to score a lot of runs in front of Boston’s big boppers, and give Yankee catchers fits on the basepaths. He’s also a great defensive outfielder, though his defensive value will be limited at home (in Fenway’s small left field). Before the Jason Werth signing, if somebody told me that Carl Crawford, whom I consider a very good player but not a star, would be getting 20 million/year for 7 years, I would have been shocked. After the Werth deal, this one doesn’t look quite as bad for the Sox. I am curious what this deal means for Ryan Kalish, who was probably penciled in as the starting leftfielder after making a good impression in his debut last year.
The signing does put a number of other pieces in motion. We can assume that the Angels (who were very interested in Crawford) will likely focus their attention on Adrian Beltre. I imagine the Angels will wind up with Beltre, barring a Werth-esque surprise bid from another squad. I could also see Boston pursuing a Type-A reliever (like Scott Downs) because they would only have to surrender a 2nd-round pick for the signing.
The addition of another lefty hitter (who does not hit as well against lefties) in the Boston lineup will likely increase the sense of urgency that the Yankees face to sign Cliff Lee, though I’m not sure his demands/price will be substantially changed. The Crawford signing also takes Crawford off the market for the Yankees, who might have considered him as a fall-back should Lee wind up returning to the Rangers or going elsewhere. I still think Lee is likely to end up in Pinstripes, as I doubt the Rangers or another team will match the Yankees’ alleged 6-year 140 million offer.
What does this signing mean for the division next year? Certainly, Boston’s lineup will be improved, and top-to-bottom its depth is comparable to the Yankees’. I might put Boston’s lineup slightly ahead of the Yankees’ at this point (mostly because of the age of Jeter, A-Rod and Posada), though with a Cliff Lee signing and an Andy Pettitte return (admittedly, neither are guaranteed at this point), I would take the Yankee rotation and bullpen over Boston’s. Are the Yankees doomed? Far from it. It will definitely be an exciting race for the division, and with the Rays likely taking a step back ( losing Crawford, Pena, and Soriano), the team that doesn’t win the division will still be in good shape for a Wild Card berth. Remember, they still have to play the games, and ultimately, the season will probably come down to which team suffers the fewest significant injuries.
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