So: is the Carl Crawford deal actually, you know, a good one?
The shock of the Carl Crawford signing cannot be overstated. Everyone assumed that the Angels had him locked up. The Red Sox really just swooped in at the last minute and destroyed the competition for the guy with those seven years and that $142 million. No, they didn’t literally swoop, but it was about as close to literally as it could be without Theo Epstein putting on a mask and cape and jumping from a chandelier and physically grabbing him.
After the shock came the Cold War analysis: what does this mean for the Yankees? What does this mean for the Red Sox? What does this mean for Cliff Lee? We covered all of that already and it’s interesting, but for anyone who is not a Red Sox or Yankees fan, that is the most annoying aspect of all of this. Those teams were already at the center of the universe before this. They don’t need more light shined on them, frankly.
What people are only now starting to get their minds around is whether, you know, this is actually a good deal for Boston in terms of the money doled out and the production they can expect to receive. My answer: it’s not terrible but it’s not particularly good either.
I’m not saying Carl Crawford is bad. Far from it. I like his game more than a lot of people, actually. I think his power increase is sustainable and that he’ll age better than a lot of the people who believe that when his legs go he’s done. But I don’t think he’ll age well enough to justify these dollars and a contract of this length.
Crawford is a career .296/.337/.444 hitter, which puts his career OPS+ at 107. Which is OK, because obviously a lot of his value comes on defense and on the base paths. But as David Pinto points out in an excellent post over at Baseball Musings, time stops for no man, especially men whose game is built on speed. He has never hit more than 19 homers. Once he stops being a force on the bases and loses a step or two in the outfield, even a spike up to 25-30 home runs a year won’t justify $20 million+ at the back end of this deal.
This is better than the Jayson Werth deal, but that’s somewhat faint praise. But to make it truly good, Crawford -- who turned 29 back in August -- will have to experience an uncommon elevation of his game as he enters his 30s. Could it happen? Sure, and if there is anyone whose work ethic and competitive fire lends itself to such a thing it’s Carl Crawford. But such career patterns don’t occur frequently, and I don’t think I’d bet on it happening with Carl Crawford.
But hey: it’s not my money and the next two or three years ought to be pretty sensational regardless.