Boston Signs Carl Crawford

Despite acquiring Adrian Gonzalez on Sunday, the Boston Red Sox have taken a back seat to the Yankees down here in Orlando. With Derek Jeter re-signing and holding an angry press conference, as well as their open pursuit of Cliff Lee, the meetings have centered around New York’s activity. Not anymore- with Carl Crawford in the fold, the Red Sox have stolen the show.

In general, reaction to the deal among people I talked to in Orlando was mostly negative, as $142 million for Carl Crawford is a big number. As a guy who gets a lot of value from his speed and defense, he isn’t the type of player to land a contract of this size. As Ken Rosenthal mentioned on Twitter, this is $50 million more than the next highest contract in baseball history for a guy who had never hit 20 or more home runs in a season- Ichiro’s previous record of $90 million for five years just got blown out of the water.

Just because it is unique, however, doesn’t mean it is automatically bad. Defense has historically been undervalued in the market, and while not everyone agrees with the conclusions reached by defensive metrics all the time, I have never met anyone who thinks that Carl Crawford is anything besides a great defensive left fielder. His speed and defense package are among the best in the game, and he’s a pretty good hitter too.

Over the last two years, the only position players with a higher WAR than Crawford are Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley. Crawford is ahead of sluggers like Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, and Miguel Cabrera, but as we saw with Gonzalez’s extension, that kind of money for their skillset is considered acceptable. Just because Crawford creates wins in a different way doesn’t make those wins less valuable. If you buy into Crawford being an elite defender, then he is worth this contract, and maybe even a little bit more.

But there is an argument to be made that left field in Boston is perhaps the worst place in baseball for a guy with great range to make an impact defensively. The Green Monster turns a lot of potential outs in other parks into base hits in Fenway, which may diminish Crawford’s ability to perform at the same level as he did in Tampa Bay. The Red Sox might have to consider shifting Crawford to right field, where his speed could be better utilized to maximize his value.

Even as a left fielder, though, I think he can earn this money. If we assume Crawford is a +5 win player, $5 million per win is the going rate this winter, and a standard aging curve that knocks off half a win per season, inflation “only” needs to be six percent annually per year going forward for Crawford’s projected value to come out to $142 million. Given that Crawford is only 29, he might be able to sustain a +5 win peak for another year or two, which would push his value even higher.

Are the Red Sox taking a big risk that Crawford won’t suffer some kind of leg injury that destroys all of his value at once? Sure, they are, but that risk is there with nearly any kind of player you sign to a deal this large. This skillset ages pretty well, and, barring injury, Crawford should be one of the premier players in the game for the next three or four years. Add in that the wins Crawford add could be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home in a tough division, and there are actually a lot of reasons to like this deal for Boston.

They got a lot better today. Yes, it’s a lot of money for a guy who doesn’t do the things that traditionally earn a lot of money, but he’s worth it, especially to Boston.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Crawl Cawford
Guest
Crawl Cawford

Since when does a skillset almost entirely based on speed age well into a player’s late 30s?

This contract wasn’t worth it at all. You aren’t factoring in the massive risk inherent in a seven-year deal, especially a massive deal to a guy who relies on his legs and not his bat.

If things go right Crawford could end up being worth $142 million in WAR, sure, but that doesn’t mean he was ever worth a $142 million contract (and the associated risk)

gnick55
Member
gnick55

Crawford is 29 now, this deal will by no means last well into his late 30s.

Lee
Guest
Lee

Did the sox overpay? Probably not if Crawford makes it the length of his contract injury free and doesn’t have any major setbacks.

Does the baseline risk of any player getting hurt over a 7 year time make this deal an overpay by the RedSox? Sure it does…….but they can afford it and they knew exactly what they were doing when they did it. They made this deal because they can, and because they didn’t make the playoffs last year.

heychuck
Guest
heychuck

Ricky Henderson

heychuck
Guest
heychuck

bad timing…

Joel
Guest
Joel

The difference between Carl Crawford and Rickey Henderson is such a vast expanse that any comparison between the two, no matter how cursory, is lunacy by default.

Aaron
Guest

Calling something “lunacy by default” is lunacy by default.

heychuck
Guest
heychuck

Joel, that had nothing to do with anything… The poster asked if there were any baseball players who were good into their late 30’s who depended on their bat and legs. Try reading first.

beasleyrockah
Guest
beasleyrockah

Since when is 35 considered late 30s? Crawford will be 35 in his last year of this contract.

While you claim Dave isn’t factoring in the “massive risk”, you clearly aren’t factoring in the situation. This deal wasn’t signed by the Washington Nationals, it was the Boston Red Sox. They just finished paying Julio Lugo and Mike Lowell 21.5 million dollars last season. While you point to the risk, you neglect to mention the added benefit of each additional win for a team in contention like the Red Sox. It isn’t far fetched to believe a player like Crawford could “put them over the top”.

Albert Lyu
Member

Don’t forget Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, who were paid a combined $16.7M last year as well.

The Hit Dog
Guest
The Hit Dog

Yes; his point was that they can afford to have players on the payroll who contribute nothing to the team on the field, whereas Beltre/Martinez obviously contributed immensely on the field.

Cheese Whiz
Guest
Cheese Whiz

Ichiro has aged just fine….as have many others with this skill set. Do a little research.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Tom Tango dances with the issue. I highly recommend reading the info from the link.

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/does_speed_age_better/

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