Contract CrowdSource: Carl Crawford

Today, I want to kick off an experiment of sorts. Over the last few off-seasons, I’ve noticed that the expectation of what I think a player will sign for is regularly not anywhere close to what he actually gets. Whether it was due to my misconceptions of what the market would value a player as, or just corrections inspired by the recession, we’ve seen guys sign for fractions of what they were expected to get, or not sign at all despite being pretty useful players.

So, rather than just go into this winter with my own observations of what the market may look like, I thought it would be a worthwhile effort to crowdsource the expected contracts for most of the major free agents who are looking to get paid this winter. We’re going to find out just how well the wisdom of crowds works in projecting the free agent market.

The first player we’ll throw out for discussion is the big fish of the winter, Carl Crawford. The Tampa Bay outfielder, who just turned 29, has established himself as one of the game’s best all-around players. Over the first nine years of his professional career, he’s averaged just under +4 WAR per season, and he’s been even better than that the last two years, posting a +5.5 win season last year and already reaching +5.6 wins so far in 2010. He’s in the prime of his career with a skillset that ages very well, and with a variety of abilities that are valued by every team, no matter their team-building philosophy.

Crawford is going to attract intense interest from multiple teams. There will be an inevitable bidding war for his services, with the Yankees and Angels most often rumored to be the teams ready to break the bank in an effort to lure Crawford to join their organizations. So, the question is, how much does he get, and for how long?

You can use the form below to submit your answers. Once we have a decent sample and the numbers seem to have stabilized around a length and figure, we’ll revisit the expectations. Assuming there’s enough interest, we’ll continue doing these until we get to free agency and find out just how much you guys actually know about projecting free agent contracts. It should be a fun experiment.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


91 Responses to “Contract CrowdSource: Carl Crawford”

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  1. mrbmc says:

    enough to buy the tampa bay rays.

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  2. OremLK says:

    Does Crawford’s skillset actually age well? Much of his game depends upon his footspeed, and not just in the areas you’d expect (baserunning and defense). His overall offensive performance could decline sharply if he slows down.

    Footspeed is one of the things which decline the soonest. Crawford does have some power, so that helps, but it’s still below average for a starting left fielder; and some of that power is provided by his legs, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples. His walk rate has always been below average, and despite some improvement, it is still not good.

    His BABIP and his ISO could suffer if he follows the typical aging pattern for a speed-driven player. Maybe he will have the longevity of a Derek Jeter or an Ichiro, but maybe not. I think the Chone Figgins contract will make teams wary about handing out big deals to speedy players in that age range, too.

    All of this is not to say I think Crawford is, or will be, a bad player soon. I expect him to continue to be very good for at least two or three more years. But I think there is a greater risk factor because of his profile, and I also think teams will be hesitant to give out a massive 7-10 year deal. Working off of what Figgins got, I voted four years at $15M per season. That may be too pessimistic, but I’m going with it.

    I wouldn’t be shocked if Jayson Werth made more money in the offseason, despite being older.

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    • JohnnyK says:

      Hey, you said it much more eloquently than I did (and all of a minute before me)… and I am glad I am not the only one who is wondering about that comment.

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    • Teej says:

      Most of the research I’ve heard of indicates that speedy contact hitters age better than most other hitters.

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      • OremLK says:

        Got any links on that? What I’ve heard is that walk rate ages the best, then power, contact, defense, and speed. I can see the argument that Crawford’s skills should be rated from best to worst in the exact opposite order.

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      • CMC_Stags says:

        OremLK -

        As the one who made the original assertion, the burden of proof is on you.

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      • JohnnyK says:

        CMC – I don’t think the burden of proof is on anyone, tbh. I would also genuinely be interested in such an article. I fully admit that my thoughts on this are hearsay and that I cannot provide any articles that prove that walkrate and power age the best, but I do believe I read this more than once in articles here or on BP.

        All I’ve found on aging in baseball are generall studies by TomTango (http://www.tangotiger.net/aging.html) and THT which do not differentiate between skillsets.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      I know most people believe this to be true, but historic evidence shows this not to be the case. Good athletes like Crawford maintain their performances much later in their careers than slow plodders who gain weight and lose bat speed in their early-to-mid 30s. Think of guys like Kenny Lofton – this skillset actually ages exceptionally well. Speed doesn’t decline nearly as early as people think.

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      • OremLK says:

        Lofton actually illustrates my point well. By age 32, much of his value was being sustained by his good walk rate and solid-average power, as his fielding and speed declined. (His walk rate was always better than Crawford’s.) His age 32 season was the last year he produced over 4 WAR.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        That’s a remarkably disingenuous statement, considering he posted +3.8 WAR in both his age 36 and 38 seasons, and posted a +2.8 WAR season at age 40.

        From age 33 to age 40, he got 4,237 plate appearances and totaled +19.3 WAR, or an average of 2.75 WAR per 600 PA. He was still a very good player when he retired.

        No one’s saying that Crawford will maintain his +5 WAR peak level, but guys with this skillset are usually the ones who stay productive the longest.

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      • OremLK says:

        I don’t think my statement was more disingenuous than your own; in the time period we’re discussing, he also posted three seasons below 2 WAR, including one at 0.3 WAR, to go with the three good ones you mentioned. He averaged 2.4 WAR per season, which is decent player, yes–just good enough to pencil in as a starter–but I’d contest the notion that he was still “very good” during that stretch of his career. Older players don’t have a uniform decline, so pointing out a few peaks is, I think, the more disingenuous way to approach evaluating Lofton’s twilight years.

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      • What? How was Dave’s response disingenuous? He didn’t just “point out a few peaks”. He also posted the average and accumulated WAR over that 8 year span.

        You’re wrong, dude. Deal with it.

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      • mowill says:

        Who aged better?

        Jason Giambi or Ichiro Suzuki.

        Dave is 100% right.

        Look how long a guy like Rickey Henderson was able to stick around compared to a guy like Richie Sexson who retired at ten years younger.

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    • CMC_Stags says:

      Can you point to a single study that shows that “footspeed is one of the things which decline the soonest?”

      As I don’t believe you can, your full argument is null and void.

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  3. JohnnyK says:

    Does Crawford really have a skillset that ages well? He doesn’t hit for too much power and does not get on base at a high clip, two things I always thought were considered skills that age well.
    Not saying he will fall off a cliff, but can teams rely on him still having his wheels when he is 35?

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  4. Nik says:

    I’ll say 5/80 for CC and 4/60 for Werth this winter.

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  5. Gopherballs says:

    How should options be treated? Should we ignore option years and buyouts?

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  6. Jamee says:

    I went for 12 million a year and 4 years, but that’s not really based on that much, and I think I probably should have gone for closer to 15/5 after thinking about it a bit more, but I’m not sure. He’s a very good player, and I would be delighted to see him in Seattle next year, as unlikely as it is.

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  7. Albert says:

    I voted 6 years at 16m per
    I don’t think he has a skillset that ages well. I think he’s due to be a disappointment for whoever gets him.

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  8. Adam says:

    Speed tends to age better than other skill sets. It’s counter-intuitive, I know, but as a player ages, he gets “old-player” skills to offset whatever foot speed he loses. If he didn’t have that speed to begin with, he becomes too slow anyway.

    Anecdotal evidence: Ichiro, Ricky Henderson, Johnny Damon. Check out Crawford’s similarity scores through age 27 (from B-R): Roberto Clemente tops the list. He was better in his 30s.

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  9. joe says:

    Do the Yankees want another lefty OF, or do they give up on Gardner/relegate him to 4th OF? While Werth may not be as good he’s a better fit .

    I think the Angels are a better fit for CC, and there may not be the bidding war that people expect.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Why would they take Crawford when Gardner can provide 75% of Crawford at 5% of the price?

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      • JimNYC says:

        I agree completely, Kevin. Gardner’s too good to be a bench player. I could theoretically see the Yankees putting Gardner in CF and trading Granderson, since they’re usually pretty good on giving up on mistakes as soon as they can. However, since the Yankees are already going to be spending money on Cliff Lee this offseason and have no pressing need for Crawford’s skills, I don’t see them getting involved.

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      • Ben says:

        Because the price doesn’t matter.

        Bigger picture, I agree that CC doesn’t make a lot of sense for them, and I don’t see them going after him either. As someone above mentioned, Werth probably makes more sense. But really, you shouldn’t factor in $$ to value when you’re talking about the Yankees because it honestly doesn’t have a large impact on their decision making. Their payroll, even as it is now, is still something like $200 million less than their revenue. If they decide they want Crawford, they’ll go get him.

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  10. Luke in MN says:

    Is there any way to justify paying him less than what Torii Hunter got? Torii was both older and not as good when he hit free agency. I went with 6 years, 18 per.

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    • JH says:

      Worse economic climate. Hunter signed his big multi-year contract before the economy completely exploded (or at least before MLB teams saw the economic effects on their bottom lines the following season).

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  11. Luke in MN says:

    Also, I like this idea and think you should do it a lot as free agency approaches.

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  12. Phillies Red says:

    Suggestion: you should also indicate if the players is a Boras client.

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  13. Jamee says:

    Of course, if NY and Boston get into a bidding war, it could get dizzyingly high.

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    • joe says:

      Boston?

      Thankfully they have Cameron for another year (that 2 year deal looks even more absurd now). JD Drew for another year and Ellsbury for a while. Unless they deal Ellsbury, they don’t have room for him.

      Are they going to sit one of these guys on the bench for a year until they can ditch Cameron or Drew the following year?

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      • Ben says:

        They could let Papi go and DH one of those guys. Not saying it will happen, just pointing out that they do have room.

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  14. Jacob Jackson says:

    I think Crawford will out-earn Matt Holliday. I also admit I’m one of the few people who believe this.

    Crawford and Werth will benefit from the dearth of elite OFs in future FA markets. There isn’t one elite FA OFer in next year’s class. The class after that is headed by Sizemore in the OF, and his career is at a bit of a crossroads – he might not look elite by the time he reaches FA in two years.

    My point is this: teams could pass on Bay and Holliday last winter with the knowledge that they’d have a great opportunity to ante up for equal-or-better talent in the following winter with Crawford and Werth. Teams won’t have that luxury this offseason. It’s either buy Crawford or Werth, or swallow hard and accept that you won’t find an elite FA outfield solution for years.

    I think that Crawford will get offered seven years from an elite, preferred destination team (Yanks/Dodgers/Red Sox/Angels), and that if an unheralded team outside of that foursome wanted to sign him it would require eight years, with the total compensation passing $120M.

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    • mowill says:

      You don’t think Carlos Beltran will have played himself back to elite status by the end of 2011 then you don’t know Carlos Beltran.

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      • NEPP says:

        Its not as if guys that start missing large chunks of time due to recurring injuries age poorly or something. Beltran has had major issues with his legs. There is no real guarantee that he’s suddenly going to bounce back to the elite CF that he once was.

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      • mowill says:

        I’d put a case of scotch on Beltran hitting well over .300 and over 30 homers next year. He and Adrian Beltre are the ultimate contract year players.

        Which is why I have a pretty low opinion of their character but a pretty high opinion of there ability.

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      • pele says:

        what about Beltres 2009 season, which was also a contract year?

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      • Rich says:

        He’s 33, with legs problems, alot less range, hasn’t show much power in over a year and plays in a big ball park. I’ll take that scotch bet (if the Mets don’t trade him).

        I don’t think you know the Mets or haven’t watched a game in a month.

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  15. Ace says:

    I have to believe he will get at least 6/96, and probably more – I could see the likes of Anaheim, Yankees, Detroit (70M coming of the books), maybe even the Giants throwing big money at this guy. 29 year old FA’s in the 4-5 WAR range seem like they are pretty damn rare, and as Dave mentioned, he’ll still be a useful player at the end of that range.

    Side note / curious – I know we don’t have much data on Crawford in CF recently, but I wonder (assuming he’s a +15 LF) whether he would be at least an average and maybe a +5 CF, and enhance his value further. May be completely off base, but curious what people thing.

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  16. The Nicker says:

    Personally I think Crawford and Werth should not be compared. It’s basically like a Holliday to Bay disparity, maybe more. Crawford is better, younger, and plays in the hardest division in a much tougher league.

    As a Tigers fan, I hope they leave the back of the rotation to the guys they have coming back plus Oliver/Furbush and just go after Crawford/VMart/Beltre type guys that will really make a difference at positions of need.

    It’d be nice to get Crawford for 5/100, but in reality it will probably be more years at a little less per, which as a GM I wouldn’t like.

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  17. Anon says:

    Depends on who signs him. I think he’ll go to New York for 4-6 years for 16-18m a season. He will not stay in Tampa. The turf is shredding his knee and I think he will have injury problems wherever he goes.

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  18. Jake says:

    I said 6/96 and I will laugh at the team that gives it to him. Personally I’m skeptical of Crawford because his value is so heavily reliant on his incredible UZR results, the guy does not hit like a first division corner outfielder (contract year aside).

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    • Teej says:

      I have a hard time ignoring the UZR scores after watching/reading about him for so many years. He’s incredible in the field. You don’t have to hit like Ryan Braun to be an elite outfielder.

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  19. KevinM says:

    AT THIS POINT, Brett Gardner has played well enough that bringing in a FA OF would say more about the Yankees’ opinion of Curtis Granderson than him. In addition, I don’t think the team wants to tie up another position with a long-term deal. I’m far less certain of the Yankees signing a FA OF than I was going into the year.

    If the Yankees are off the list, the Red Sox and Tigers look like solid destinations for Crawford. Most teams would probably love to give him only 4 years @ 12-15 AAV, but I think competition for his “talents” will create a floor of a 5th year. I can’t see any team giving him 6 years. The change in the sport’s economy will prevent him from getting the same AAV that Torii Hunter got a few years ago.

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  20. Baron Samedi says:

    6/120. Prove me wrong, New York.

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  21. pele says:

    6/16 seems like what he will get, i dunno if that’s a good idea though. if he did sign for that this off-season i suppose it would be looked at as a reasonable deal. something like 7/18 and we start entering the realm of the silly.

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  22. Dugan says:

    If he goes only 5 years I could see 19m per. 5/95m

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  23. Temo says:

    Hmm, judging from the responses here, I wildly overshot with 6 years/$120M. But that’s what wisdom of the crowds is all about, I guess.

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  24. Kriz says:

    I don’t think anyone will give him a long contact unless they are getting a discount on annual salary. 5 years @ 19M per is my guess.

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  25. Kriz says:

    And I’ll add that I think he’ll grow wings…

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  26. brentinKorea says:

    I don’t think teams will be willing to spend that kind of money. 5 @14per year. He’s a LF after all.

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    • NEPP says:

      Which is a reason that Werth might well get a comparable deal despite being older. Werth can handle all 3 OF positions credibly…not great but credibly. There’s alot of value in that type of versatility.

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      • pele says:

        when i think of of a versatile defender, i dont think of a guy who can play a plus corner and non disastrous CF, there are probably one of those guys on most teams. i think of guys who can play a middle IF position along with an OF spot or even a 1b/3b.

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      • mowill says:

        Being able to play plus defense at all three outfield spots is a very valuable tool to have.

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      • pele says:

        never said it wasnt, but is he a + defender in CF at this point? unlikely.

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      • Teej says:

        I’d put my money on Crawford being a plus center fielder.

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      • NEPP says:

        The difference is that Werth regularly plays a more difficult position (RF vs. LF) and he’s got recent experience (including this year) handling CF for a period of time. Teams will look at that over Crawford’s potential (but no recent experience anywhere other than LF).

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      • pele says:

        was talking about Werth in CF, not CC. I see how that got lost in the posts though.

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  27. Cale says:

    Ichiro received 5 years/$90 million dollars before the 2008 season as a 34-year old. Though he is supposedly worth more to the Mariners than any other team, I think this is the most comparable contract to the situation at hand given their similar skill sets. Also, due to the fact that Crawford is just 29, and the fact that his skill set is becoming more highly valued due to the perception that power hitting is becoming less important, I would not be surprised by 7 years, $18 mil per year. Also, there seems to be a premium for signing the prize of the free agent market.

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  28. Everett says:

    I’ll take 5 years at 20m per.

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  29. The Duder says:

    If it’s the yankees 6-7@19, anyone else 5-6@16. Being a gm must be easy when you can overpay for anyone at any time.

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    • awayish says:

      wouldn’t call it overpay. assuming crawford is a 4~5 win player, he’s worth way more to the yankees than he is to every other team.

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  30. PhD Brian says:

    I have a feeling based on nothing but my gut that tells me Crawford will stay in Tampa and accept less than he could get. I put 5 years and $50 million.

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  31. jsp2014 says:

    7/126 (18 per)… just writing it down so i remember what my guess was

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  32. Jake R says:

    7/140

    Although the FA market has declined for 2nd tier players and more or less disappeared for 3rd tier players, it has not really taken that much of a hit for elite FA. Crawford is in this category and I expect him to get something in the neighborhood of Alfonso Soriano money.

    That contract leaves him a peg below Mauer and Teixeira, so it’s not like there isn’t precedent for this kind of spending even in the revised FA landscape. Considering that several teams with very deep pockets are going to be interested, it’s probably safe to assume on the high side for this contract.

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  33. BX says:

    I say 7years at 15 million per, in the 100-105MM range.

    The economy hasn’t really affected the other elite (or perceived elite) free agents on the market. Sabathia, Holliday, and Teixeira still got megadeals. Lackey and Burnett still got a lot of money for their borderline elite skillsets (at the time of signing, of course).

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  34. DavidB says:

    Saying that a big name free agent is going to sign for X and the team that pays it is going to regret it is a bit of a cheap thrill. For the biggest free agent contracts a good deal is when the player provides slightly more value then the value of the contract. When big name players decline rapidly they are wildly overpaid. A big contract can only be proved a smart gamble several years from now, but it can look stupid in the first year of the contract (or before it kicks in- good luck with Ryan Howard Phils fans).

    I like the crowdsourcing exercise happening here, but I think some of the people predicting Crawford is likely to be at least somewhat overpaid aren’t going too far out on a limb. Most players that get big dollar 5 or 6 year deals are at least somewhat overpaid.

    I say LAAA sign him for 5/90 and bet it works out pretty well for them. I buy the argument that athletic players can evolve in terms of their skills and retain most of their value into their mid 30s.

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  35. Kyle says:

    I predicted 6 years at 126 million, and I’m probably off a year and a few extra million that he’ll somehow make. If he’s smart he could sign 7 or 8 year contract for the extra seasons making about 18-19 mill a year.

    At age 29, yes, he’s entering his prime and might actually become a legitimate superstar. But he hasn’t scored 100 runs since 2005, has never hit more than 15 homeruns(this season he’ll surpass that), and he’s a leftfielder who relies on his speed. Throw in one season one down season where he was hurt often(2008), and is he a guy that would still be a freakish talent at age 33 or 34? He never takes walks, strikes out too much, and I’m guessing someone will pay far too much for him. Probably the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Astros since they finally gutted their team, and he’s from there.

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    • batpig says:

      “has never hit more than 15 homeruns”

      you mean besides the 18 he hit in 2006?

      “He never takes walks, strikes out too much”

      let’s not exaggerate here, his strikeout rate is only 15% for his career. He’s not an undisciplined hacker — 50 BB and 90 K’s in a full season is not that troublesome.

      again, we’re dealing with one of the most physically gifted athletes in MLB. Even if he loses some raw speed, players like him can make adjustments. I would not be surprised if Crawford added more BB’s and HR’s as he ages a bit…

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  36. Phantom Stranger says:

    I would be scared as a GM to sign him to a long-term contract. His real value is of course in his defense, but there is good evidence that defensive skill peaks earlier than hitting skill and declines quickly. His hitting numbers look a little better this year because he is in a contract push, but without the elite defense his numbers are not worthy of a premium corner outfielder.

    The size of the contract will come down to whether to the Yankees are serious bidders and want him. They will go more years than any other team when they are serious, which is often the clincher.

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  37. Jim Lahey says:

    I’m guessing 4 for 19m AAV. With maybe an option or 2 on the end..

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  38. Jamie says:

    I’m not going to pretend to know what he’ll get, but I assume his agent will be asking for something similar to Matt Holliday’s 7/120 deal. He’s the same age Holliday was when he hit the market and plays the same position (but better). He might even get it, assuming the Yankees, Sox, and Angels get involved.

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  39. spydog says:

    According to Cots, these are the potential FA in 2012 (the following year):

    Bobby Abreu LAA *
    Jose Bautista TOR
    Carlos Beltran NYM
    Milton Bradley SEA
    Mike Cameron BOS
    Ronny Cedeno PIT
    Ryan Church PIT
    Jack Cust OAK
    Matt Diaz ATL
    J.D. Drew BOS
    Jeff Francouer NYM
    Jonny Gomes CIN
    Gabe Gross OAK
    Carlos Guillen DET
    Corey Hart MIL
    Jeremy Hermida BOS
    Raul Ibanez PHI
    Conor Jackson ARZ
    Ryan Ludwick STL
    Gary Matthews Jr. NYM
    Nate McLouth ATL *
    Juan Pierre CWS
    Juan Rivera LAA
    Cody Ross FLA
    Grady Sizemore CLE *
    Nick Swisher NYY *
    Josh Willingham WAS

    This list could have a huge impact on the $$ that Crawford receives. Besides Sizemore (and he’s a huge risk), there aren’t any names that can match Crawford. If there were 2 or 3 impact players in 2012 then Crawford’s value comes down. So, I’d say this list bodes well for CC’s agent.

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  40. Matty says:

    You are correct that this list could effect the amount of money he gets, but there aren’t many worth while players on it. Swisher isn’t going anywhere and Hart is going to ask for to much money than he’s worth and possibly get stuck in MIL. Ludwick is up in the air I don’t think he will stay with the Padres. As for Gomes I assume he will stay with the Reds. Bautista has to go which will effect Crawford’s salary, but for the most part he’s on the top of the list in my opinion.

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    • TK says:

      Didn’t Hart sign an extension with the Brewers?

      I have no reason to suspect Jose Bautista won’t hit 50 more homers in 2011 and will get an 8/200 contract.

      I said 6/102 for CC but I think that’s too much – I’d consider him at 5/75 if I were a GM. I do think he’s Yankees-bound and they’ll pay him whatever it takes.

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  41. Griggs says:

    5 @16

    More than that makes no sense for a speed guy. I think he will prove to be worth something like 4 @14.

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  42. Rick says:

    I went 6/108 (18/yr). I think this does undervalue him a bit, but I’m not sure he’s going to get Holiday money with an 100 OPS points less. While he’s certainly an extremely productive player, I think his comparative lack of power would keep GMs from wanting to build a lineup around him — as most would have to do at that price.

    I’m more curious about possible destinations. Yankees don’t have a spot for him unless they move somebody. Angels could play him in CF for a year and then slide him to LF in 2012. Red Sox have room, as do the Nats, especially if they don’t spend the money to bring Dunn back.

    I think my sleeper would be the Giants. They could trade Sanchez or DeRosa to free up some money. Or they could slide Big Panda over to 1B assuming Huff makes himself too expensive. They could easily make room in any event. The big park plays to his strengths. He doesn’t have to go too far north — I can’t imagine the climate of New York & Boston are terribly attractive for a Houston native.

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