Late last night, Carl Crawford agreed to a seven year, $142 million dollar contract to play left field for the Red Sox. It’s starting to seem that MLB teams are being advised this winter by a loop recording of CNBC’s Jim Cramer screaming, “BUY! BUY! BUY!” (Except for the Mets, of course, who are decidedly in “Don’t Buy” mode.) Jayson Werth received a seven year, $126 million dollar deal from the Nationals; someone will give Cliff Lee at least six seasons and $140 million; Troy Tulowitzki had his contract extended by the Rockies until 2020; and Adrian Gonzalez will be extended for seven seasons, also by the Red Sox. The money hasn’t necessarily been shocking part this offseason — inflation and baseball’s increased revenue continually make salaries seem crazier than they are — but more so the years.
The initial reaction to the Crawford deal, particularly in terms of the years, seemed to be a collective “huzzah?” from the Internet. Crawford owns a career .296/.337/.444 batting line and an OPS+ of 107, which are good numbers, but not very good or great numbers. More of his value comes from his great baserunning and defense, but those are the sorts of things that decline when a player becomes slower with ages. Because, you know, people age and become slower. I suspect this was the sort of thing fans and writers were thinking about when they questioned the amount of money and years being given to a player that is essentially a healthy version of Jose Reyes. It seems weird.
Here’s my take: There are some organizations in baseball whose judgment I trust; the Red Sox happen to be one of them. When they do something I don’t instantly understand — like this Crawford deal — I don’t immediately assume that it is wrong. I instead suspect they know something I don’t. They may not, but they probably do. Boston is among MLB’s model organizations, and one that has hired several very smart people to think about things I don’t have the time or capacity to figure out. I think it’s safe to assume they know everything we know, and then some. If the Red Sox think signing Carl Crawford is a good move, they probably have very good reasons for thinking that way.
And, of course, as Internet baseball-person Tom Tango pointed out today, fast players do tend to decline less with age. According to Tango, the Crawford deal, in terms of value over the life of the contract, appears to be fair. I think it’s safe to assume the Red Sox already looked at this.
However, the deal is not good news for the Mets. If their Crawford, Jose Reyes, has a healthy 2011, he could expect something similar. Which would be a lot.