It has become conventional wisdom at this point that the Yankees intend to make Carl Crawford a wealthy man at the end of the 2010 season. Allow me to be among the first to ask, why?
Don’t get me wrong, Crawford is a solid player, but his career line of .295/.335/.437 translates only to an OPS+ of 103, which is just ok. Granted, he steals 50 bases a year, which is sick, but he’s getting older. I struggle to see him keeping his value if he loses his speed as he enters his 30s.
And therein lies the problem. To me, fair value for Crawford is something in the 4 years for $40 million range. Except, no one thinks he’ll sign for that. I’m sure as I write this his agent is telling him he’s going to pull in at least $60 million over four years. Sadly, according to Fangraphs, Crawford probably won’t be worth that much.
My hope is that Brian Cashman is playing his cards close to his chest, and rumors of Yankee love for Crawford are exaggerated, only because he seems like he could be a Carl Pavano redux, at least in so far as he probably won’t live up to the contract it would take to land him.
The team has two obvious alternatives. The first is Brett Gardner. Sure, he’s unproven, but isn’t his game exactly the same as Crawford’s, but with better defense? If Gardner can replicate his 2009 line of .270/.345/.379 he’ll give the Yankees a very similar game to Crawford’s, but for less money. If Gardner can get it done, frankly, I’d rather have him and $14 million than Carl Crawford.
The other alternative isn’t getting much attention, strangely: Jayson Werth. (Full disclosure, TYU beat me to the punch here, but I had the idea for this post before I saw it on their site, honest.) Werth is older than Crawford, and has less of a track record, but he’s a better fit for the Yankees. When he’s healthy he gives a team 30+ home run power and a solid OBP. But the real clincher is cost. Werth made only $2.5 million in 2009 and will only make $7.5 million in 2010. Crawford, on the other hand, made more than $8 million in 2009 and figures to do it again in 2010.
Given his advanced age, and relative poverty, Werth may be available for fewer dollars (total or otherwise) than Carl Crawford. The rumors surrounding Crawford and the Yankees have been huge for some time now. Hopefully the team is keeping its options open, if only to keep the price down on its first choice for the upcoming offseason.