A vote against Carl Crawford

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.

9 thoughts on “A vote against Carl Crawford

  1. Crawford passes the eye test to me as a superior defender in left field. I've heard you make this argument before about Crawford not being worth the hype but, to me, Crawford's defense alone would make him a better alternative then whatever the Yanks could get, i.e. Jason Werth, and have. Don't get me wrong if they stay with Gardner I'll be fine with the decision and I'd take Werth's guaranteed 30 hrs in a heartbeat… but I don't buy the idea that Crawford is not a guy who deserves less than $15 mill a year in this market

  2. I don't like Crawford's OBP, but at least he makes up for it when he does get on. His defense is top notch and he's a reliable pesky contact hitter. As with all lefties, Yankee Stadium can help boost his powers numbers.

    I know throwing money at "speed" guys already in their peak is risky, but if we're talking about a 4 year deal..then I'd have no worries about his production (yes, if he's asking for Boras money then I'd be more hesitant)

    While Crawford is no Pena/Longoria type threat, I always hate seeing him step into the batter's box.

  3. I was initially going to say I disagree with you Mike, although admittedly I hadn't really looked too closely at Crawford vs. Werth before.

    While Werth has better numbers, one thing that does raise some eyebrows is that he really hasn't had much of a sustained run of success — his last three years have obviously been very good, but he's also entering his age 31 season. Why did it take Werth so long to put it all together? I'm not suggesting he's going to fall off a cliff or anything, but there is something to be said for Crawford's track record…

  4. Could this be why the Yanks are going with Granderson in Center rather then in left? Maybe they don't want to have to switch Grandy back to Center once Crawford is here?

  5. I'll tackle the low-hanging fruit first and say that I believe the Yankees intend to put Granderson in CF because they don't think Gardner is a long-term solution in LF. Gardner has had a bad ST, Granderson has been hitting of late, and the team is probably looking for long-term solutions.

    To me its all a question of cost with Crawford or Werth. My concern is that Crawford is not as good as the hype that is surrounding him, particularly when his numbers are looked at. Without the steals Crawford's offense reduces to league average. Speed deteriorates, and for my part I'm not sure its worth $15 million+ a year for speed. I groan at the thought of paying a ton to an ageing Crawford who's getting punched out a lot.

    Werth is certainly not as good as Crawford has been. However, I believe we could get him for a shorter, cheaper deal. That may be the smarter move.

    The only way Crawford is a suitable option is if the Yankees truly believe that he is a long-term option. If the team feels that he will not lose his speed, and can maintain an OBP of about .350 for a four or five year deal, then by all means, go for it. But I'm not sold.

  6. I would argue against Crawford and Werth because I'm assuming the Yankees are going to resign Jeter long term, and he and ARod can't play the infield forever, can they? At some point, I would assume Jeter will have to change positions – i could be wrong; Jeter could be a new generation of athlete and could play SS his entire career… And you assume ARod will eventually have to get out of the infield – OF or DH or both… it just seems like a bad idea to lock up LF with so many veterans on this team.But most of all, (and I don't begrudge Mike for talking about the Crawford topic – it's literally EVERYWHERE ON EVERY SITE; in fact its almost negligent for Yankeeist to NOT comment on this) can the 2010 season start before so much attention is paid to the 2010-11 off season?

  7. That's an excellent point that I completely overlooked. The team doesn't know when it will need to begin moving some of its ageing infielders to the outfield. As far as focusing on Crawford is concerned, hey, we need something to write about. For my part I'm really opposed to giving him a ton of money. I don't feel the team needs him urgently. It smells like spending for the sake of spending, you know, if they do it.

  8. I'm actually vehemently against the idea of moving our aging superstars to the outfield — this idea assumes that (a) they'll no loner be able to play their positions effectively, and (b) the outfield is somehow an acceptable alternative for lifelong infielders.Regarding point A, I'm well aware that baseball players generally don't age gracefully and baseball's history hasn't exactly been littered with amazing shortstops and third basemen in their late 30s and early 40s, but if any two players were to continue to defy age and expectations, I'd say A-Rod and Jeter are as good bets as any.And Point B, neither has played an inning of outfield in their professional careers. I know outfield isn't as demanding as an infield position, but I think we're making a pretty big leap of faith assuming these guys will be effective outfielders. Not only that, but do we really want our outfield corners patrolled by a couple of 40-year-olds who may not be hitting like corner outfielders anymore? As Yankee fans our best hope is that Jeter and A-Rod continue to defy conventional baseball wisdom and can adequately play their infield positions into their 40s, thus maximizing their value and also ensuring that the outfield isn't blocked up by a couple of aging vets.

  9. I think signing Crawford is comparable to the Johnny Damon signing – he filled that need in CF (not well, but then, he was probably the best FA CF available at the time) and a top of the line up hitter.Maybe next yr, the yankees will feel they need another OF and a top of the line up hitter if they part ways with Nick Johnson and Nick Swisher… so if we are totally Nickless next yr, maybe there is room on the team for Crawford after all – does he have the arm strength to play RF?