When the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract, they added a four-time all-star and one of the more dynamic and best all-around players in baseball.
Not only does he make the Red Sox better, but there is also a ripple effect that could be felt throughout the toughest division in baseball.
Boston Red Sox: In 2010, Red Sox left fielders combined to hit .230 with 18 home runs, a .303 OBP and 5 stolen bases. As a group, players that played left field for the Sox in 2010 combined for -0.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR; data via Fangraphs.com). In other words, the Red Sox could have signed Joe Replacement off the street and he would have been more productive than the Red Sox left fielders.
Meanwhile, Crawford was worth 6.9 WAR. If he repeats his 2010 numbers, the 2011 Red Sox are already 7.4 wins better than they were in 2010 just by signing Crawford. So Crawford alone could take the Sox from 89 wins to 95-96 wins. And 96 wins is good enough for at least a Wild Card spot in the American League.
Tampa Bay Rays: At the other end of the spectrum are the Rays. Yes, they lost a seven-win player. But they also have Desmond Jennings, one of the top prospects in baseball ready to take his place. Will he replace Crawford’s production? Almost certainly not. But at one-fiftieth of the price, Jennings should be able to contribute at least two wins. So the net loss is at most five wins for the Rays. That takes the Rays from 96 wins to 91. Still a contender, but this team struggled offensively at times last year. Losing Crawford is just going to make things worse.
New York Yankees: Usually it is the Yankees that drive the market. But not this year. Now it is up to the Yankees to react to the Crawford signing. And now the pressure is on to get Cliff Lee. Crawford is also the second left-handed bat the Sox have added in a week. So now the Yankees also find themselves in a position where they have to go get another left-handed bullpen arm in addition to the lefty Lee. That sound you just heard was every agent in baseball that is currently representing a free agent left-handed reliever charging their mobile phone.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Canadian dollar is doing better these days. But it might not be doing well enough to sign Manny Ramirez, who is the one player that could give the Blue Jays an outside shot at contention. And if they don’t get Manny, it could be another battle for third place for the Jays.
Baltimore Orioles: Call us in two years.
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