Thursday, October 28, 2010

Red Sox Going Hard After Crawford?

If you believe Peter Gammons (and I usually do), the Red Sox are going to be big time players in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes:
"There is no doubt in my mind that they are going to go really hard after Carl Crawford.  That will be a matchup with the Angels, and you know there are some puffs of smoke coming out of New York that suggest the Yankees might go after him, even though their primary need is pitching."
This isn't really a surprise.  Cameron was a huge disappointment after sustaining a torn abdominal muscle early in the 2010 campaign.  Who knows what they'll get out of him next year?  Plus, I don't think the Red Sox see him as a starting player in 2011.  Ellsbury failed to take that pivotal next step forward as he struggled with cracked ribs and a possible case of Boras-itis.  Many out there believe he will be used as trade bait this offseason.  J.D. Drew was remarkably healthy last season, but he's going into his age-36 season, which will be the final season of his semi-controversial five year contract. 

The Red Sox need to start rebuilding their outfield now.  What better way to start the outfield rebuilding process than to sign a player that's accumulated 12.6 Wins Above Replacement over the past two seasons?  Crawford is an outstanding player.  He has tremendous speed, a decent batting eye, good power, and unbelievable defensive abilities in LF.  Going into his age-29 season, he's a five tool player that doesn't show any signs of regression.  To sign Crawford, the winning bid will likely need to pony up a 6 year deal worth close to $100M.  While the Red Sox have seemed reticent to pony up for big time free agents in recent years, I don't see them having any problem meeting this price tag.

Is he worth it?  In years one and two, I'll set the regression rate at 0.5 WAR per season; in years three, four, and five at 0.75 WAR per season; and in years  six at 1.00 WAR per season.  As with my previous examples, I will assume a 5% increase in the value of a win on the free agent market over each of the next six seasons.  Based on my initial 2011 projections, Crawford will be a 6.0 WAR player.  Here's how Crawford stacks up over the life of a theoretical 6 year $100M contract:

                Age       WAR       Value       Salary       Variance
2011          29         5.8         $23.8      $16.66         +$7.1
2012          30         5.3         $22.8      $16.66         +$6.1
2013          31         4.6         $19.8      $16.67         +$3.1
2014          32         3.8         $17.2      $16.67         +$0.5
2015          33         3.1         $14.7      $16.67         -$2.0
2016          34         2.1         $10.5      $16.67         -$6.2
Total                      24.7       $108.8     $100.0         +$8.8

(All monetary values in millions.)

So Crawford would definitely be worth a theoretical 6 year $100M contract, barring major injuries--and then some.  Considering Crawford's age and talent level, he will likely have several high profile suitors (Yankees and Angels) to go along with the Red Sox.  This could push his contract closer to an average annual salary of $17M to $18M.  I'd be ok with this, as this would be Crawford's theoretical break even point.  All-in-all, the Red Sox should make a full fledged effort to sign Crawford as long as his contract demands stay within the parameters I've set.  Once it goes above those levels, the contract becomes a losing investment, and likely puts the Red Sox payroll flexibility at risk. 

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