Many people are speculating what the No. 1 need is for the Boston Red Sox.
Logically the bullpen is the No. 1 priority. In fact, I will go as far as to say if the bullpen had done its job this year, the Red Sox would have won the AL East.
There are those who think the Red Sox should make a run at Cliff Lee, which after his recent postseason gems seems like a great idea—not to mention the pitching rotation would be miles ahead of any other rotation, especially financially.
There are others who dream of trading for a big-time slugger (Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, David Wright) or some serious relief help, which would be wonderful but would require a boatload of prospects, and there is no guarantee these teams will be willing to part with their stars.
However, for all these other scenarios to fall into place, signing Carl Crawford would be the perfect start.
First, let us look at solely his numbers. Crawford is a career .296 hitter who has led the American League in triples four times and steals four times (don't forget the year Jacoby Ellsbury stole 70 to lead the league, Crawford still stole 60).
He plays wonderful defense in left and can cover a ton of ground. In the 2009 and 2010 seasons he combined to save 38 runs more than the average player based on the number of plays made. His range factor (based on putouts and assists per nine innings) has been above the league average every year he has played.
Some of you may be rolling your eyes at my use of defensive statistics as a reason to sign him (Mike Cameron, anyone?). However, I look at his defense as merely a supplement to what he could bring to the lineup.
Next, look at what adding Crawford could do for this team, numbers aside. He batted third for Tampa Bay this year, whose lineup was not as good as the Red Sox lineup, and had great success, showing he is able to handle being the focal point of a lineup.
Is he the traditional No. 3 hitter? No. How many teams in the American League, though, have a No. 3 hitter capable of leading the league in triples and steals? The answer is one: whoever signs Carl Crawford.
If Crawford is signed, it makes the outfield, assuming Ellsbury is not traded, fantastic defensively. We have seen what having outfielders who can go get it did for Tampa Bay, and the Red Sox would have two Gold Glove-caliber outfielders and one very stable, above average defender.
Assuming Ellsbury stays and bats leadoff, the Red Sox now would have two players in the first three in the order capable of stealing 60 bases and another, Dustin Pedroia, capable of stealing a few bags himself.
Finally, Crawford is better than Jayson Werth. Many people look at Werth and point out he has more power than Crawford, is still a very solid defender, is a solid baserunner, etc. Unfortunately Werth was never a focal point of a lineup. He is also older than Crawford by two years and has only become a big name the past two seasons.
Am I saying Jayson Werth is not a good player? Absolutely not. He's not Carl Crawford though. He is not near the base stealing threat and strikes out a ton. He is not as good of a defender and will become J.D. Drew 2.0 in my opinion: a player who turns a couple nice years into way too big of a contract.
Theo Epstein, Crawford is your man.