The Boston Red Sox have reportedly signed free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142-million contract, which not only drastically improves their lineup and defense, but also puts an immense amount of pressure on the New York Yankees to lock up Cliff Lee.
Two days after trading for Padres slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Theo Epstein has nabbed the No. 2 player on the open market, meaning Brian Cashman must come away with the crown jewel in order to keep pace.
The Yankees had been eying Crawford for some time now, but the need for another outfielder decreased slightly with Brett Gardner's impressive 2010 campaign and Curtis Granderson's strong finish to the season.
Still, Crawford, who has stolen 400 bases over the past eight seasons and has hit over .300 in five of the last six years, would have been a major upgrade from what New York has now.
But with Lee being their primary target, the Yanks probably didn't go as far as they normally would in negotiations with Crawford.
This could be a good thing in the end as it frees up some extra cash to throw Lee's way. If New York had to go to a seventh year with the 32-year-old Lee, it will be more willing to do so now, knowing it won't have to hand out another massive contract this offseason.
Who is the favorite to win the AL East?
The addition of Crawford and Gonzalez to a lineup that already includes Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew and David Ortiz gives Boston a clear advantage over the Bombers offensively.
Further, the move makes it even more important that New York increases its pitching depth. Putting Lee behind—or in front of—CC Sabathia in the rotation would give the Yankees the most intimidating 1-2 punch in baseball.
Now they just need to go out and get it done.
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Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.