Carl Crawford Signs With Boston Red Sox: How This Impacts the 2011 Season

Sebastian BellittoCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2010

ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 07:  Carl Crawford #13 the Tampa Bay Rays waits in the dugout during Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field on October 7, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

And just like that, the power has shifted in the American League. According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Carl Crawford has agreed to a seven year, $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. 

Just days after trading for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Theo Epstein and company made the biggest splash of the Winter Meetings thus far by signing Crawford.

It was previously believed that Crawford would not make a move until Cliff Lee was signed.

In theory, Crawford may have hoped that if the Yankees could not acquire Lee, they would throw more money his way.

However, with a contract as lavish as this reported deal, it is understandable why Crawford would wait no longer. 

Now, the question looms: What does this mean to the rest of the American League? Are the Red Sox front-runners for a World Series run? 

Coupling Crawford with the newly-acquired Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox will boast one of the league's best lineups. Crawford, who will play left field as he did in Tampa Bay, will likely lead off, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz. 

Jacoby Ellsbury will also be in the mix.

It is likely that with such a powerful lineup, Ellsbury will bat ninth. However, this makes the Red Sox that much more dangerous.

With the speed of both Crawford and Ellsbury, the Sox will boast two of the league's best leadoff hitters as the lineup turns over each game. Both players have the ability to turn walks or singles into doubles with their speed. As a result, the Sox power hitters will have twice as many opportunities to knock in runners from scoring position. 

Another part of Crawford's game that is often overlooked is his power. Last season, Crawford hit 19 home runs while driving in 90 runs. While he will not have as many opportunities to drive in runs in Boston, he will certainly benefit from the short porch in right field. 

The Red Sox will also return a strong starting rotation and bullpen in 2011.

While the pitching staff underachieved as a whole in 2010, if starter Josh Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon can bounce back, the Sox will also have one of the best staffs in baseball. Following stellar seasons from 26-year-old starters Clay Buccholz and Jon Lester, Boston has a rotation with the ability to shut down opponents on a nightly basis. 

With two blockbuster deals, the Red Sox have put themselves ahead of the pack in the American League. The New York Yankees, who were also in hot pursuit of Crawford, are undoubtedly concerned after seeing the Red Sox acquire two of the league's best position players available. 

These deals put even more pressure on Yankees GM Brian Cashman to make a deal for Cliff Lee.

The Yankees pitching rotation was a disaster in 2010, as dismal seasons from starters A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez derailed the Yanks' World Series hopes. The Yankees needed another top-end starter to compete in the American League prior to the Red Sox transactions. Following these mega-deals, the acquisition of Cliff Lee is more imminent than ever.

Even if the Yankees are able to sign lefty Cliff Lee, this deal immediately puts the Yankees in a hole in the American League East. Carl Crawford was not the priority for the Yanks. While they would have loved to have him, he was essentially a backup plan if the team was unable to acquire Lee.

However, if there was one team in baseball the Yankees did not want to sign Carl Crawford, it was the Boston Red Sox.