Boston Red Sox: Rethinking the Carl Crawford Deal

Erik ManzelliContributor IIOctober 4, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Carl Crawford of the Boston Red Sox on September 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

As we look through the wreckage that was the Red Sox season, the one thing that sticks out the most is Carl Demonte Crawford.  In 2010, he had an excellent season in Tampa so naturally it felt like he'd be fun to watch at Fenway. 

If you want a clear picture on just how much he slipped just look at his past two seasons:

2010: 154 games .307 19 HR 90 RBI 13 triples 47 steals and an OBP/SLG/OPS line of .356/.495/.851

2011: 130 games .255 11 HR 56 RBI 7 triples 18 steals and an OBP/SLG/OPS line of .289/.405/.694

Now that some time has passed since the Red Sox crapped the bed, my mentality towards Carl Crawford has changed drastically.  As Bill Belichick might say—it is what it is.  Let's face it, he is probably never going to live up to the expectations that a seven-year, $142 million contract creates.  Usually that kind of money goes to No. 1 starters and franchise sluggers.  I accept that.  I think we all should so his contract doesn't drive us crazy. 

You have to cut through the media hype and remember he doesn't fit the sabermetrics template the team operates with.  Now, did John Henry or anyone in the Red Sox front office care?  No.  All they cared about was regaining interest in the team after it plummeted in 2010.  In their eyes it made sense to sign the guy who used to terrorize Red Sox pitchers on the basepaths. 

ST. PETERSBURG - JULY 31:  Outfielder Carl Crawford #13 of the Tampa Bay Rays steals his 400th career base as shortstop Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees is late with the tag during the game at Tropicana Field on July 31, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Flor
J. Meric/Getty Images

Carl Crawford played 1,235 games in Tampa Bay.  The Red Sox knew from playing against him that he is the prototypical free-swinging low OBP speedy outfielder. Ever since John Henry hired Bill James the team has made it clear they don't value speed guys or put much stock in stolen bases. Did that matter? Nope. Tom Werner needed a star for NESN so the team threw $142 million Crawford's way. His money should have gone elsewhere, (I would have tried for Cliff Lee) but there's no turning back now.

We shouldn't hold Crawford's contract against him.  I don't. 

Last year was his one shot to hit the jackpot.  His deal illustrates the bad judgment the front office and ownership used when they signed him.  Anaheim probably would have been a better fit for his skills, but we can't think about that now.  Realistically, now is not the time to trade him.  His value is very low.  Plus other teams would probably think his contract is an albatross.  The Red Sox would probably end up paying a chunk of his deal so he could play elsewhere and that doesn't make sense. 

The thought of putting him on waivers like they did with Manny Ramirez crossed my mind, but I doubt that will happen. 

The team is stuck with him, so what can the Red Sox do to get the most out of their money? 

First off he gets the green light to steal bases at any time.  He's got great speed so the team might as well use it while he still has it.  Teach him to go the other way and punch doubles off the Monster—to slap pitches in the gaps and try for triples.  He's got the size to hit home runs but in the Sox line up he doesn't really have to.  Besides, Fenway is 380 feet to straight away right and he's not a great power hitter to begin with. 

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of the Boston Red Sox connects, sending the ball to deep right,  for an inside the park home against the Baltimore Orioles defends in the seventh inning during the second game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Right now his OBP isn't very good since he doesn't walk much, but that can change.  Jacoby Ellsbury doesn't walk much either, but since he hits for such a great average, his OBP is very good.  In 2011 he walked just 52 times in 660 at-bats, but his OBP was an awesome .376 because he hit .321 for the year.  Hopefully, the same thing can happen with Crawford.  If Crawford can have more years like 2010 then I'll be happy. 

Perhaps over time our mentality towards Crawford will change.  Ten years ago people thought Manny Ramirez's deal was obscene.  Now his deal seems reasonable.  With the way player salaries escalate perhaps we'll think differently about Crawford's deal in a few years? 

I hope so.