Carl Crawford Will Be a Yankee in 2011, You Can Mark It Down Now

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IMarch 23, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 10:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Tampa Bay Rays leads off first base against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on August 10, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

I know the 2010 season hasn't even begun yet, but I'm going on record and making a bold prediction for the Yankees' near future.

That's right, I'm saying it nowCarl Crawford will be wearing pinstripes come 2011 and beyond.

Now, how can I be so sure? Why wouldn't Crawford go back to Tampa and play with the Rays for the rest of his career? It's a good question, considering Tampa has a decent team with lots of young talent and can contend at any time.

The only problem is that Crawford is such an attractive player who is entering the prime of his career right now at age 28, and the new Yankee Stadium is a home run haven, especially for left-handed batters.  Crawford could see his home run totals go up if he decides to call the Bronx his new home.

Many around the baseball world felt that the reasoning behind the Yankees not making a strong effort to re-sign Johnny Damon this past winter was that they wanted to keep left field open in 2011 for when Crawford becomes a free agent.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Damon wanted two-plus years with the Yankees. The Yankees only wanted one year more with Damon, which is why the Yankees and Damon never saw eye to eye on a contract.

Instead, the Yankees are looking at a couple of situations in 2010. They could start Curtis Granderson in left field and Brett Gardner in center field. Or, if Randy Winn emerges, they could put Winn in left field and Granderson in center.

Winn was signed in January to a one-year deal and will more than likely play only one season in pinstripes. Why only a one-year deal? My guess: Crawford's availability for 2011.

The Yankees, Brian Cashman, and Hal Steinbrenner know which players are worth spending extra money. They didn't go over the budget for Damon this winter, which is reasonable and understandable given Damon's age and position.

Cashman, in fact, asked Steinbrenner to add onto the budget in the winter of 2008 to pursue Mark Teixeira away from the Angels and Red Sox. Cashman went as far as to stake his reputation as a GM on getting Teixeira to New York. In the end, that move worked out brilliantly as Teixeira led the league in home runs and finished second in the MVP voting.

I could see Cashman making the same case to Hal for Crawford. Putting Crawford at the top of the Yankees lineup only makes it stronger.

Most expect the Yankees to re-sign Derek Jeter after the 2010 season, so putting Crawford as the No. 2 hitter with Jeter ahead of him will create more RBI chances for sluggers like Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, especially with Crawford distracting pitchers on the bases.

According to Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, a rival A.L. East executive said the "Yankees absolutely love Crawford," and want him on the team. Heyman said the same executive also said that the Yankees like Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, who will also be a free agent after 2010, but I see the Yankees making more of a pitch to get Crawford than Werth.

Another Sports Illustrated writer, Tom Verducci, went on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show this past Friday and stated that he expects Crawford to sign with the Yankees because nobody is going to outbid them.

Some people around baseball think that Crawford could get anywhere from $13 to $18 million per season. At 29, he could get anywhere from a four to seven-year deal.

When the Yankees enter the winter of 2010-2011, they will have to re-sign Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and manager Joe Girardi. Aside from those guys, the main areas the Yankees will need to address is possibly another starting pitcher—if Andy Pettitte decides to retire—and left field.

Some thought that Joe Mauer could have intrigued teams as a free agent, like the Yankees, but Mauer just signed an eight-year, $184 million extension to remain with the Twins, a move most expected considering Mauer is the face of the franchise and he's from the area.

So Mauer's name gets taken off the free agent list.

The other name who could pop up is Albert Pujols, who has a $16 million option for 2011 with the Cardinals. However, some might feel that if a contract extension doesn't get worked out between them, Pujols could test the market as well. But, like Mauer, I expect Pujols to remain with the Cardinals for the duration of his career.

Cliff Lee will be a free agent in 2011. If Pettitte does indeed retire and Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain don't work out as starters, Lee would be an interesting player the Yankees could look at for the rotation.

CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett will be the only guaranteed starters in 2011 signed with the Yankees, so who knows what direction the Yankees will go with a pitcher?

Other than the rotation, the Yankees' main concern in free agency after this season will be left field and, specifically, the services of Crawford.

I know many of us have talked about Crawford before in different stories on here. We have different views on Crawford: Some of you want him, some of you don't.

But all the signs are making sense and I am going on record and saying it now: Crawford will be on the Yankees in 2011.


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