A year after the Yankees signed CC Sabathia and Mark Texeira to multi-year contracts exceeding $340 million, the Red Sox probably felt compelled to follow suit. The annual winter league meetings are a pre-Christmas bonanza for the MLB GM’s, and this year was no exception. Boston signed Devil Ray free agent Carl Crawford to a 7 year $142 million deal, and the rumour is that they have signed 1B Adrian Gonzalez to an extension that is worth $150 million, although this has yet to be confirmed.
The Yankees signings paid dividends, as they won the World Series in 2009, their second championship in the decade. It remains to be seen how the Red Sox main investments will play out. Theo Epstein is a very astute GM, but eyebrows must be raised, particularly with regards to the Crawford signing.
It took the baseball world by surprise that Crawford signed with the Red Sox. He is very good friends with the Angels Tori Hunter, and everyone expected him to sign with Los Angeles. It is also believed that he may not have the temperament suited to play in Boston, where the pressure cooker is intense.
Make no mistake, Crawford is an excellent player. But there are discernible holes in his game. He has never hit twenty home runs. He’s only had one 90 RBI season. He doesn’t walk very much, and has a very ordinary on base percentage. And his numbers have been inflated in Tropicana field, which are much higher than his career numbers at Fenway Park. He also doesn’t hit left handing pitching very well, a hole that will be magnified due to the fact that opposing teams will be throwing all of their southpaws against the likes of David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D Drew, and Adrian Gonzalez
He does steal bases, and is a magnificent outfielder. His weak arm will be protected in Fenway’s left field, but his range will be minimized due to playing in the smallest left field in the major leagues.
The $142 million contract he signed is the second highest in history for an outfielder. That’s certainly a lot of money for a left handed slap hitter that doesn’t get on base a great deal.
With Cliff Lee eschewing both clubs overtures and signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees big question mark entering the season will be pitching, particularly if Andy Pettitte retires. That will leave the club with 3 proven starters (Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes) and two question marks. The Yankees needed Lee a lot more than Boston, who have a surplus of proven starting pitching, including Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield.
Boston’s everyday line-up is relatively intact, particularly if Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury return from the injuries that plagued them in 2010. With the Gonzalez acquisition, Kevin Youkilis will return to his natural position at 3B.
The Yankees, having resigned Derek Jeter, will also go into opening day with their position players relatively set. Their bullpen is strong, and will need to carry them if the club is unable to fill their 4th and 5th starters with adequate replacements.
Boston and New York will continue to outspend everyone, and get most of the media attention. It’s still a long way until spring training, but it will be a very interesting year, full of intrigue and speculation.