Thursday, December 9, 2010

Carl Crawford, and Beyond

Photo: Me at Picnic in the Park, July 5th, 2009.  With the signings of Gonzalez and Crawford, I'm predicting right now that this picture shows the expected finish of the teams at the end of next year before the playoffs.  (I was going to show a picture of Ellsbury signing a ball for me, but I wasn't sure about the legalities of showing a player's image on my blog.  Please email me at the address above if you know the laws about this.)

Well, I have to say I'm surprised.  I like the signing, even at 7 years / $142 million.  I like Carl Crawford, and you'd have to say the Sox offense is on par now with the Yanks', or even better.  It also probably says goodbye to Jacoby Ellsbury, and I'm surprisingly okay with that.  There's been something up with him that the casual fan--or the more involved fan like me--doesn't know about.  A friend said to me today, "He says he's still sore," and I responded, "Yeah, literally and figuratively," because there's a lot of animosity there that hasn't come out to us.  Ellsbury is very upset with the Sox about how they treated his rib injury, and the Sox are very upset with him about how he's responded to it--and about how upset with them he is.  There's also something else, I believe (with admittedly little or no proof), that someone is hiding from us.  Some disability, or addiction, or problem, or something, that's being explained with, "Rib injury."  His ribs are definitely injured, but there's something else...

At any rate, though it would be wonderful to keep him, you now have a severe glut of outfielders.  This is a great problem to have, because a couple of them, at least, are going to be traded for relief help, and you'd have to be a fool if you didn't ask for Ellsbury in return for a really good reliever.  Drew's not going anywhere, so he'll be in right, with Kalish/McDonald/Nava backing him up--because you know his neck and back will bother him.  A lot.  Crawford will be in left, or in center; ditto for Cameron, who isn't going anywhere for the same reason Drew isn't: they're too expensive, and no one wants them.  I'd love to pawn them off on someone, but who'd take them?  The ideal situation is Drew/Kalish in right, Ellsbury/Kalish in center, and Crawford in left, though Crawford could play center for me any day.  That leads McDonald and Nava available, but I can't believe anyone would part with a high quality reliever for those two guys.  But I do believe that lots of teams would part for one, or both, of those guys, and Kalish.  I also believe lots of teams would part with a quality releiver, straight up, for Ellsbury (with McDonald or Nava thrown in, but you're overpaying for a high quality reliever if you give up Ellsbury and Kalish for one guy), especially considering Ellsbury's health concerns.

That's the point of this deal: Ellsbury, Kalish, McDonald and Nava are all expendable now, and you could get at least two high quality relievers for any combination of those guys.  Or you could just sign Kerry Wood, which I would (assuming the Sox haven't emptied the cookie jar already, which is a very real possibility), and then trade Ellsbury OR Kalish for another good reliever, with any combination of Nava and McDonald if someone insists.  (I think those two are part-time or three-quarters players, like Cameron, but Cameron even now is much better.  None of those three will ever be a full-time permanent major league player.)  I think the Sox think that Kalish is the prime player here, and would rather lose Ellsbury, for the reasons I explained above.

I'm surprised, though, about the Crawford signing  because, really, the Sox didn't need him.  With Kalish/Ellsbury/McDonald/Drew and Nava in the outfield, the Sox still were second in the majors in runs and offense last year.  They missed the playoffs because of their starting and relieving last year, plain and simple.  So they could have traded any combination of those guys for a couple of relievers--one great, one good--and they still would make the playoffs next year, if not go all the way.  They didn't need another outfielder.  This signing means that three or four of those guys definitely will go, and you'll definitely get those two relievers, and who knows what else they'll do by then?  With that relief help, and Beckett and Lackey returning to something that even a little bit resembles what they're supposed to be, and I'm writing about next year's Series winner now.

All of this also means that they're playoff contenders for the next 7 years, and that Ortiz, Papelbon, Cameron, Drew, etc. will definitely not be back after next year.  They just spent all the money they were saving by jettisoning those players by getting Crawford and Gonzalez now.  And who could blame them?  I'm okay with losing Papelbon after this coming year for the same exact reason I am about losing Ellsbury.  I'll be said to see Big Papi go, and maybe they'll resign him to a much cheaper, incentive-laden contract (which I think both sides would be very happy with), but nobody can deny that the big guy has been slipping, even if last year was a bit of a rebound from the year before.  But he's clearly not going to get better, and he's clearly not going to be able to stay at last year's level, either.  Now would be a good time for him to start slimming down, too.  Make that swing a little quicker, maybe.  Make the body last a little more.  But if you lose him after next year, and if you have a couple of those outfielders (minus Ellsbury and/or Kalish, who'll definitely be traded by then), then you can platoon them at DH, and move around the outfielders to DH to give them an occasional day off in the field, and you wouldn't lose much offensively when you tally the numbers at the end of the year.

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