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Carl Crawford to Boston is Not a Bad Outcome for the Rays

I understand that the Red Sox and Yankees are our divisional rivals and that that their budgets are far greater than the Rays'. There may be a bit of emotional awkwardness seeing Carl Crawford bat in a Red Sox uniform for the first few times against the Rays, but over a seven year period these feelings will subside. The reality is that Carl Crawford going to Boston is not a bad outcome for the Rays from a competitive point of view. To accept this position you must first accept the following two assumptions:

  1. It would be extremely foolish for the Rays to spend $100 million or to give any 29 year-old a seven year contract. If you can't accept budget limitations, this is not the team and probably not the state for you.
  2. The Red Sox were going to spend an obscene amount of money on somebody to upgrade their team. It wasn't simply a matter of Carl Crawford or the status quo. Maybe it would have been bringing Beltre back or getting involved in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, but the Yankees and Red Sox do not sit on the sidelines in the off-season.

With that out of the way, hopefully a good portion of you are still reading. So why is the Red Sox signing Carl Crawford for 7 years and $142 million is a somewhat desireable outcome?

The compensation picks have been discussed before, but the Rays will receive the Red Sox first round pick in the upcoming amateur draft as well as a sandwich pick between rounds one and two. Had he signed with a team such as the Angels - who finished in the bottom half of baseball - the pick would have been their second rounder instead. Baseball's draft isn't like the NBA's. There are a plethora of sandwich picks before the second round begins. According to rglass's hypothetical draft order, the Red Sox select 24th and after the first round, there could be as many as 32 supplemental picks before the second round would begin (the final number figures to be less, but the point remains). The Angels pick 17th, which means their second-round pick could be as low as the 82nd pick of the draft. That is to say as a result of signing with the Red Sox over Anaheim, the Rays will receive the 24h pick as opposed to the 82nd. That's a big a difference.

More after the jump.

Also, over the course of his career with the Rays, Carl Crawford's glove has been more valuable than his bat. That is to say 99.2 runs with the bat and 119.2 with the glove. Granted, as he has developed his bat has caught up to his glove, but over the last three seasons, Crawford's glove has remained a critical element of his success. During this three year stretch, he has been worth 53.5 runs with his bat and 51.8 runs with his glove. Crawford's strengths defensively reside in his excellent ballhawking instincts and his speed; his arm is merely average for a left-fielder, making it typically the weakest arm in the outfield. 

With that in mind, the short and high fence in Boston known as the Green Monster will diminish the amount of value Crawford's range could offer in a larger park. Furthermore, he will have to play balls off the Monster, which can turn singles into doubles with his average arm. This will not show up in box scores to help ease your pain, and does not speak poorly of Crawford. It's simply wasteful, akin (though not to the hyperbolic degree) to making David Price the closer. He would still perform well, but be less valuable.

If I was Theo Epstein, I would have gone after a bigger bat with less of a glove who would come cheaper, and reallocate the resources into Boston's relatively suspect pitching staff. This signing feels like an overreaction to the unrepeatable amount of injuries the Sox lineup suffered last season. Carl Crawford certainly makes the Red Sox a better team, as $142 million should, and their lineup is much more impressive today than yesterday. However, I am of the belief that they would have been marginally better making a different type of splash with the same resources. 

Good for Crawford for receiving an amazing offer from the Sox. To wish him ill for accepting an offer $34 million more than the second best alternative is silly. He's given this community nine amazing years and will see his skills gradually erode over the seven year period he plays for Boston. Sure, it will be frustrating to watch Crawford run on John Jaso the way he did on Jason Varitek. His presence on base will put an unmeasurable amount pressure on the Rays' pitchers as the Sox big boppers come to the plate. Yet the marginal frustration should decrease as time goes by for Rays fans. Boston has deep resources, but not unlimited, and this deal will tie them up handsomely. This was a good outcome for the Rays organization and I suspect the unemotional front office is somewhat pleased with the outcome of the Crawford sweepstakes.