From John Heyman:
One reason the Yankees were reluctant to go for a two-year deal for Johnny Damon might have had little to do with Damon and been a greater reflection of what they think of Carl Crawford. The Yankees love him. Crawford is almost sure to be too rich for the low-revenue Rays, and the Yankees jump to the head of the class for interested teams. Remember, too, that the Yankees passed on Matt Holliday. It all seems to set up nicely for Crawford.
I am not certain that the Yankees are in fact “in love” with Crawford, as this might be posturing from Boras to explain why Damon is suiting up for another club. However, if the Yankees are interested in Crawford, I would be loathe to give him more than 4 years. Furthermore, if the Yankees only have room in the budget for one large deal, I think Cliff Lee might be a better long-term investment. I will address Lee at a later point, but let’s take a look at what concerns me about Crawford.
1) Crawford, who is entering his age 28 season, is coming off a career year. He was worth 5.5 wins in 2009 according to Fangraphs, with his next highest number coming in 2005 (4.9). However, Crawford’s 2009 represented a major bounce-back for him, as he was coming off two seasons in which he was about a 3 win player, after 3 years of being close to 5 wins a season. If Crawford wants to be paid like a 13-15M player, then a longer deal might make sense. But if he wants to inch closer to the 24.9M he was worth in 2009, I would hope that the Yankees stay away or insist on a short-term deal.
2) Crawford’s skills depend on his legs. His offense is built upon speed, as he has a career .772 OPS that illustrates his mediocre batting eye and unspectacular power. He uses stolen bases and taking the extra base to maximize his offensive output. Furthermore, much of his value comes from his excellent left field defense. Any deal that carries him past his age-32 season would be risking that Crawford begins to slow down, which could result in a significant loss of value.
Of course, a strong 2010 could assuage the first fear, but would also drive Crawford’s price up significantly. Additionally, there are some trends in Crawford’s numbers, particularly an upward trend in OBP, that suggest his aging might not be an issue. It is not that I do not like Crawford or think that he would be a bad fit. That said, I preferred Matt Holliday to Crawford when the question was raised this offseason, but Holliday received an extremely pricey contract that I certainly understand passing on. If Crawford wants to approach Holliday’s deal, the Yankees should sit this one out.