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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.

23 Responses to “What Kind Of Deal Would You Give Carl Crawford?”

  1. Crawford scares me. Aside from last year, his OBP has stunk. He was still a good player, because he plays very good defense and his baserunning is also excellent. But if you’re thinking about signing him to play into his mid-thirties, you have to figure the defense and baserunning will decline. If that leaves a guy getting on base at league-average clip, with middling power, playing corner OF, meh.

    There have been guys who age well and keep their defensive & baserunning skills late. Maybe Crawford is one of those guys. I’m not sure I’d want to bank on it, though.

    If he puts up a 2010 like his 2009 (specifically re: OBP), that would go a long way toward easing my fears. It would also inflate his asking price, though.  (Quote)

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  2. You guys love Gardner who is only 2 years younger (not considering the cost) and hate on Crawford. As far as breaking down after 32 years old, Brock stole 118 bases when he was 35 years old and Henderson stole 66 bases at 39 years old. Carl is one of the fastest men in baseball in the last 10 years. I don’t see his wheels falling off @ 32 years old. I’d love to see him in pinstripes…stealing 6 bases in one game against the Sox.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I’m not a huge Gardner fan. Other writers have expressed a lot of faith in him, but I think that he is what he is, and is not going to get much better.  (Quote)

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    Matt Reply:

    I agree about Gardner…and I’ll take it w/ what it cost the yanks.
    It sounds like you’d rather have a power hitter in LF instead of a speed guy. I was just thinking 3 years down the road w/ Tex, Arod, Montero, and Cano, the Yanks could benefit from a guy who is a threat on the base pads….more fastballs for the guys mentioned above.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I’d be fine with Crawford and do not need a power guy, but only at the right price. He’s not the kind of guy I’d go 6-7 years for. In fact, I think it would make just as much sense to save LF as a position where you could go cheap by bringing in solid older players on one year deals (like Damon, Abreu, etc), and save the big money for premium positions and pitching. But if you want to spend on one guy, Crawford would be fine at the right levels.  (Quote)

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    Jamal G. Reply:

    And by what he is, do you mean a .347/.361 (OBP/wOBA) line in the 357 plate appearances since his second call-up in August of 2008 and a traditional .289/.389/.383 in 1,754 minor league plate appearances? ;)

    I’d kick my own ass for using 357 MLB plate appearances as any sort of valid predictor of Brett Gardner’s future, but it seems exceedingly difficult to deny that he has been an above-average contributor with the stick since his return to Major League Baseball after a deserved demotion.

    You consider the facts that he was an exceptional hitter in Minor League Baseball; that somewhat similar, no-power position players who were worse hitters than Gardner in the minors have had success at the MLB level; and that the league-average hitter has produced a sub-.330 wOBA over the past two seasons, those who argue in his favor are not asking much from a guy with his track record to be successful at the MLB level.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I think he can provide about the same value per season going forward that he did in 2009. I dont have all the numbers in front of me, but I think that if he plays a lot more, he will be exposed.  (Quote)

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    Jamal G. Reply:

    Moshe Mandel: I dont have all the numbers in front of me, but I think that if he plays a lot more, he will be exposed.  

    Very fair point, but has that not been the prevailing thought on Gardner throughout his professional career – that as he moves up the ladder and faces better pitching, the bat will get knocked out of his hand and/or pitchers won’t be afraid to challenge him in the zone, thus neutralizing his strong OBP skill? The man put up a .296/.414/.422 as a 24-year-old in 3A, and I already document his brief success in the Bronx thus far; so, what more does he have to do for that question to be adequately answered in a statistical sense?  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Nothing. You know me, and you know how much I trust sabermetrics and think they are the best way to evaluate the game, so take that in account when I say this: watching him, I simply do not see the skills there necessary to be an above average MLB OF. Watching him, with my very amateur scouting eye, I see a guy who is afraid to swing, hopes for walks, and hits the ball in the air too much for a guy whose game is built on speed.  (Quote)

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    Jamal G. Reply:

    So, would you say that it is Brett Gardner or Brett Gardner’s skill-set? If it is the latter, would not presenting comparable players that have succeeded at the MLB quell some of your valid concerns?  (Quote)

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    No, it is Gardner. I dont believe in his batting eye, I dont see even gap power (which makes it imperative for him to hit the ball on the ground), I see a lack of instincts on the basepaths being covered up by great speed, and I see overrated defense (he’s crazy fast but I think he takes some poor routes).  (Quote)

  3. I hope the Yankees do not go over $13 mil for Crawford. They will need all the help to retain Jeter and Rivera. Although I also hope that Jeter and Rivera give the Yankees some break considering their age and the fact that the Yankee name has really helped their career. You don’t see Ichiro or Puljos in the same limelight as Jeter. Let’s face it, the Yankees had allure to you once you put on those pinstripes.  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    Yeah, I would hope no higher than $13MM a year. 3/39 would be the highest I’d want to go for Crawford.  (Quote)

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    Reggie C. Reply:

    That’s a solid guess of years/money that Cash should follow. He’s making 10MM now, so he’d have to show no drop-off in production to earn 3/39 (imo).  (Quote)

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  4. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I wouldn’t comment on Brett until ST….well, it’s here…..!
    Moshe, I have read your stuff a lot and know you have not been high on Brett in any of your posts, and I respect your opinion and your right to have one.
    I would like to go with a few of the stats above, except I have been using them to point me in the right direction of what to look at and for in a player. Using them that way over the last few years to watch him and how he adapted to each step up the ladder (2006 to now). (Some) Scouts denigrated his ability every step of the way. I have seen his ability to (What I call) “Adapt and Improvise” once he sees the approach he is using, isn’t working. I have been trying to push for his move to the big show from ST in 2008, even though he did open some eyes in 2007 ST. I didn’t think he was ready in 2007, but he was in 2008.
    I think the Yankees are of the same opinion of his ability as I am, I never expected the big numbers some have projected for him but, I do believe he will more then carry his own water…even against Leftys.  (Quote)

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  5. nobody knows if GArdner is a .220 hitter or a .290 hitter yet.Nobody.I’ve been watching baseball for 50 years and i can’t tell.
    He’s had periods where he showed great abt control and even decent power and other periods where he looks totally over matched.
    We have no way to tell but just off his blazing speed, he should be able to hit .260 and steal 50 bases.

    I don’t think Yankees need or want a big expensive OF’er .PItching, pitching and more pitching.The money is already in the infield.  (Quote)

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    Ken (OR) Reply:

    Leftylarry….
    First off, I knew you were old but, you still have a ways to go. I’ve been watching baseball from 1948, to be honest, you are right, no one knows what Brett will do this year. I think we have all seen guys come up as the 2nd coming and wash out, we have also seen guys come up as glove men and all of a sudden take off as good to great hitters.
    Some people just play up to the competition and some get overwhelmed by it. Brett has always had trouble when he moves up, then adapts to the league. Let’s hope he does well this year and helps to install some stability in the OF for the next few years.  (Quote)

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  6. C’mon Jon, You gotta stop making this stuff up. I don’t believe for a second that the Yankees have an intrest in Carl Crawford. I think you would like to see him in pinstripes but not the Yankees.You haven’t figured out what the Yankees and Brian Cashmans’ game plan for the future is yet? The Yankees are dead serious about cutting their budget. They don’t want to sign big dollar Free Agents unless they absoloutly have to. Right now their plans are to have Curtis Granderson in LEFTFIELD for the next four years, with Brett Gardner, yes, BRETT GARDNER as their everyday CENTERFIELDER for the next 6 years at least. Nick Swisher will man Rightfield for the next three years untill Slade Heathcott, Jesus Montero, J.R. Murphy or Neil Medchill are ready to take that position. The Yanks have the pitching depth in the upper level minor leagues to be ready to take spots when Andy Pettite or Javiar Vasquez retire. The Yankees are going back to the days when the minor leagues stocked there club from with-in or through the use of trades. Look for the Yankees to draft a shortstop with-in the first couple of rounds this year to prepare for the ultimate departure of Derek Jeter in three or four more years.  (Quote)

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  7. Moshe, I also think your dead wrong on Brett Gardner and his ability. He’s as good a defensive Centerfielder as anybody in the game today,if not better. He’s a hard nose, solid guy who plays the game the right way and will end up holding his own offensively. Can’t wait to remind you of this statement after the Yanks win #28 with BRETT GARDNER in CENTERFIELD.  (Quote)

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    Matt Reply:

    Bret Gardner? The guy who lost his starting job to Melky last year? The guy who in the last month before he got hurt hit 220, with an OBP of 304 and was caught stealing 50% of the time? I know it’s a small sample but so is May and June. I HOPE you’re right but I wouldn’t be shocked if Jamie Hoffmann is starting LF come or if Cashman makes a move by July.  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    So when the small sample disagrees with what you say you ignore it. Yet, when a similarly small sample agrees with what you say, you use it as evidence. Not only is that a logical inconsistency, but the sample size you’re discussing–July ’09–was only 46 PAs. The May-June sample size for BG was more than double that of July.  (Quote)

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    Matt Reply:

    I agree that July is a VERY small sample. I guess July and August have always carried more weight for me when analyzing stats. For many of the same reasons the Sox always destroy the Yanks the first half of the season and the Yanks end up winning the season series. I just treat April, May and even early June as extend spring training (see Chris Shelton and many others). So with that view in combination with what I see from watching the games (looks overmatched when facing hard throwers who can locate in the zone), I’m not too optimistic. I could be wrong and I really hope I am. I’m just not sure where all the confidence in BG comes from when he lost his starting position to Melky…and most of you hate Melky.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    lets give gardner another shot..he has the tools..mickey rivers was a gardner type.. and boy was he a gift back then.. the kid starts slow, so lets have patience the first two months .. his play will figure how crawford would fit next year.. .280 up from brett their will be no crawford..at 13 mil @ 4 years thats what he will want from yanks if not holliday or bay deals. so gardner will be a lock to stay..lets go brett..i love the kids approach ..  (Quote)

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