My favorite rumor-maven is at again, with a new piece in SI detailing the Yanks desire to have Carl Crawford patrolling Left Field in Yankee Stadium when he becomes a free agent after this season. He writes:
Still, as one competing executive says, “The Yankees absolutely love Crawford.”
And what the Yankees love, they usually get.
Realistically, the Rays’ best hope might be for the Yankees to concentrate on someone else. But that isn’t very likely. The Yankees determined that they wanted to avoid a two-year deal for Johnny Damon in part because they like Crawford so much. And they will have to like their chances to get him.
The Yankees do like the Phillies’ Jayson Werth, who’s also going to be a free agent at year’s end. Werth has more power, bats right-handed and is proven in right field, the tougher position to fill. But the Yankees still like Crawford better. Part of that comes from seeing him compete in the AL East, and most of it comes from seeing him thrive in the AL East. He’s averaging .297 and 50 stolen bases over his eight-year career.
Frankly, I’m not buying it. I’m sure there are Yankee execs who love Carl, but unless they’re named Brian Cashman it doesn’t mean much. If I’m the Yankee GM and have a choice between Carl Crawford and Jason Werth for a similar deal in terms of length, I’m taking Werth, even if he gets a higher AAV. More pop, better arm, better OBP, better fielder. Just more toolsy than Carl in every area of the game except for speed.
Carl’s value is tied up in his speed, he turns 30 the 1st year you sign him and his OBP has only been above .350 for 2 seasons in an 8-year career. In terms of power, he’s below average by most measures. I just don’t love him going forward, I don’t see any upside potential, and see real possibility of decline. He’s one leg injury away from being a mediocre player. There are some questions about Werth’s knees, but nothing I’ve seen would be enough to make me pass on a player of his talent.
Don’t get me wrong, Carl’s a really good player. But I prefer the flexibility of signing Werth for Right Field, moving Swisher to Left and letting Nick’s contract expire after 2011. I could bring Nick back on a shorter deal, or target someone else. I generally don’t like signing Left Fielders unless I have to. I like leaving LF open as much as possible for future considerations. You can move aging/declining players there, since it’s the least demanding OF position. By having LF open after 2011, you can target a Right Fielder or Center Fielder as a Free Agent or in a trade, and move Curtis Granderson or Werth to Left if needed. But if you sign Crawford, you’re locked in at the other two spots. Also, Left would be open for Jeter or Alex if need be, both of whom will be in their late 30’s in 2012. Loads of flexibility, which is something I know Brian Cashman values.
We’ve become accustomed to having a regular LF in recent years, but that wasn’t always the case. During the Championship run of the late-90’s, the Yanks trotted out Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, Chad Curtis, Ricky LeDee, and Chuck Knobloch as their Opening Day Left Fielders from 1996-2001. We really didn’t have a player locked in at Left until Hideki Matsui (who George signed) arrived in 2003. Johnny Damon wasn’t signed to play in Left, he was supposed to be our CF, and Damon is a good example of why you value flexibility. If Carl Crawford was locked into LF over the past few seasons, you would have either be stuck with Damon as a defensive liability in Center or forced to make him your DH, a spot already occupied by other aging, injured players like Matsui and Giambi. To quote Mo, The Plan In Left Field Is….No Plan At All? My answer is yes.