[Picture by Stephen Sheffield]
Cliff Lee is the object of the Yankees’ desire and Brian Cashman has not minced words in swooning over the star pitcher. Now that the Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford to a crazy deal the pressure is on for the Yanks to keep pace. I’ve gotten used to Lee as a nemesis and wonder if he’ll end up back with the Rangers or even the Angels though I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he comes to the Bronx either.
The Yanks sound desperate to get him. The latest has them going to seven years. Is that knuts, a wild pitch, or just the price of doing business?
Speaking of wild pitch, dig this great marathon MC Serch and OC freestyle from the old Stretch Armstrong Show:
And if that’s not your speed, how about this:
Or, for those of you who speak Spanish:
Update: Over at Newsday, Ken Dawidoff breaks down Derek Jeter’s new contract.
Do the Red Sox have a deal done with Carl Crawford? That’s what PeteAbe is Tweeting:
Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford? That’s quite the lineup upgrade for the Sox. I’ve written before (as have many others) that seven years seems ill-advised to me for a player like Crawford who relies so much on his speed, but that’s not to say he won’t kick ass and take names for a while yet. I hope that wherever he is, Jesus Montero is working on his snap throws to second.
Keep in mind that this isn’t confirmed yet. Still, Abraham wouldn’t have run with it if he wasn’t confident in his source.
UPDATE: Okay, now it’s confirmed: the deal is all but done, pending a physical and a few contract details. Who’s happier right now, Crawford, Sox fans, or Cliff Lee’s agent?
|CARL CRAWFORD||JAYSON WERTH|
|Age: 29||Age: 31|
|Position: LF||Position: RF|
|Height: 6-2||Height: 6-5|
|Weight: 215||Weight: 220|
|Bats/Throws: L/L||Bats/Throws: R/R|
|MLB Service: 1,235 games||MLB Service: 775 games|
|BA/OBP/SLG: .296/.337/.444||BA/OBP/SLG: .272/.367/.481|
The Yankees were in Arkansas yesterday visiting Cliff Lee, but that doesn’t mean they’re blind to other free agents who could help the ball club. As recently as a week ago, it was reported in numerous outlets that the Yankees were not planning to pursue corner outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.
Enter the latest developments: we know that per Jon Heyman at SI.com, that the Yankees have called Crawford, who is reportedly the Angels’ top target. Torii Hunter has already begun stumping for the speedy left fielder. “We need Carl Crawford,” Hunter told the LA Times. “Put it like that.” In that same article, Hunter predicted the finalists in the Crawford Sweepstakes would be the Angels and Red Sox.
To date, the Yankees have not contacted Scott Boras regarding Werth. That’s not to say they aren’t interested, however, according to Frank Russo at NYBD.
“It would be foolish to count the Yankees out on a bat after their stealth singing of Mark Teixeira two years ago,” Russo writes.
Discussions regarding all three players should heat up during the GM Meetings next Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando. If no progress is made by then, there is always the Winter Meetings, which start December 6.
With all that in mind, if the Yankees end up demonstrating interest in both Crawford and Werth, and ultimately land one of them, which one should it be? Who is the better fit for the pinstripes? I e-mailed some members of our network of trusted bloggers and newspaper scribes to get their thoughts. With the exception of Jay Jaffe, whose commentary was excerpted from a recent post at Pinstriped Bible, their e-mail responses are listed below.
Sincere thanks to the respondents for participating.
Anthony McCarron — NY Daily News:
Crawford might be a better player, but Werth would be a better fit only because the Yanks can probably get him on a shorter contract. If the speculation is right and Crawford will get $100 million, that’s just too much money and probably too long a contract for a guy whose best skill, speed, likely will be regressing in the twilight years of the deal. He’s not worth $100 million to a team that already has a dynamite speed guy in (Brett) Gardner.
As for Werth, if the Yanks got him on Jason Bay’s deal or even a little more (4 years, $66 million, with a $14 million option for 2014), I think he’d be a good buy. But only if the Yanks are convinced he’d be happy in New York.
Jonah Keri, uber-writer:
Crawford is the better player – better D, better stealing/running, younger and more likely to age well over the next 5+ years.
Fit isn’t all that important when one player is clearly better than another.
Jay Jaffe, in the aforementioned post at the Pinstriped Bible, warns of luxury tax implications steeper than paying $200 or 10 percent of your assets:
While it might seem natural to link the Yankees to just about any player with a big sticker price — it’s what those players’ agents lie awake every summer night dreaming of, not to mention an obvious talking point for any pundit — they’re simply not fits for the combination of the Yankees’ current needs and budget. And while the Yankees spend far more than any other team on payroll, they most certainly do have a budget. …
… Hal Steinbrenner’s stated desire is to keep the Yankee payroll at “the same level” as recent years. Loosely translated, that means an opening day payroll somewhere just north of $200 million. The Yankees have been above that mark four times in the past six years. They’ve been above $205 million in three of those years, including 2010 ($206.3 million). But they’ve never been above $210 million, topping out at $209.1 million in 2008. Similarly, while they’ve shown a willingness to add payroll in-season via trades, their year-end payrolls — which tally the incentive bonuses, buyouts and other benefits they actually paid over the course of the season, as well as the base salaries — have never topped $225 million. We don’t have those figures for 2010 yet; the commissioner’s office generally releases those figures right around Christmas time, but from 2007 through 2009 they ranged from $218 to $222 million, again a very narrow band.
Accounting for the salaries coming off the books and the raises due the remaining players via contract clauses and arbitration, my calculations quickly took the Yankees to $159 million committed to 19 roster spots, which would appear to leave not much more than $50 million available to re-sign Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and whomever they go after on the free agent market — not only Cliff Lee, their number one target, but also any significant bench players to fill the slots vacated by Marcus Thames and Austin Kearns, to say nothing of the sizable hole in the bullpen left by Kerry Wood’s departure. Considering that Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte made nearly $50 million alone in 2010, it’s apparent that the Yankees can’t simply pile another $20-25 million on without heading for a $230 million opening day payroll and a $250 million year-end tally. Remember too that for every extra $1 million the Yankees add to the pile above a certain threshold — $170 million in 2010, $178 million in 2011 — they pay a 40 percent luxury tax.
Another vote for “neither,” from Ben Kabak of River Ave. Blues:
Don’t see it from a money or marginal win upgrade perspective. Depends on returns, but I highly doubt either end up in pinstripes.
The ever astute and cerebral Larry Koestler, of Yankeeist, throws a bone to the Werewolf:
If the Yankees were to look into acquiring one of the two, they’d likely have to move one of their current outfielders first. Each of Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher — the latter two of whom put up career years, while the former didn’t quite meet some lofty pre-season expectations — have been mentioned in various circles as potential trade bait, but given that each is (relatively) affordable and produced at a 3.0-plus fWAR level in 2010, it’s difficult to make a serious case that any of them should be traded.
On the surface Crawford might seem like the more appealing option, given that he’s two years younger than Werth, fast and a great fielder, but if it were up to me I think I’d probably pursue Werth, who theoretically should command a slightly lesser deal in both years and overall dollars and is going to provide more bang for your buck.
Crawford had a career year in 2010, posting a .378 wOBA along with an eye-popping 6.9 fWAR for a season worth $27.4 million according to Fangraphs. However, Werth wasn’t exactly a slouch himself, with a .397 wOBA (good for 5th-best in the National League) and 5.0 fWAR, worth $20 million.
For 2011 Bill James has Crawford projected for a fairly significant regression, with a triple slash of .300/.350/.453, and a .357 wOBA. Those are solid if unspectacular numbers, and probably not worth the $20M/year Crawford is likely looking for.
Bill James has Werth projected to a .275/.375/.493 and .380 wOBA line in 2011. No Yankee outfielder put up a wOBA that high in 2010, and the highest wOBA the trio is projected to produce per James is Nick Swisher’s .362.
Crawford’s clearly superior to Werth (and almost everyone in baseball) defensively, but given the various shortcomings of the assorted advanced defensive metrics we have at our disposal, I’m not sure how wide the gulf truly is. Anecdotally I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone say Werth was a particularly lousy defender, so I wouldn’t get too caught up on defense.
So while I’m sure there’s a case to be made for locking Crawford up long-term, my preference for a hitter boasting patience and power — two of the rare baseball skills that can improve with age, unlike speed — makes Werth the easy choice.
My former colleague, MLB.com’s Jon Lane:
I love both players, but based on statistics, my “eye test” and overall feel, Carl Crawford is both the better player and fit for the Yankees.
Werth obviously has the edge in power numbers, has blossomed into a star the past two years and would fit nicely in the middle of anyone’s batting order, but that’s where it ends. Crawford is two years younger and gives you a good bat with speed that bolsters his offensive numbers, and the better range in the outfield. Crawford is a four-time MLB leader in steals and triples. The Yankees aren’t getting younger and there still tends to be such an over-reliance on power, which could explain their frequent undoing with runners in scoring position. As much as I like Brett Gardner, Crawford’s gotten it done in all categories in a longer time frame and will continue to get it done.
Another thing to factor in is if the Yankees will actually bite the bullet and move Derek Jeter down in the order. Crawford hitting in the No. 2 spot would go a long way in solving that problem.
As far as Crawford’s defense, he’s been in the top three in putouts from left field every season since 2005. Ditto his range factor since 2003. In the same category he leads all active players and is sixth all-time (Source: Baseball-Reference.com).
I’d take an outfield of Crawford, Granderson/Gardner and Gardner/Swisher/Crawford any day. Both players can play multiple positions, but like Joe Girardi I’m more comfortable moving Gardner around the outfield on given days.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s 2 for Crawford, 1 for Werth, and two for “none of the above.”
What’s your take?
So much happened in the 25-minute span from 10:30 p.m. ET to 10:55 p.m. ET, in Tuesday night’s Yankees-Rays game. Five plays, specifically, spread over seven outs. All with the specter of a fifth straight Yankees loss and 1 1/2-game deficit in the American League East. Thanks to Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada, Carl Crawford and Greg Golson, the Yankees earned a split in the first two games of this three-game set in St. Petersburg and vaulted back into first place.
First, Granderson’s incredible diving catch robbed Ben Zobrist of an extra-base hit — possibly a three-bagger or even an inside-the-park homer — to end the ninth inning, bail out David Robertson and send the game into extras. Three pitches later, Jorge Posada repositioned a Dan Wheeler fastball into the restaurant above center field to give the Yankees the 8-7 lead. Posada’s bomb sent the Yankees’ Twitter universe into upheaval as beat writers, columnists and bloggers — myself included — attempted to describe the sudden turn of events in 146 characters.
Mark Feinsand of the Daily News called the shot “ridiculous.” Our friends at RiverAveBlues guessed that Posada’s blast “probably would have hit the restaurant glass in the Bronx.” I wonder if it would have been out at Yankee Stadium I?
Bottom 10, enter Mo to close it against Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce. Crawford reaches on a single. Longoria also unloads to center. “Holy cow, that looked gone. Instead, Granderson catches Longoria’s drive at the track in dead center,” read the tweet from the Ledger’s Marc Carig. Crawford, however, made the first of his two base running gaffes here. Instead of tagging and ending up on second base, Crawford went too far, and was forced to retreat to first. He proceeded to steal second. This set up the second Crawford gaffe: Joyce hit a high fly ball to shallow right field, and if you watched closely, you could see the play developing as Golson sped to circle the ball in order to catch it in optimal position for the throw to third base. Crawford sped toward third and Golson fired what Michael Kay called a “laser” to third. Alex Rodriguez picked the throw on a short hop and tagged Crawford on the shin.
Carig later reported via Twitter that Golson didn’t think Crawford was going. Granderson was yelling from center field to alert him. Watching the whole series of events, I can only think of my father’s assessment of Rickey Henderson, and how he used to scoff at broadcasters who lauded his base running skills. Dad was, and is, of the opinion that Rickey was a great hitter, great athlete, great base stealer, but a terrible base runner. He didn’t tag when he was supposed to, he didn’t run hard out of the batter’s box, etc. Crawford’s hiccups are more of the lack of instinct. The Yankees made Crawford pay for his hubris.
It was one of the wildest finishes to what may have been the best regular season game the Yankees played since A-Rod’s walk-off home run beat the Red Sox in 15 innings last year.
* * *
Lost amid the hubbub of the last two innings was how events progressed to that point. Storylines heading into the game were as follows: 1) Four straight losses, two of them coming in disappointing extra-inning fashion, to relinquish control of first place for the first time since August 3. 2) Bullpen question marks. The Meat Tray and Chad Gaudin prominently involved. (To this end, Michael Kay recited a quote during the My9 telecast from pitching coach Dave Eiland: “Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war,” a not-so-subtle metaphor for the Yankees’ long-term thinking and plans to get the main horses for the bullpen healthy in time for the playoffs. Those horses will likely not include the Meat Tray or Gaudin. Back to the recap.) 3) Swisher and Gardner out of the lineup. 4) Tex with a broken pinky toe on his right foot. 5) Perhaps most flagrant, manager Joe Girardi says he’s gunning for the division but acting like he’s gunning to open the playoffs in Minnesota to face Carl Pavano’s mustache.
To add even more reasons to drive fans into a questioning frenzy, Girardi trotted out a lineup that was essentially 5 1/2 deep to support Ivan Nova, who was opposing Matt Garza, ye of the no-hitter.
The way both offenses started the game, though, combining to strand seven runners in the first two innings (four in scoring position), it was only a matter of time before the dam broke and the numbers got crooked in a hurry.
For the Yankees, that time was the third inning, when they exploded for four runs, the rally capped by a frozen rope of a home run by Robinson Canóo. In the fifth, an A-Rod home run and another tack-on run had many Yankee fans feeling comfortable with a 6-0 lead.
That was, until Nova lost the strike zone and coughed up the lead in the fifth. Willy Aybar’s pinch-hit home run — off a good 1-2 pitch by Boone Logan that was just golfed into the seats — cemented the 7-run comeback. The Yankees got the tying run right away, and then both bullpens took over. Before the Posada home run, three Rays relievers combined to retire 11 consecutive Yankees.
The Yankees’ relief arms were equally good. Logan, to his credit, retired four in a row after the Aybar home run and Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood and Robertson combined to allow just one base runner. Until he arrived for the ninth, Robertson had warmed up on three separate occasions.
The Yankees needed this win badly. Any shot of confidence will help, the way they’ve literally limped through the last week and a half. And if these two teams meet in the ALCS, we can only hope, as Ian O’Connor tweeted, that it goes seven games and each one resembles the first two games of this series.
Is Carl Crawford’s time in Tampa close to being over? Ben Shpigel reports in the Times:
…With every game this month and next, the clock also ticks louder toward Crawford’s free agency — and his likely departure from the only organization he has ever known. It is the perpetual challenge for small-market teams like the Rays: how to prevent a homegrown star from bolting for a big payday.
The Rays’ payroll has steadily increased over the last four years, to roughly $71 million from about $24 million in 2007, but their principal owner, Stuart Sternberg, said in spring training that it would plunge below $60 million for 2011. Even with the money they receive in revenue sharing, team revenue has not increased in lock step with the Rays’ success. Devoting what could be a quarter of their budget to one player would run counter to their operating philosophy.
“We could sign just about any player in baseball,” said Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ general manager. “The issue is whether we could field a competitive team around that player. Our job is to balance that. We certainly can’t win a bidding contest for any top player. It’s kind of Math 101 when you look at our resources relative to most every team in the game.”
Whenever I hear the name Carl Crawford I think of this guy:
Over at the Pinstriped Bible, the young perfessor, Steve Goldman examines the debate Carl Crawford/Brett Gardner debate:
Earlier this season, at about the moment Gardner got hurt, I asked if his performance had rendered the Yankees’ presumed pursuit of soon-to-be free agent Carl Crawford unnecessary. At that time, Gardner had outperformed the veteran; Crawford was hitting .310/.373/.488 when Gardner got hurt. His superior extra-base abilities didn’t quite close the gap created by Gardner’s greater patience, while his four-steal advantage came at the cost of three additional caught stealing.
Since Gardner’s wrist was damaged, Crawford has had the advantage on Gardner, though not quite as decisively as you might think. In 50 games from July 1 to present, he has hit .276/.310/.458 with 13 steals and one caught stealing. Crawford still hits with more authority than Gardner—almost everyone does—but his aggression has, at least in this phase of his career, made him below-average at getting on base. You might think that this urge to swing might be a consequence of his recent move to the third spot in the order, down from his traditional number two, but Crawford’s career OBP is only .336, which is about league-average for 2002-2010, the years of his career (the league OBP is .329 this season).
By most measures, Crawford is having his best season this year, but only by a little bit. With the exception of his 2008 injury season, he’s been very consistent since coming into his full powers in 2005. His overall rates for that span are .301/.345/.459, and this year’s total performance is virtually indistinguishable from those other seasons. That is one huge advantage that he has over Gardner: a buyer knows what he’s going to get. All we know of Gardner is that he had a nice three months, a bad two months, and currently has a nice little five-game hitting streak going (7-for-16) that may or may not augur a return to his earlier form.